THE EVERLASTING GIFT
The fire crackled in the hearth as my grand children came running into the room. It was the night before Christmas and as tradition dictated it was time for me to read them the Christmas story.
“Can I fetch the book grandpa?” asked Alex aged ten, the oldest of the three.
“No I want to,” said Jessica, aged eight and the little madam of the group.
“Sorry guys, but this year it is Christopher’s turn, because he has never had a chance before.” I said, pointing to the bookshelf that held the special book.
The book they referred to was given to my mother when she was a little girl in 1936 and has been treasured and passed down from one generation to the next. As the eldest I am the custodian of the book until my eldest son asks for it.
“How old is the book now?” asked Jessica, a question asked every year after I had once told them that it was older than me.
“It is now seventy-two years old this year,” I said, as I took it from Christopher.
“And how old is your mommy now?” asked Alex, the more serious thinker of the group.
“She is now eighty two years old, and I am fifty two years old, so that makes the book older than me,” I said in an attempt to move along.
“Gee that’s really old,” said Christopher as he curled up beside me on the sofa.
The book in question is called “The Littlest Angel” written by Charles Tazewell and illustrated by Katherine Evans. Besides the story, the beautiful illustrations have captivated our imaginations through the years.
It tells the story of a little boy who at the exact age of four years, six months, five days, seven hours and forty-two minutes of age, presented himself at the Pearly gates. From that moment on, Heaven was never the same. As he ran down the Golden streets, he bumped into the other angels, knocking their wings askew. He disturbed the Heavenly Choir with his ear splitting whistles, and then joined in singing in vociferously off-key. His halo was permanently tarnished and kept slipping over his right eye. He swung on the Golden Gates and caused the heavenly hosts to demand that he be disciplined. Therefore, one day he was summoned to appear before the Angel of the Peace.
Fortunately the Angel was very understanding and soon found the root of the problem. The littlest Angel was bored and very homesick. He missed trees to climb, brooks to fish in, caves to play in and his favourite swimming hole.
The Angel smiled and asked him what would make him most happy in Paradise. He thought for a moment and said, ”There is a little wooden box under my bed back home, If only I could have that?” A heavenly messenger was sent to fetch it and thereafter peace was restored to Paradise.
Then came the time when Jesus, the Son of god was to be born in Bethlehem and all the angels put aside their regular tasks to prepare gifts for the Blessed Infant. The littlest Angel was perplexed. What could he give that would please the Holy Infant? All he had was his little box. That would have to do he thought, as he was too little to make anything special.
On the day the heavenly host came before the throne of God and placed their gifts at His feet, the littlest Angel placed his unsightly box among the beautiful gifts and then hid behind a large Angel hoping his gift would not be noticed.
The hand of God moved slowly over the gifts and came to rest on his. As the box was opened, he felt ashamed as his treasures was exposed for all to see. A golden butterfly, a sky-blue birds egg, two white stones found on a riverbed and the tooth-marked leather strap of his mongrel dog that had died.
It turned out that this gift found favor with God because “Its contents are of Earth and men, and my Son is born to be King of both.” Then as God spoke, the box began to glow with a brilliant light, and it became a beautiful star that stood guard over a stable in Bethlehem. Yes his lowly gift had become “The Shining star of Bethlehem.”
“Grandpa I so love this story.” said Jessica, brushing the tears from my cheeks, as I closed the book.
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