Friday, December 7, 2012
Our Favorite Christmas Story Ever
Advent has begun. Busy preparations of all kinds are underway. Before we know it, Christmas will be here, and with it the days of Advent will have flown by again. One of the ways we savor this season is reading a new Christmas story as a family every year. Actually, not new in any way except to us, as we read the gems of days gone by. There are so many to choose from and I still remember those that were read to me as a child. I could make a very, very long list for you of some your children won't ever forget either.
Instead, perhaps because the days are short and the effort to include a special story memory is so challenging with all the visiting, baking, decorating, partying, singing, and gifting, going on, I am going to share our very favorite children's Christmas book. Its title is modest, its message monumental.
A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy came into our life in a box full of old dusty books. We knew and loved the author already. One night Emily picked it up before going to sleep and began reading. She did not put it down until she had read to the end and cried herself to sleep with the joy and wonder of the simple story spun in Seredy's masterly manner. The next morning at breakfast she announced that we had to read it as a family. We have returned to it many times since, each time with the same delicious delight in its details and outcome. Emily has proclaimed it The. Perfect. Book. I can't disagree.
The setting is old-fashioned, yet completely familiar. As little Peter and his friends have suffered loss and heartache, we have had our own; just as he learns and grows, we somehow sense that our life's path is clearer for having walked for awhile with these imaginary friends. The story opens with one of those mysterious small occurrences in an ordinary day, a boy waves to another little boy outside the train window as he passes. But he never forgets the little boy he has seen, and you can't either as Kate Seredy then relates the early experience of Peter. He is small, fearful, crippled. Life has treated his little family harshly. The setting is Shanty Town. It's cold and dark and excruciatingly lonely. If I divulge much more, I will spoil the tale, but let me just say that a stranger comes and gives a little spade to Peter. It's just a little gift, but the consequences in Peter's life and the lives of everyone he knows are enormous, ultimately transforming their neighborhood and spreading to the wide world beyond.
The reason A Tree for Peter is our favorite Christmas story and one we will enjoy time after time for the rest of our lives is because it is a timeless story. It will bring as much pleasure to us at 90 as it did at 9. It also reflects all the truth, beauty, and goodness of the best story of all time, the one that is not make-believe at all, but is divinely real and authored by God himself. In His story, our world is dark and cold and hopeless. Mary and Joseph knew this reality too as they suffered from inhospitable strangers and delivered a baby in a stable for animals. They really knew a harsh world like Peter's, like ours. A small gift was given there, all of the Eternal God in a weak and helpless baby. The consequences of this tiny gift were, and continue to be, immeasurable. God with us has transformed our world, shedding light, recreating lives.
A friend has come. A gift is given. We too are in darkness, cold, crippled, fearful, poor, and helpless. In the form of a tiny baby, God has come to where we live and can transform our life, our neighborhood, our world. His is truly our favorite Christmas story, and we can all really be made alive in this one.
For the joy of reading,
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