Johnson, Seaver, mail,” the guard called as he tossed letters to the men, then disappeared back into his office. Jeff’s heart sank. The red and green envelopes just served as a reminder of his situation.
A quiet chill spread through the small jail, as the inmates read their Christmas greetings. They all knew, on December 23, these cards, along with the turkey and gravy special from the café across the street, would be their Christmas celebration.
Jeff sat back on his bunk in the corner of the cell, wondering how he had arrived at this place in his life. Sure, he could blame the economy when he lost his job. He did blame his wife when she couldn’t take it anymore. He had even been bold enough to blame the pastor; for what, he couldn’t remember. Now, there was no one to blame but himself.
Just then, an older gentlemen walked through the door, thanking the guard with a handshake and “Merry Christmas.” Jeff had never seen him before, but there was something familiar in his face, or maybe his eyes, he couldn’t be sure. He greeted the others, then headed directly to Jeff’s cell, pulling up a stool and sitting down with his Bible on his lap.
“Where’s Reverend Grant?” Jeff asked.
“He called me last night and asked me to help out for a couple of days,” he replied kindly.
“Must be busy with Christmas stuff,” he said sarcastically.
“Actually, he mentioned a small emergency at home,” the man said simply.
Jeff sincerely hoped nothing was wrong. Rev. Grant had tried to encourage him over the last few months, after what seemed like one bad lick after another.
Jeff moved closer to the door.
“This isn’t the way I planned to spend Christmas, you know. I’ve had a lot of bad luck lately, and I just couldn’t let my son down. I stole a few things from that new department store downtown,” he rattled on, needing to confess to someone. “Now, I have nothing; just a lousy, worn-out mattress and left-over turkey for Christmas,” he continued, tears welling up in his eyes, frustration in his voice.
“I know your situation, son. I know there’s hope,” the minister comforted.
Jeff shook his head, wanting to believe. Looking him in the eyes, Jeff confessed angrily, “No eight-year-old boy should spend Christmas without his dad, especially knowing where he is and what he’s done.”
“Maybe he understands more than you realize,” the man said.
Jeff wondered. Bobby had always been insightful for his age. “Do you know where he is now?” Jeff asked, searching for hope.
The man responded, “Sorry, Jeff, not at this moment, but let’s pray for him to have a great Christmas, remembering what the season is all about.”
“Pray?” Jeff asked. “That would be like calling up an old friend that I’d betrayed and asking for a favor. I don’t think He wants to hear from me right now.”
“Can you think of a better time?” the minister asked.
The minister reassured him that he would be praying for him as he stood to leave.
Jeff returned to his corner with his face in his hands, attempting to retrace his life back to some turning point.
The next morning, Jeff skipped breakfast, hope fading with each hour, as December 25 quickly approached. He remembered, as a kid, the excitement of Christmas morning, tearing into packages, his mother beaming at the handmade cards from Jeff and his brother. He tried not to imagine her disappointment if she were here today.
Jeff didn’t bother looking up when the guard entered. Without a word, a large red envelope smacked the cell floor near Jeff’s bunk.
“Where did this come from?” Jeff hollered, noticing only his name on the front.
“That pastor’s wife from the church on the corner brought it by,” the guard replied, then added, “said they’ll be here to pick you up at 4:00 this afternoon.”
“Rev. Grant?” Jeff asked.
“And the kid. I don’t know who he was, ‘cause they don’t have a young boy, but he told me himself that he would be back,” he said.
Jeff clutched the card. He looked at the writing once again. The emergency was Bobby. He was safe. A tear ran down his cheek as he ripped into the Christmas card, recalling the words he had dared to believe, “I know there’s hope.” Christmas is the season for miracles, thought Jeff, and this year, new beginnings.
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