Folding their branches inward, the trees covered themselves from the cold, biting, winter winds as they stooped down to gather warmth from the house’s chimney. Despite the white smoke that puffed from it, this house offered no warmth.
At the base of the chimney inside the house, a family gathered together in the living room, sitting amongst the carnage of Christmas. Stockings, emptied of their contents, had been replaced on the mantle, save one that had fallen, leaving a gold glittery trail from the name “Eric.”
The Christmas tree clung to the remainder of its decorations, trying to keep them safe from the two terrible tornados – a pair of Siamese cats. Amongst the fallen ornaments, one could see the chunks of wrapping paper that post-Christmas clean up had missed.
None of the devastation matched the wreckage in the hearts of Eric, Michael, and Michelle as they gathered at their parents’ feet.
Michael, the six-year old middle child, drew shapes in the brown shag carpeting. He knew what his parents had meant, but he tried to ignore it – hoping the painful news would go away.
Michelle, a year younger than him, understood the effects, but not the cause. Why does Daddy have to move away? Why can’t he just stay here? She looked towards her oldest brother, Eric, for answers. At eleven years old, he always seemed to know how to help.
Not today. Bitterly chewing his lower lip and contorting his face, he wrenched his hands together, hoping to somehow fight the tears. He might have well been the lone boy trying to hold back a reservoir of water with only a finger.
Scenes, thoughts, and emotions tumbled through his mind. Grasping at each one like a drowning boy reaching for a lifeline, Eric desperately hoped each one would bring him safely to sanity.
Was it his fault his parents were divorcing? What could he have done to help them?
Why was Mom making Dad leave? Who would take care of the little ones?
Why did his dad not love him anymore? What was wrong with him?
Eric would have spent the rest of his Christmases with these bitter memories: stockings reminding him of the emptiness in his heart; the tree reminding him that all things, no matter how beautiful, wither away and die; discarded ornaments reminding him of his discarded dreams. Like the frozen ground around the house, Eric’s heart solidified more and more each Christmas.
But one Christmas would change his life. On that Christmas, he heard about the true reason for the holiday. On a day long before Eric ever walked the earth, a baby came into the world in a small manger in Bethlehem. This baby, a gift from the Creator of the universe, represented hope that He had not forgotten about His children.
While Eric walked as a cold, bitter, and angry teenager, he realized that God loved him so much that He sent his own Son to die for him. Eric had never heard this message, yet though he had not, God still loved him and had placed him on earth for a purpose.
That Christmas, Eric also realized that though he had tried with all his might to keep his father at a distance, a father’s love cannot be discarded. No matter how horrible Eric could be, his father would always love him. Despite all of his anger, Eric loved him back.
Now, the Christmas tree is the rebirth of Eric’s hope. The stockings serve their purpose – holding the gifts for one another. The presents themselves represent Eric’s heart: a beautiful gift, wrapped up safe and tight, until the time is right and the person to whom it is given takes the first steps and begins to peel away the wrapping to see what lies inside.
Eric still has the ultimate wish that his family would once again be whole. But he also looks ahead; he has married a beautiful woman and will one day have children of his own. He will give them the family that he always wanted. He will give them hope.
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