A Stranger's Letter

by Ken Kelley


I can’t remember a year when I’ve so anxiously awaited Advent. After spending the last couple of months taking solace in the expectation of the coming of The Prince of Peace, I can hardly wait for a liturgy in worship in which we respond together as a congregation, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come again” (or words to that effect).

One of our Good Shepherds gave me a copy of the following letter which was written by the son of a friend of hers. It’s reminiscent of many of the conversations I have with those I visit. They often share stories of memorable events in their lives which I usually enjoy, even when I can’t relate to them. Frequently, I learn something and have discovered that, if I pay attention until the end of our conversation, I often leave inspired. I hope you will have a similar experience reading a stranger’s letter:

The smell of his Old Spice cologne and cigars still lingers in my mind.  His pocket always had a Schaeffer ballpoint, the kind with an arrow for the pocket clip.  I remember noticing that my Granddaddy had a small hole on his upper lip, a large pore actually. I always wondered how he got the hole, so on Christmas I asked.  He told me an Indian shot him.  It was funny, and I laughed even though I knew it wasn’t true.

The world and everything else didn’t seem to matter when you were in your Granddaddy’s lap.  The room could be full of people, but it was just you and him --one on one.  I think that if I had to write a description of the perfect Granddaddy, it would be him.

Every year my brother, sister, and I would decide (usually Christmas Eve morning) to make Granddaddy a present.  He had a big desk in his butcher shop, and surely he would need a new pencil holder.  All it took was a Welch’s frozen grape juice can, some construction paper or colored felt, a few sequins or some glitter, and voila, instant pencil holder.  He always acted like it was the best present he’d ever received. I wonder what he did with all of those pencil holders. You came away feeling as if you had made his Christmas special.

I never really thought of someone as a gift.  I know now that the people God gives you in your family are a gift.  It takes years to realize what you were blessed with.  Those people may not be perfect, but they are what God wanted you to have, experience, learn from.  I learned much from my Granddaddy.  I hope someday I am as good a Granddaddy as he was to me.  I thank God for the gift of his life and for allowing me a time to know and love him.

Thinking back, I have seen the face of those who received a gift that they did not expect.  That what-cha-ma-call-it that you have no idea what it is for or why it is even under your tree, or that “what-on-earth were they thinking when they got me this” look.  I think that this has been a recurring event since the first Christmas.  The world was given a gift.  They had asked for this gift for centuries. They had been promised the gift would come.

But that first Christmas morning, the world said, “What is this?  This is not the gift we expected.  What good is a baby to us?  Why he is just a common child, the son of a carpenter.  What could he possibly do for us?” The gift came to the world unappreciated.  The Giver received few thank yous for His thoughtfulness, His generosity, His love.

The gift was a treasure -- a miraculous, unique gift.  But it would take thirty years after his birth to begin to understand God’s plan.  It would take centuries to spread the gift to the whole world.  It will take until His coming again for all of the world to understand and appreciate this gift and what it truly means.

As the season rushes to its climax, amidst the hustle and bustle, the rivers of memories which flood our hearts, don’t lose sight of the truth of Christmas.  Take time to appreciate the Gift, thank the Giver, and look to the future with the hope that is yours in Christ.

Come, Lord Jesus, come again.