Monday, December 24, 2007

And so this is Christmas...

Looking back at what we've done, I'm amazed I am upright, much less able to write anything about it. Of course, I've only just started trying to write, so who knows, I may not get any distance at all.

It's Christmas tomorrow. Today is the last day of the Advent season. Dear Daughter and I have tried, through the chaos and sadness, to keep a reasonable and hopeful Advent. I just this moment realized that in the exhaustion and emotion of last night (as the Loved One prepared to leave for his holidays with his family and then on to Alaska), we completely forgot our Advent Sunday night ritual readings and candles. I knew something was missing from the evening...actually, there was a great deal missing from the evening...but I am sorry for overlooking that extremely important element.

About 7 p.m. last night we had a knock at the front door. People rarely come to the front, as we are definitely back-door folk. The wide parking apron, generous carport and elevated patio make a much nicer entrance, especially as it opens into a warm and fairly inviting den, instead of the cool, marble-paved foyer. The front of the house was dark, and I picked my way through the pile of packed boxes and the stack of boxes waiting to be built and filled. I switched on the lights and unlocked the doors to see who was there. Elijah, perhaps? Joseph and Mary, looking for shelter? Someone who mistook our dark and sad house for the holiday party they were missing?

No, it was Titus. He was thin and smiling, shivering in two layers of plaid, flannel shirt, fleece gloves and worn jeans. He had no coat, no hat; only a satchel filled with books and a massive, crackling walkie-talkie shoved in the bag. I knew in an instant I was about to be hit with a pitch to buy books I neither wanted nor needed. Still, I opened the door and this shy, thin boy began to talk.

He told me he and his sister were working the neighborhood, selling books to try and raise money for college. They were from Kentucky, he said; and he was home-schooled but hoped someday to get more formal education. His eyes darted around, and wouldn't meet mine. He was so thin and fragile looking, and his smile was bright and cheery, despite the 30 degree child. The skin on his face was translucent and shone as he talked of someday going to Heaven and meeting Jesus face to face, along with the loved ones he'd known on earth.

He was earnest and shy, and I knew he was no threat. I gave him the little cash I had with me for a book called Pathways to Health and Happiness. I offered him a coat, as we had a couple of extras hanging in a nearby closet. As moving day comes closer, we are getting rid of things we don't need. He declined and said he was fine in his shirt sleeves, smiled again, and turned to go.

As he walked down our steps, Titus turned back toward me and asked me to pray for him. Then he continued on into the dark night with his bag of books and the $7 I'd just given him.

I wondered the rest of the night and most of this morning how much of his story was true. I've found that the books he was selling are a product of a legitimate church, but still, I have to wonder, does the love of Christ really compel us to send our children out into the cold and dark on the eve of Christmas eve to knock on the doors of strangers, and to refuse help when you so obviously need it?

Yes, Titus, believe me, I will pray for you--that you are loved and warm and safe, and that the shyness in your eyes occasionally flames to love and joy. I hope that your story was true, and that the people who you are with are your family, and not some lunatic cult, deceiving you with heresy and depriving you not only of a warm home but keeping you from the love of your family. I hope that you go to sleep each night, assured not only of the love of God, but of your own mother and father, who are nearby, and who care tenderly for you. You brought me a gift, Titus, on a dark day in my own life. I know that I do not value enough the good people and things I have in my world--how could I ever possibly hold them dear enough?

Merry Christmas, friends. Please pray for Titus.

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