It happened again. I read this book two days ago to my little guy and got teary-eyed. I have read this book aloud every year for the past 8 years or so, every Christmas, and every year, I always cry. It’s just so sweet! At least this time, I maintained composure. I think I can read it tomorrow to my homeschool group and not get a catch in my throat. As I read it recently, I noticed new things. I had never noticed until this year’s reading that the tiny circle of light on the cover image is coming from the flashlight beam of the main character, as he walks to the barn to give his Christmas gift to his father. It’s funny how so many things slip past me, for so long. Sometimes it takes me several cycles through to learn, not just the reading of picture books, but life! That’s another post for another day!
I read the book after we came home from our church’s Christmas party so I’m including pictures from that amazing party in this post. The decorations were so wondrous. Kudos to my friend Jacklyn and her team of angels for going to all that work to honor our Savior’s birth with such beauty.
Another cool thing I noticed in this picture book is how the main character, Rob, a teen boy, transforms. He says that after he overheard his father tell his mother how much the dad loved his son, it made it easier for Rob to get up at 4 AM every day to do the farm chores when his dad called to him to awaken and get up. This love motivated Rob to sacrifice a gift of service on Christmas Day. As he lay awake one night before Christmas Eve, he realized that he wanted to give something more than the gift he had already picked for his dad, a necktie from the dime store. He pondered on what more he could give to his father. He finally chose to surprise his dad by doing the milking and other early morning farm chores all by himself, before his dad woke up, on Christmas morning. That allowed the dad to see all the kids run to the tree, to see what Santa brought, for the first time ever. In the story, the boy says that when he did the chores for his dad on that Christmas morning, it was so easy, because he knew he was doing the chores for his dad, just to please him, because he loved his dad and wanted to please him.
It got me thinking of how when we do things for God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, just to please them, that makes the hard things easier. They are still hard, a little bit, at least for me, but they aren’t nearly as hard. When we turn to God in whatever moment of pain or sacrifice we are in, and say, in our mind, if we have to, “God, Thou knowest this is hard for me. I am doing it for Thee, to serve Thy children for Thee,” then that focus and dedication make the problem easier to bear.
I learned this from Jim Cox’s book, Becoming Spiritually Centered, which I highly recommend. Last January, I started an earnest study of the book, again, after letting the concepts lapse in my life for over fifteen years. I listened to the audios and referred to the text in the book many times a month. It helped me so much! It was a wonderful gift to myself to internalize the principle of turning to God, in the name of Jesus Christ, and silently reaffirm His truths and give to him any troubles I have. Also pray to Him silently, asking for help to do the right thing to please Him. Like the time my daughter made the toilet flood all over the bathroom floor, on a Wednesday afternoon when I felt I had not time to deal with it. I showed her how to mop it all up and together we worked with a bunch of old towels to clean it all up. As I did, I told God, silently in my mind, that I was doing it all for Him, to create order and cleanliness, to serve His children. It worked! I didn’t complain. I felt joyful instead of feeling burdened.
I’ve also been thinking of how this book is the perfect Christmas picture book, because it subtly shines forth the love of Jesus, for His Father. On the surface, it’s simply a heartwarming story of the love a father has for his boy, and how that love, when finally accidentally communicated to the boy, allows the boy to feel great love for his father in return and show it with sacrifice.
On a deeper level, the book symbolizes the love of Christ, the Son of God, for His Father. Just as the son in this story did something to please his father, the Son, Jesus Christ, always sought to please His Father. That is what gave him joy, just as pleasing the father in this farm story gave the boy immense joy. So much joy that the memory of it warmed his heart decades later, even after his father had passed away.
This past week I attended the funeral for a gentleman in my church congregation who passed away after a 22 year battle with cancer. To see his wife and children speak at the funeral was such a tender experience. I love how the daughter said that they would always honor their dad by remembering him always. He will always be a part of them even though he’s not physically with them any more. That’s how I feel about Jesus. He’s no longer with us, but at every day, not just at Christmas, we can honor him by remembering him, by keeping our covenants done in His name. We can also turn to Him in our thoughts and words, turning over our troubles, laying them at His feet, and actively do things, purely in order to please Him.