It’s a cold evening, outside. Late December usually is, in these parts. But, something about tonight- maybe the fact that it’s Christmas Eve- just makes it seem so much colder.
He has a good heater, warm clothes and overcoats, not to mention a healthy layer of adipose tissue that helps to insulate him. He had spent his afternoon hanging Christmas lights, of all things; They should have been up weeks ago, and he almost skipped it entirely, but it was one of those tasks that just begs to happen. Sentiment played a large part in that, as these particular lights had been given to him by his own father, just a year ago; A silent declaration that Dad was no longer going to hang those lights.
Jay couldn’t stand to see the box of lights just sitting there; they weren’t just any lights. Those were Dad’s lights. And, while Jay himself may not have actually handled those lights yet, his childhood memories of Christmas were full of times helping Dad put up his lights. He stopped, early this morning on his way out the door and saw the box, still sitting where he had left it.
Immediately the images returned in his mind, of stretching out the strings of lights, checking for bad bulbs and replacing them with good ones. Of being very careful not to tangle them, and of being able to remember where almost every hook and nail were, under the eaves, and how Dad was the only one allowed to string the lights along the second story…
The images of his father handling those lights was too much to bear. Jay dropped what he was doing, grabbed the box and took it outside to start the process of stringing them out and checking them. At one point, Jay’s wife came out and asked what he was doing. When Jay replied, “I’m hanging the Christmas Lights,” she was beside herself. “Today, of all days?” She asked, “Christmas has almost come and gone, already! It’s a waste of time!”
But for Jay, it wasn’t a waste of time. Even though he worked out there alone, and even though there were a dozen other projects he could be working on, Jay felt that by hanging those lights, he was working alongside his father, in spirit, even though the two were thousands of miles apart.
As the day and the work progressed, Jay found himself longing for the camaraderie and fellowship of his own children; that they be there, busy alongside him, helping with the lights. Indeed, there were many other tasks that he not only wanted help with, but needed help with, badly. Jay had asked, a time or two, but it was obvious that the kids had moved on with their own lives, own families, own friends and own projects or traditions.
Sitting down on the steps of the porch for a moment, Jay thought of his own boys, and how hard it seemed to be getting to build memories with them. Money had gotten tight due to his limitations and medical bills, and Jay had begun to feel that maybe he had offended them, with his not being able to spend much money on them anymore. He felt a cold chill as he tried to shake that thought away. Yes, there had been a fairly steady stream of financial struggles and hardships, but Jay and his Wife had always tried to raise the boys right and to show them the value of not wasting money of frivolous things, but as the boys moved on to their own lives, new and exciting experiences came their way in the form of their newfound social circles. Mom and Dad’s words begin to lose potency, in such a light.
Some people would tell him it’s just the age, that this younger generation doesn’t hold the values that he did towards family and commitments, but what troubled Jay was that he almost never heard from them nor saw them unless there was an offer of dinner, a movie, or they needed something he had.
Yes, it was true, and Jay knew it; He was feeling sorry for himself. And he had to brace himself, as he knew in times like this was when his Lord was about to preach him a mighty sermon.
It happened, and even faster than Jay had ever expected. Almost immediately, Jay heard the scripture from Isaiah 53:6 in his mind:
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
Sometimes, when these verses and ‘sermons’ would come upon Jay, they were so clear and concise, he would be nearly blown away by how profound the word was, and this was one of those times.
This day that we celebrate, year after year; This day we call “Christmas,” was brought about by the Heavenly Father seeing the world becoming what Jay saw, and God KNEW that the only way for us to be drawn to Him would be for a portal to be opened. A “Jacob’s Ladder” in the form of a man, come to earth a baby boy; that, being Jesus! Almost instantly, Jay’s heart melted from the frost the enemy was trying to put upon it, and Jay began to pray for his family and his community. He asked for God to forgive the anger he had felt, and to use him to bless someone through this “celebration in lights” he was proclaiming to the world.
And then it happened.
Jay was just stepping off the ladder on the final “leg” of his project, when a voice startled him. “Excuse me, Sir?”
At first, Jay thought he was just hearing something in his mind- but then the voice came again; “Sir? Pardon me…” It was enough to spin him around on his heels, and as he did, he came face to face with a young man, clean-cut and apparently, very polite.
The young man started to tell his story, but before Jay could actually absorb all that he was saying, he had to mentally sort out why he hadn’t heard anything- no car coming in the driveway, no crunching of heels on the gravel, nothing. Then the man’s words started to settle in.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” the young man started in,” but I need to see if you could help me out with a jump start?” and he pointed out to the road, where a car was sitting off to the side in the drainage ditch. “Not a bother at all,” Jay replied, “There’s not much other way of even GETTING help, way out here!” and the two started towards Jay’s pickup, sitting in the driveway.
As they pulled out, the young man introduced himself as Dakota, and said he was headed to see his girlfreind’s family when his car unexplainedly died. By Dakota’s description, it sounded more like he ran out of gas, but he had enough tools and supplies to handle whatever it might be.
The car was a 1985 Chevrolet Impala, and was in unusually good condition for a car of its age, and Jay did a quick walkaround as he talked to Dakota, noticing the car’s lack of rust, and that even the tires were well-maintained. “How much gas does the guage say you have in it?” He asked Dakota.
“It was low, but I thought I had enough to get to my girlfriend’s and get some gas money.” Dakota replied. To Jay, this seemed almost surreal; A clean cut kid, nice car, well-mannered and apparently somewhat intelligent, would come out this far with so little gas? In Jay’s truck-driving days, he would have thought the whole thing a scam setup.
A quick hook-up of the jumper cables and a shot of ether made it clear that the car wasn’t getting the fuel it needed. Jay had a couple gallons in his can, and gave it to the young man. “I don’t have any cash to give you,” interrupted Dakota, but Jay knew he wasn’t going anywhere without it. “Take it- My God has supplied my needs, and I have no cash to share, but I do have this,” Jay told him, “And you can help someone else when you find them.”
Unfortunately, two gallons wasn’t enough to fix the problem, as the car was now parked in the ditch. This meant that the gasoline wouldn’t be simply level in the tank, but would be listing off to one side, away from the pickup tube that “sucks up” the gas. Jay and Dakota headed down to a fuel station together for more gas.
Again, Dakota was saying how he didn’t have money, but would be happy to bring some by later. Jay told him that what he did from here forward was up to Him to do as God leads, and for now, God is telling Jay to buy the boy some gas.
5 gallons in the jug, and by the look on Dakota’s face, Jay could have just have handed him his week’s paycheck. On their trip back to Dakota’s car, Jay explained that when you live this far out, where there isn’t a gas station on every corner, you learn to bite the bullet and keep the tank topped off, especially when the guage doesn’t quite work so well. “Dad always told me, ‘It runs just as good on the upper half'” and then Winked at Dakota, who replied, “Sounds like he was a wise man who loved you.” Jay replied, “Still does.”
It only took a couple moments to get the 5 gallons into the big chevy’s tank, and just a squirt more ether to get it running again. Jay was still amazed at how nice and clean this car was, to have such a silly problem come up, but stranger things have happened.
As the two shook hands, Dakota again told Jay he’d bring some money by soon. Jay told him, “I’m not worried about it; You’ll never know when I’ll be needing help!” Dakota looked Jay square in the eye and said, “Your God knows!” and swung into his car and closed the door. with that, he pulled out of the ditch and was gone.
Jay stood, looking off at his house in the distance, with the lettering “Merry Christmas” lit up over his entry door. “Yes, Dakota, he does” he said aloud, as he got into his own truck and headed back up his driveway. As he reached the house, yet another scripture was playing in his head:
Matthew 8:19 And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
Merry Christmas, Jay, and to all (be) a good knight.