The Jaspers had spent the whole day cleaning and decorating with holiday lights, adding lights around the inside of the front windows and ornaments and lights to the Christmas tree, and something new this year, four new Christmas stockings with their grandchildren’s names embroidered on each one. Proudly, the stockings were hung on the wall next to the fireplace.
Ryan and Caitlin seemed relieved to know the Grands had decorated with a tree and lights this year, not explaining why because the kids were near, but secretly thankful for a solution to their dilemma. “Of course, we’re all happy to come over to visit on Christmas Eve!” said Caitlin, responding to Junia’s invitation over the phone. “We could all attend the Christmas Eve service at church and then, if it’s alright with you, we could have our fourth advent celebration with a soup supper at your house.”
Junia was ecstatic. “That would be wonderful! We haven’t had an advent celebration here since you were kids. And you know, we wanted to have fun, so we bought Christmas gifts for everyone to open. But, don’t worry about gifts for us. Oh…and I think we’ll make a birthday cake for Jesus too! …See you later.”
Jas had given up his afternoon walk to help with the decorating and had made coffee while Junia talked with Caitlin. She could smell the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen. He had brought a cup to her just in time to hear her talk about a birthday cake. In jest he asked, “Whose birthday is it?”
Junia smirked a smile. “You know it’s Jesus’ birthday. What kind of cake should we make?”
“Glad we haven’t forgotten Jesus this Christmas. It is all about Jesus! More than ever. Ohm…what kind of cake…I think it should be spice…because Jesus was born, God became man, to die for our sin…and when he was buried, he was wrapped in spices…what do you think?”
“That makes sense…spice cake it is then…and now after talking about cake, my tummy thinks it should have at least one cookie to go with this coffee.” Junia proceeded to the kitchen to get cookies.
Jas grimaced a smile. “You’ll have to make a batch then, because I just ate the last cookie.”
Junia pouted a frowny face and sat down next to Jas. “Never mind then. Coffee is enough.” She quickly kissed him. “Coffee and you.”
Since the kids had asked everyday about the Christmas tree and when would they decorate, Caitlin and Ryan decided to have a family discussion about the theft of the decorations, during their Bible story and prayer time that evening. Caitlin rocked baby Ava to sleep and came to join everyone waiting in the living-room. Ryan was somber, not looking forward to disappointing the kids, but praying at the same time for their understanding. The kids were lively, jumping up and down, teasing each other as kids do, but when Caitlin sat down and Ryan opened the Bible, they settled down to listen.
Caitlin began with prayer. “Father God, we’re gathered here to learn about you. Help us to understand the Bible story, to love you and each other. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Ryan enthusiastically began teaching. “Hey everyone, today we have a parable that Jesus taught his disciples. Peter had asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone. So Jesus told a story about a King who wanted to settle accounts with his people. The first account was a man who owed one million dollars, but could not pay. The king ordered the man and his entire family to be sold to pay off the debt, but the man pleaded with the King to give him more time to pay. The King decided to forgive the debt and let the man go free. This same man who was forgiven his debt went to one of his own servants who owed him money and asked him to pay. The servant begged for more time to pay it off, but the man would not and had him thrown in prison. Some people nearby observed that the man had not forgiven his servant his debt, but put him in prison, so they informed the King. The King called the man and confronted him about his actions toward his servant. The King demanded the man to be put in prison to pay his debt since he had refused to forgive his servant’s debt.
Jesus taught us to have mercy and forgive others because he has had mercy and forgiveness toward us. All have sinned against God and we can never do anything to pay for our sin debt. But God sent his Son, Jesus the Christ, to die, paying the penalty for our sin. If we have accepted God’s way of Salvation through Jesus Christ, then Jesus has paid our sin debt. Gratitude to Jesus for having our own sin debt removed should lead us to have mercy and forgiveness toward others.”
Ryan looked up to see the kids with blank looks. “Does anyone have any questions about this story?”
Denver said, “Nope,” while the others shook their heads no.
“The reason we chose this story is to help us with responding to a hurtful situation. Do you kids remember the day when Grand Jun had to pick you up at school because the Jeep wouldn’t start?”
Denver said, “Yep,” while Benjie and Corby’s eyes popped wide with a smile. “Yeah, we played in the snow when you got home,” said Benjie.
“Yes, that’s right!” Ryan smiled about that good memory, but the smile faded as he prepared to tell the bad news. “Earlier that day, while shopping, the decorations, the tree and gifts I had bought got stolen out of the Jeep.”
Ryan and Caitlin watched their faces go from happy smiles to downcast frowns. Ryan explained further. “I know, it’s sad…and I was angry at the one who stole our decorations, but then I forgave whoever did it, because Jesus taught us to do so. And this command is for our good, as are all of God’s commands! Because if we don’t forgive, we become bitter, dark and gloomy, our prayers are hindered. And if we refuse to forgive and seek revenge, we give a foothold for the devil to do nasty things in us and to us.”
Denver looked down with a sad face. Benjie had a blank face of confusion. Corby stared into space with jaw dropped down in awe.
“It’s okay to be sad and angry for a few moments, as long as you don’t hold onto it or seek revenge…so let’s vent for a few minutes…come on Deni, what do you think about our Christmas things taken?”
“I’m mad…I feel like someone stole our Christmas…why did this happen to us?”
“I understand…that’s how I felt…Benjie what about you, how do you feel about the decorations being stolen?”
Benjie blinked his eyes, still thinking for a moment. “I…I’m mad too…I wanted a real Christmas this year…but someone took it from us.”
“I understand…it hurts…Corby, what do you think about all this?”
Corby squirmed in his seat, thinking of what to say. He propped up his sad face with both hands, elbows on his knees. “It stinks!”
Ryan and Caitlin held back a chuckle upon hearing Corby’s modern idiom that he must have learned from one of his friends.
“Alright everyone, now we’ve had a little time to vent, do you think we can forgive?”
Caitlin looked lovingly at each of the boys and added her thoughts. “I’ve had some of the same feelings…why did this happen…the boys have been through so much already and they were looking forward to having a Christmas tree, just a little tree…why…what now…? And we waited a few days to tell you to try and figure it out…what to do…you know…and like Ryan, I knew I had to forgive the one who stole the decorations, so I did forgive them…and I had a little conversation with God about it…asked God if he would provide something even better. Boys, do you think you could forgive, knowing God is good and he will provide?”
Ryan added, “To forgive means that you release the person who wronged you, release them to God. You let God take care of disciplining the person who wronged you. And you keep no feelings of hate or revenge toward the person who wronged you. You look to God to take care of you and you trust God’s goodness. Make sense?”
Denver asked, “Does it mean we can ask God to punish them and then just leave it be?”
“Sort of. Your part is to simply hand them over to God. Even ask God to bless them with their needs. That’s hard, I know. But once you do forgive, it brings healing to you…you know the hurt you said you felt…forgiveness heals your hurt.”
Caitlin added, “If you feel like you can honestly pray to God right now and ask God to take care of the one who stole the decorations, we’ll help you. Ryan can lead the prayer. What do you think, ready to forgive?”
Denver slowly lifted his head and said, “I guess I’m ready.” Then Benjie and Corby both reluctantly said, “Me too.”
“Father God, here we are, Caitlin and I, Deni, Benjie, Corby. We come to you, the one who knows everything, sees everything, you know the one who stole the decorations. We know stealing is wrong. We commit the one who stole our Christmas things to you for your care and discipline, knowing you are just and righteous in all your ways. We forgive them. You have also asked us to bless our enemies. So we ask that you would bless this person we have forgiven with all their needs this Christmas season and that they would know the real reason we celebrate Christmas. You have given us the best gift of all, your Son, so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. Amen.”
Ryan looked up and said, “Whoever agrees with this prayer say Amen.” And everyone said Amen.
Caitlin with the excitement of holding a secret, looked at Ryan. “Should we let the boys know the good news now?” He nodded his head yes.
“Now that we have taken care of the bad news, the good news is that the Grands have invited us over to celebrate Christmas Eve at their house. And they went all out and decorated a Christmas tree, put up lights and…and…they bought gifts for everyone. What about that?” As Caitlin broke the good news, it was glorious to behold, little faces so sad moments ago, now lit up with surprise and delight. Celebrating with applause. Jumping up and down.
(To continue reading: Return to Menu + Select Chapter Eight)
This story is a fictionalization. Any mention of historical events, people and places are used fictitiously and any likeness to actual events, places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.