As we near Christmas Day (one week and counting), there is such hustle and bustle. All of this kerfuffle is more than Saint Nicholas and his reindeer make on Christmas Eve when landing on a rooftop.
In neighborhoods, ostentatious displays outshine Las Vegas. Of course there is always a Vic Frohmyer to comment on and recommend the dazzling trappings as he did with the Kranks in the comedic film Christmas With the Kranks.
Commercialization is in high gear. Finding a town or village like a Thomas Kinkade painting, where tranquility and light reign in snowfall, is a rarity such as a black emerald.
In my stories about the town of Temperance, set in the 1920s, Christmas has meaning and magic. Perhaps, this is what is missing from 2016–a sense of mystery and a touch of magic.
Christmas snow is magical. Moonbeams touching the star on the Christmas tree are magical and the pristine joy on children’s faces on Christmas morning is another magical reminder of sweet innocence.
Stars have always held a special place in this season. We identify with stars because deep within our being we know we are part of the cosmic ocean swirling above us from which our atoms and molecules originated.
Coming back to this planet traversing the cosmos, I came across a short story by Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy. It is about Martin Avdeich, a cobbler.
It is not a typical Christmas story, but what happens in the story is a reflection of what Christmas is all about on the spiritual and practical level. As he aged, Martin suffered greatly in this life.
He lost his children, his wife and finally his beloved son Kapitoshka. Martin fell into a great depression and despair and sorrow became his companions.
When a person has suffered such loss, depression is a natural consequence. One wonders, why am I still alive? Is this all there is to this life—to love and grieve? To face a life of loneliness in the declining years?
One day Martin encounters a holy man who offered advice to the aging cobbler. Martin took the advice and began reading the Gospels.
Like many people in despair, Martin wanted solace. As most people seek solace, they believe their god will visit them with divine relief.
So it was with Martin. He believed that Jesus would come to his workshop.
He eagerly waited and watched. What he saw from his basement window was an old gentleman, perhaps a veteran, named Stepanich, sweeping the sidewalk. He looked cold and weary.
Martin invited him into his shop where he had his samovar (boiling pot) set for tea. He and Stepanich enjoyed their tea as they talked.
After Stepanich went back to his sweeping, Martin continued working and glancing out the window for Jesus. Many people passed, dressed in fine boots and shoes, but as Martin watched he saw a poorly dressed young woman and her baby struggling in the cold.
He invited her in to his shop. He fed her what he had prepared for himself: cabbage soup and bread. He gave her an old coat and 20 copecks (one fifth of a ruble) to retrieve her shawl, which she had pawned.
It was near nightfall and still—Jesus had not come. Martin pondered. Out of his window he saw a market woman with her apple basket and a bag of wood chips scolding a young boy.
Rushing out to the street, he intervened with the woman to forgive the boy who had snatched an apple from her basket. After a long conversation about “the scamps” of the town being “spoiled”, Martin he offered to pay for the apple and gave the boy the apple.
The woman forgave the boy. In turn the boy offered to carry her bag of wood chips to her house.
Martin returned to his shop. As night fell, he wondered why Jesus had not come. Like a revelation, he saw Stepanich, the young woman and her baby and, of course, the apple woman and the young scamp emerge from the shadows of his shop.
Then Martin realized that what had happened that day was written in Matthew 25.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you as a guest or naked and clothe you?
39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’
40 And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25, Lexham English Bible (LEB)
As we watch out our basement windows at the passing scene of humanity this Christmas, may the true spirit of the season be manifest in reaching out to those in need. Touching another soul with generosity is the greatest gift. It is magic to bring joy to a human being who is suffering.
A cup of tea from the samovar and a warm bowl of cabbage soup can feed many. Perhaps those many may be the ones next door, down the street, or family members who need just a word of warmth as they face the cold of winter.
As they say in Temperance, well—most of them anyway,
“May this Christmas Eve and Christmas day find you blessed with the generosity of spirit. May you live Christmas well by sharing your gold and myrrh and frankincense.”
G. D. Williams © 2016
Where Love Is, God Is (Martin The Cobbler)
Christmas With The Kranks
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy