“This,” my wife said, “is a typical illustration of what is known as a tremendous trifle.”
It was Christmas Eve and up to now had been one of my most joyful. We had always been a poor family and seldom had too much to spend on presents for one another. Not that presents and gifts are the heart of Christmas—really we all knew that Christ is the heart of Christmas—but there is a warmth on Christmas Eve when all the family is together and the presents of each one is opened in the presence of all. Then we find we really do love one another as we all rejoice in the joy of the other. As I said before so far this Christmas Eve was one of the best, but now discontent and anger began to creep into the family circle. One could feel it grow and build up, and, as it increased, in inverse proportion, peace began to diminish. We had all been waiting for my oldest son to come home at 10 P.M. before we began to unwrap our gifts. My two younger children could hardly restrain themselves as they eyed the pile of unknown goodies under the tree. Oh, how they would like to know what was under each wrapping. When would their brother get home? Eagerly they would peek out the front window hoping each car that went by would turn in the driveway. Finally with a shout “Here he is!” they began to dance and laugh. Brother came in shaking the new fallen snow off his jacket. His hands had a little grease on them and he looked as though he may have had trouble on the road. “I wonder if I may borrow your car Dad,” he said, “I have to run back to Standale for a moment and then will be right back.” You could see the faces of my two younger children drop. What? After all this waiting must they once again have their hopes postponed? Their loyalty to their brother would not allow them to complain and after all Standale was only a 5 minute drive from our home. What difference would 15 more minutes make? As he went back out the door we settled down to await the quarter hour delay. A half hour later we were still waiting. Slowly resentment began to build up inside my heart. What in the world is the matter with that boy, he’s 25 years old and certainly must know how a teenager and an 11-year-old child want to open their presents. Is he once again repairing that miserable wreck of a car of his? Couldn’t that wait for some other day besides Christmas Eve? Has he no feelings for his family? Now ¾ of an hour had passed and still he had not returned. The children were getting sleepy and depressed and I began to become angry. Should we exchange gifts without him? After all church services were to be held in the morning and we needed some sleep. My discontent became vocal as I spoke to my wife concerning these matters. Immediately this spirit of anger and discontent began to spread through the whole family. It was as though someone had put a match to dry leaves and the flames began to crackle. In my mind’s eye I saw the whole Christmas day ruined by this spirit.
Then I remembered prayer—also this poem which I picked up somewhere.
“RESTRAINING PRAYER WE CEASE TO FIGHT.
PRAYER MAKES THE CHRISTIAN’S ARMOUR BRIGHT.
AND SATAN TREMBLES WHEN HE SEES—
THE WEAKEST SAINT UPON HIS KNEES.”
No, I didn’t get down on my knees, not physically, that is, but mentally I got lower than that. I prayed inwardly.
“Merciful God and Father have compassion upon this family. How prone to hate we are. How self centered we are. How quick we are to think the worst of one another. We are quick to judge and condemn. The tongue is a little thing but who can control it? Only Thee, Almighty God. Oh, Father, deliver me from myself, banish the anger and hatred in my own heart and restore peace to this family. So many Christmases have been ruined by my terrible temper, I pray Thou wilt give me patience, restore love and Christian fellowship in this home!”
A knock at the door, we turned around, in walked my oldest son, more grease on his hands. “Oh, God,” I pleaded inwardly, reverently, “give me patience, control my temper.” “Do you have a flashlight Dad?” he asked. “No,” I answered, with all the self control I could command. “Oh, well” he said, “a few matches will do. Come out into the garage please,” he asked. Fighting myself all the way I obliged, my family close on my heels. He struck a match, held it down under the rear of the car. “ I hope there is no gas on the floor, maybe he will blow us up too,” I thought. I looked. As I got up from bending over looking, there were tears in my eyes. I fought hard to hold them back. On each rear wheel was a brand new snow tire, a Christmas present to Dad. “I couldn’t get them put on as quick as I thought,” he said, “the garage man was so busy I had to wait an extra ¾ of an hour.”
We went into the house. A gasoline airplane from my 11-year-old boy, a fish aquarium for my 15-year-old son, a camera and film for my wife, a toaster for my 25-year-old son (to use at college). And for me a most blessed Christmas Eve. I tremble to think what would have happened if I had not prayed.
Do you pray?…try it.