Saturday, December 21, 2013
A Baby for Christmas by Martin Wiles
Elsie and her sister Connie grew up the daughters of a dirt poor farmer who attempted to eke out a living from sandy soil in the Low Country of South Carolina. By the time her father died, he had made a name for himself in the community and accumulated enough in land and money to be considered well off. But Elsie had left home long before and knew nothing of the wealth growing up that her parents experienced later in life. Even in their later years—when they could have lived more comfortably, they lived as if they had very little. Never a new car or truck. Never a new tractor or combine. Just the same old farm house Elsie had grown up in with no central air or heat. Not even a window air conditioning unit. Just one lonely gas heater in the kitchen and an even smaller one in the bathroom.
Even though she never got what she wanted the most for Christmas, this special day was the highlight of young Elsie’s life. Her parents and older sister were members of a small white Methodist church nestled in a grove of pine trees not quite two miles from their home. A church where the men sat on one side and the women on the other—a tradition Elsie never understand but one that continued long past the time when it had ended in other churches, and an enormous pot belly stove bellowed red hot heat from the center aisle.
Sundays found her entire family gathering with other folks from the community to thank God for his blessings—as small as they might seem. When Elsie became a teenager, she played the piano at the little church—something the elderly folks remembered for years in the future. At the moment, however, she was just the younger daughter of Daniel and Maggie Martin—a farmer who had lived on one of the tributaries of the Santee River and had recently joined the community.
Elsie’s father repeatedly reminded her and her sister how lean times were. In fact, it seemed that’s all he talked about. She wondered whether there were any years that weren’t lean. Surely, there must have been, but the family never heard about abundance—only poverty. Until one Christmas arrived that was very different from any she had experienced before. One that made her feel like a rich person’s daughter.
Every Christmas, Elsie’s family would gather with other families from the community and converge on the little white church to wait for Santa’s arrival. Elsie, along with the other children, eagerly awaited the opportunity to sit on his bulging round lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas—even though she never really believed she would get it. Year after year, her Christmas wish was the same: she wanted a baby doll. All her friends had at least one. She couldn’t understand why her father couldn’t scrape together enough money at least one year to get her one too. So this particular year, Elsie told Santa what she had told him numerous times before.
“What’s your name little girl,” Santa would whisper.
“Elsie,” she excitedly uttered.
“And what would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?”
“Santa, I want a baby doll. Could you please bring me one? All my friends have one, and I want one too.”
“Have you been a good little girl?” Santa queried.
“Oh yes,” Elsie chimed.
And comparatively, she had been good. Especially when she compared herself to her older sister. Elsie couldn’t wait to get in the bed Christmas Eve. Surely this would be the year Santa would grant the wish she had made so many times before. It must have been one of the bountiful years her father never mentioned. Or perhaps her mother had saved enough money from the fish she sold to the neighbors. But how it happened or why wasn’t important. When the first rays of daylight peeked through her bedroom window, Elsie jumped up and made her way to the Christmas tree. As she looked around, there it was. A box that seemed the right size for a baby doll wrapped in paper a dirt poor farmer’s wife would use.
After receiving her mother’s permission, she tore into the paper and ripped open the box. She could hardly believe what she saw. Santa had granted her wish. A beautiful small baby doll lay quietly in the box. A doll baby of her own. It was all she had ever wanted but never received. She couldn’t wait to play with it. “Why not turn the box into a stroller,” she imagined. Since Santa had delivered the doll, she could engineer the stroller. And she did. After carefully cutting two holes in the box, she inserted a cord and instantly she had a stroller. It was the only year Elsie ever received a doll baby.
When Elsie was 17, she married my father just prior to his being shipped overseas to Taiwan. Though Elsie didn’t receive but one doll growing up, Daddy and all three of Elsie’s boys made sure she had all she wanted later in her life. Daddy began the tradition of giving her a doll for Christmas every year, and the rest of the family followed suit.
Elsie is now a senior adult, but one thing she doesn’t lack is baby dolls. She has a corner curio brimming with them, and they also lounge in her bedroom and living room. In fact, Elsie has so many that one year no one gave her any. We figured she had enough—more than enough to make up for all the ones she never received growing up.
Just as one doll baby made a tremendous difference in Elsie Lee’s life, so did a real child that was born almost two thousand years ago. He too brought joy. To shepherds living in the fields, wise men living afar, and to people worldwide. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NLT)
Elsie’s young life was changed by one doll’s appearance, and Jesus’ birth has changed the lives of millions of people and continues to do so. He was God’s ultimate Christmas present to the world, and he would later give his life to purchase the salvation of that same world. So never underestimate the potential of even the smallest of gifts. God didn’t.
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