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Christmas Countdown #11: Not What He Expected for Christmas

December 21, 2014

Kris sat alone with me and stared out the window, fingering his coffee mug.  His eyes were flickering as he gazed at the cold December rain running down the window, and I could tell that he was digging up a memory that was bothersome.  He was a pale, quiet teen who was friendly and generous to a fault, but I always knew that he had some battles within.

1fWe didn’t talk for awhile.  He would begin to speak, then hesitate, look at his coffee and sip slowly while staring out of the window at the darkened sky.  I waited.   It was obvious that he would eventually talk.  He was grasping for the right words, for the best way to grasp his feelings.  We listened to the rain patter against the window.

“Christmas is a pretty exciting time of the year for everybody,” he said.

“Sure is,” I answered.  “You ready for it?”

He shrugged and smiled.  “Yeah, I guess so.  I want to make some new memories.”

“New memories?”

“Yeah,” he said slowly.  “Christmas hasn’t always been good at our house.”

“How so?”

He kept staring out the window, measuring his words before he spoke.  “Well, my stepfather, he’s not always been … well, since my mom remarried, he’s changed her … and our family, really.  My mom, she used to be happy, but now she kind of lets him talk for her and she acts like a statue sometimes – there’s no closeness like she and I used to have.  He’s taken money we’ve needed for food, yelled at us a lot, stuff like that.  It’s been hard.  The one thought I kept in my mind was that Christmas would at least make him kinder, get us all in a better mood, even if it was only for one day, you know?  We only get one big gift, but still it’s fun.  We call it the Main Present, and then after that we get one other thing like a small bag of candy.”

He shifted in his chair.  “Last year – it was Christmas Eve, at night.  I was sitting in the kitchen, messing with an old model car that I had, but really, I was just kind of wasting the time until we would go to bed because, you know, I was really excited about Christmas.  My older brothers and my younger sister were already upstairs, getting ready for bed but also goofing around a bit and playing Christmas music on the radio.  I was by myself in the kitchen when my stepfather walked in, smoking a cigarette and my mom walking behind him like she always does.”

Kris looked at me and continued.  “I looked up at him.  His face was different, and I wasn’t sure what he was going to say.  The my stepfather says ‘You know that photography set that you wanted for Christmas?  The film developing kit?’ I nodded my head yes.  That was my Main Present and I had put it on a Christmas list weeks ago.  I was learning how to develop film and I wanted to, you know, maybe make it a career or something.”

“My stepfather says, ‘Well we went to a flea market and we found the set for you.'”  Kris shrugged.  “And I’m wondering, why did he just tell me what my Christmas present is?  It’s supposed to be a surprise, isn’t it?”

I nodded.

Kris continued.  “Then my stepfather says, ‘Well we bought it and when we got it home we found out it was broken.  So your gift doesn’t work.’  I looked at him.  What was I supposed to say? My mom’s just standing behind him and not saying a word.  Just standing there – not looking at me, just kind of staring at the back of his head.”

“Then my stepfather smokes his cigarette a bit more and says, ‘Well, since it’s broken, we’re not going to give it to you.  We’re not gonna give you a broken gift for Christmas, so we threw it away.  We just didn’t want you getting all upset and maybe crying about it.  I wanted you to know that’s what happened.’  Then he and my mom left the room.”

I asked, “So what gift did they substitute for your Main Present?”

Kris looked at me.  “Nothing.”


He looked back at the window.  “Nope.  I sat there on Christmas and watched everyone else get something.  My stepfather would look at me with a warning glance, so I kept to myself.”

It was hard for me to believe that his parents would crush a kid’s Christmas hopes and then warn him against showing any emotion.  I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I tried hard to keep the tears back.  “Kris, I’m sorry.  I had no idea…”

He looked out the window and was quiet for a full minute.  I noticed, though, that he wasn’t angry.  He was forming his words once again.

“No, it’s okay.  Because, you know, it kind of refocused my vision on what Christmas was about.  I mean, isn’t it about Jesus?  I started thinking about it and realizing that maybe this was good for me, not getting anything.  I got my focus back on who Jesus is and what His birth and stuff all really meant.”  He smiled more widely.  “And won’t the gifts in Heaven be bigger than anything here on Earth?”

He sipped his coffee and nodded, as if to himself.  “Besides, it has given me a chance to talk to other poor kids, too.  A rich kid couldn’t reach out to them, could he?  But I can.  I know how they feel and I can listen to them and help them see Jesus.”  He looked at me.  “And I realized, so many people get so much stuff that they forget Jesus.  Maybe it’s good that I didn’t get anything.”

I smiled back.

Kris put his mug down.  “It hurt, sure, but I’m better now.  Christmas is different for me.  I see Jesus better now.”

And to this day, Kris has been true to his word.  He reaches out to the poor children in his community, year round.

Jesus the Man was not affluent nor did He ignore the poor and lonely.  Kris was able to see that.  And what could have been a terrible Christmas memory turned out to be a magnificent ministry for Jesus to this day.

I learned a powerful lesson that has stayed with me all these years.



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