A“Christmas Story”

When I was a wee lad of 8 or 10, I was pretty much the stereotypical 98 lb. weakling, not the bulky mass of muscles you may think of me now.  My brother and I grew up in a neighborhood of all boys, mostly bigger, older boys, and so we quickly developed well-honed survival instincts, much like Ralphie and his crew.  As in the movie, A Christmas Story, however, I had to pass by the house of a notorious neighborhood bully on the way to elementary school.  Let’s just say that those daily rites of passage helped to toughen me for later life.  It just so happened that the bully (let’s call him “Bill”, because that’s what his name was) also did a brief stint in our Cub Scout den.  One Christmas we Cub Scouts made small Christmas trees out of large pine cones, painted gold and silver and adorned with little glass beads and glitter.  On a Saturday before Christmas we took them as a group to the County Home, a place of last resort for the homeless, the penniless, the forgotten.  Bill and I ended up together at the bedside of a gruff disabled Marine vet who had no legs.  The old Marine was obviously touched and moved by our pine cone tree present, and our presence.  And so was Bill.  I could have sworn I saw a tear in Bill’s eyes.  Maybe it was the dust…  Flash forward ten or twelve years (and several beatings) later.  Home from college on a Christmas break, I was still a bit wary as I walked with a quickening pace by the front of Bill’s house.  It’d been some years since I’d last seen Bill.  And lo and behold, there he was running out of his front door!  Yikes!  My reflex was to run like mad (it had historically been an effective response because scared skinny kids can run faster than most anybody).  But, I stood my ground, as he yelled, “Hey, George!”  Expecting the worst, I grimaced and barely muttered “Hi, Bill.”  Bill had a big smile which quickly turned serious as he said, “George, I just wanted to say something to you.  I want to apologize for being mean to you years ago.  I was a jerk and it was wrong.  I’m going to church.  Please forgive me.”  I was a bit stunned, but happily so, and I said I forgave him and shook his hand. I think we actually did a little “man hug”.   We exchanged Christmas holiday wishes and said goodbye.  You see… Bill, and me, and you… are all made in the image of God.  And thanks to his love for us through his son Jesus Christ, none of us is beyond redemption.  “I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…” (Revelation 3:20) (John 3:16)

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