(Sergio J. Fernandez - December 20, 2009)
This is not a Christmas story, but I think it is a good story to be told around Christmas time and any other time, because although it is not about “birth”, it is certainly about spiritual “re-birth”.
It was during the early days of December. A young man was seating on a public park bench, lamenting his misfortune and asking God’s forgiveness for all his wrong doings, when suddenly an old man, with one of those big janitorial brooms, approached him while sweeping the walkways of the park.
“Do you mind if I take a seat in that bench?” – asked the old man, pointing with the tip of the broom handle to the bench where the young man was seating – “I think I’m getting to old for this job” – he explained, like trying to justify his action as he seated.
“No, not at all” – replied the sad young man, keeping his head down and looking straight to the floor – “Just be careful not to get contaminated with my misfortune, it is so bad, I think it may be contagious like a disease.” – he added, perhaps in a last attempt to maintain his solitude.
“At my age? No way!” – exclaimed the old man – “When you get to be this old, you become immune to many things, including misfortune. Would it be OK to ask the cause of your sadness?”
The young man, still keeping his eyes to the floor, replied: “Oh well, I guess it is OK if you feel so confident about being immune. I lost my job and I have not been able to find another one. It’s been more than two years now.”
By then, the old man had already noticed that his sad new friend was well dressed, clean and well groomed, so he commented: “Please forgive my sincerity, but you do not look like someone that have been out of work for more than two years. You look too healthy, too clean and too well dress for a long time jobless person. Do you have a pension or something?”
“No Sir, I have no such thing.” – quickly replied the sad young man.
“Well. Are you doing something illegal then? – asked the inquisitive old man.
The young man finally looked at the old man in the eyes and seriously said: “No Sir, there is no such ting either.”
“No need to get mad son.” – said the old man – “I’m old and like I said, I’m immune to many things, but being arrested is not one of them. That’s all. But son how can you look so well? You must have either a working spouse, or very good friends helping you.”
The young man crossed his arms in front of his chest, turned a little bit his body to face the old man and said: “You really want to know. Don’t you? OK. No, I am not married and no, I have no good friends either. I am leaving with my parents. And don’t worry, I completely understand your concern about being arrested, because I myself have been arrested several times and believe me, it is no joke.”
“Of course it isn’t!” – acclaimed the old man – “Several times you said? Several times? How come?
“I was stupid, that’s all, and they made me spend the night in jail for my stupidities, that’s all” – said the young man while returning to his original sad position of forearms resting over laps, head down and eyes looking straight down to the floor – “I have done so many stupidities in my short life. I have made my parents so unhappy because of my behavior that I can’t understand how they can still take care of me.”
“Were you ever convicted to do time in jail son?” – asked the old man with a very quiet voice.
“No Sir, thank God I haven’t” – quickly again replied the young man.
“When I was walking toward this area, I couldn’t avoid overhearing what you were saying to yourself. About how misfortunate you were and how you were asking God’s forgiveness for your wrong doings and all those things you know you were saying to yourself. But son, it seems to me neither men’s justice, nor God’s are holding anything against you. According to what you have just told me, I believe there is no forgiveness pending from God, nor from your parents, nor from the justice of men. Perhaps what you need to do is to forgive yourself as the others have forgiven you already. Son, I think you got it all wrong. You have been forgiven, therefore you do not need to ask for forgiveness anymore, and because you have been blessed with the gift of forgiveness already, you should not say you are misfortunate, on the contrary; you are very lucky, therefore you must thank God for forgiveness and for having the grace of His blessing despite of your behavior. Think of yourself as someone with the favor and love of God and your parents already on your side, and start being grateful for that. Remember son, when we receive something we know we have not earn, it is call “a gift”, and all we have to do is to give “THANKS”. You see? We all have been saved by the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, nevertheless not everybody is grateful for such gift.”
With tears in his eyes the young man said: “You’re absolutely right Sir. My father always say that and my pastor, in the church I attend. Would you like to visit my church some time Sir?” – and turned his face to look at the old man in the eyes again, but to his surprise, no one was there.
My dear beloved, we do not need to be visited by an angel to be reminded about FORGIVENESS and GRATITUDE. Just look around you and find the gift of LOVE manifested in your live, if it is there, then you know you have been forgiven, therefore give THANKS to your God. If it isn’t, just ask your God for forgiveness and let His grace reach you through your faith, but remember; as soon as you find out you have been blessed with the gift of LOVE, please do not forget to give THANKS to your God.
“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 (Today's New International Version)