Thursday, December 15, 2011

This line from Lord Darlington in "Lady Windemere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde describes too many of us: "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."  This is true of  many of us as we go into debt year after year to buy gifts that are frequently unwanted, unappreciated, and for whom the receiver is ungrateful, yet we do it over and over.   Long after my weight had soared quite a bit (I married a woman who had been cooking for four people for years and continued to do it after we wed.  I came from a family that was taught to eat every bite on the plate because of the starving children in China.  Well, you can see the train wreck coming from that kind of cooking and eating.  Anyway, I gained quite a bit of weight, yet every year my mother-in-law would buy me a small size shirt l thinking it would goad me into doing something about my weight.  I never wore a single one of those shirts and never lost much weight either.  One year, we got a full-sized, very ugly chicken gravy boat.   Most Christmases, our gifts went the way of swap meets and yard sales like the chicken gravy boat.  Yet my wife, each of my siblings, and all my sons have given me truly thoughtful gifts that I have in Africa today, on display.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a diamond was an excuse for a gift (eat your heart out, DeBeers) because the only true gift was one that contained part of you in it. God gave us a gift on that first Christmas that fit Emerson's criteria completely.  One of the best examples of this is a country and western song by Johnny Cash called "Christmas As I Knew It".  I repeat the lyrics here for it is a better sermon than many I have preached:


One day near Christmas when I was just a child 
Mama called us together and mama tried to smile 
She said you know the cotton crop hasn't been too good this year 
There's just no spending money and well at least we're all here 
I hope you won't expect a lot of Christmas presents 
Just be thankful that there is plenty to eat 
That's quite a blessing that'll make things a little more pleasant 
And us kids got to thinking how really blessed we were 
At least we were all healthy and best of all we had her 
Roy cut down a pigapple tree and we drug it home Jack and me 
Daddy killed a squirrel and Louise made the bread 
Reba decorated the tree with popcorn strings before we went to bed 
Mama and daddy sacrificed cause this Christmas was lean 
But after all there was the babies Tom and Joanne babies need a few things 
I whittled a whistle for my brother Jack and though we fought now and then 
When I gave Jack that whistle he knew I thought the world of him 
Mama made the girl's dresses out of flower sacks 
And when she ironed them down you couldn't tell that they hadn't come from town 
A sharecropped family across the road didn't have it as good as us 
They didn't even have a light and it was way past dusk 
And mama said well I bet they don't even have coaloil or beans to boil 
A log apples cranges and such 
Me and Jack took a jar of coaloil nd some hickernuts we'd found 
We walked to the sharecropper's porch and set 'em down 
A poor old ragged lady eased open the door 
She picked up the coaloil and hickernuts and said 
I sure do thank ye and quickly closed the door 
We started back home me and Jack and about halfway we stopped looked back 
And in the sharecropper's window at last was a light 
So for one of the neighbors and for us it was a good Christmas night 
Christmas came and Christmas went Christmas that year was heaven sent 
Then daddy put on his gumboots waited for the thaw back home in Dyess Arkansas


Amen and God Bless You
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