By Gary Piper
The story you are about to read is both fiction and non-fiction at the same time! It is fiction because many of the situations have been created in my imagination. Yet, the characters have come from real persons encountered in life. In fact, I’ve been each of them on different occasions. As you read these pages, may the characters come to life for you, may you see Jesus in the circumstances you encounter on a daily basis, and may you, like Crusty, find a friend with whom you can share your innermost thoughts and fears.
Christmas is a magical time of year but the magic cannot be attributed to someone pulling the spirit of Christmas out of a black hat. The magic of Christmas is attributed to the birth of a small newborn infant and the Spirit he brought with him. Join Crusty the Christian and me as we work ourselves through the seemingly over commercialization of Christmas.
Walking through the main entrance of the mall, I heard a familiar voice calling my name, “Hi Gary, over here.”
“Oh, hi Crusty,” I answered back, “I’m going to BK and get myself a shake want one?”
“If you’re buying. I’d like a large vanilla,” he called out with a big smile.
It took about 15 minutes to get the shakes, “I love Christmastime,” I commented as I sat down. All the lights and decorations remind me of the way Jesus has decorated my drab life.”
“Bah humbug!” Crusty exclaimed.
“What do you mean bah humbug,” I questioned, “you don’t like Christmastime?”
“I love Christmas and hate Christmastime, Crusty replied.
Sipping on our shakes neither of us spoke for three or 4 minutes then Crusty broke the silence, “Do you know what’s wrong with Christmastime Gary?”
“To commercialized?” I replied.
“It seems like it but that’s not it. Guess again,” he said.
“You don’t think Christmastime is too commercial?” I asked return.
“Heavens no! Gary,” he answered back, “Christmastime is commercial I’ll admit but think of all the people who are employed by the commercialization centering on this time of year.”
He was right Christmastime does provide people the opportunity to have a job; it’s also a time when retail companies such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Malls, and other stores profits are up keeping thereby assuring their employees year round employment. “I’ve never looked at it that way,” I replied, “so what’s wrong with Christmastime?”
“Jesus is what’s wrong,” he answered in return.
“Jesus!” I reacted, “Haven’t you heard Jesus is the reason for the season?”
With a big grin on his face he responded, “I thought that would get a rise out of you. Had ya didn’t I?”
“You had me alright but I know you well enough to know you were serious,” I replied.
Looking more serious, “Your right I was serious, but not for the reason you’re thinking. “ We don’t emphasis Jesus enough at this time of year,” he stated.
“I think you’re wrong on that one Crusty,” I said, “are you saying we can have our cake, and eat it too?”
“I sure am,” he said.
“Jesus said something like you cannot serve God and money too,” I replied confidently.
“He also said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto God that which is Gods,” he replied just as confident as I had been.
“So?” I smugly answered.
“So the way I see it as long as I’m rendering unto God more than rendering unto Caesar things are in the proper order,” Crusty said.
“Okay, say I agree with you what about Jesus being the problem?” I asked.
“It’s simple,” he began, “Jesus doesn’t get the notoriety he needs.”
“Okay Einstein why is that Jesus’ fault?” I asked.
“My point exactly! It isn’t Jesus’ fault it’s our fault,” he smugly replied.
There was a moment of silence then, “Long ago God sent angels to the shepherds to proclaim Jesus’ birth, and they went out and told others. Today he has all of us Christians so he doesn’t need to ask the angels he asks us instead. And do you know what we’re doing about it?” he asked.
I had to admit to myself that he was making a little sense so after thinking about what he’d just said for a few moments I replied, “You’re beginning to make sense to me Crusty.”
“I am!” he interrupted me, “That’s pretty close to being a first for me isn’t it?”
I knew he meant that in a smug way of telling me he’d just one-upped-me. “You got me again Crusty,” I said smiling, “but tell me what are we doing about being God’s messengers.”
“Not enough,” he replied.
“How so?” I asked.
“As you walk through the stores or drive down the street what slogans do you see?” he asked me.
I closed my eyes trying to remember the slogans I seen. After 2 or 3 minutes I said, “Peace on Earth and Merry Christmas are the two that stand out for me.” Almost instantly, I knew what he’d be saying next.
“How many front yards or stores do you see Jesus’ name in lights?” he asked.
I was close to knowing what his question would be so I was ready for it, “You don’t, but some places have manger scenes. Do they count?” I asked.
“You bet they count but there are not enough of them,” he replied, “if Jesus is the reason for the season as you said why shouldn’t his notoriety be greater than anything else?”
“Your right Crusty,” I answered, “Jesus should get more notoriety than Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the Grinch, Santa Claus, or any other Christmastime Icons.”
Suddenly I noticed tears forming in the corner of his eyes, “What if you drove down the streets, and standing in the front yards of Christian homes was an eight foot inflatable Baby Jesus with his arms out stretched? What if you saw slogans that wished Jesus a Happy Birthday? What if on the store shelves were action figures of Jesus that said, ‘I come to bring peace’ and other neat things?”
He paused for a moment to regain his composure and I seized the opportunity, “I believe everything you said Crusty we live in a world that tells itself over and over it needs Christmastime more than it needs Jesus. But what can we do about it?” I asked with tears now in my eyes.
After several minutes of silence and being unsuccessful at controlling his emotions, “I don’t know either, Gary. Maybe we Christians should stop trying to de-commercialize Christmastime and Christianize it. Maybe someone could manufacture and sell an eight foot inflatable Jesus’. I don’t really know what to do I guess I’m too simple of a thinker to solve such a complex problem but one thing I can do is to decorate my own yard with a Jesus theme.”
“Crusty,” I said looking him straight in the eyes, “for such a simple thinker you’ve got more wisdom than many people with PhD’s and CEO’s following their names.”
“Thanks my friend,” he replied, “you’re okay too.”
As we sat, silence as Santa Claus is Coming to Town played in the sound system of the mall. “Someone should write a song titled Jesus is Coming to Earth,” I commented.
“They did,” Crusty quickly replied, “a lot of them.”