Hi Bradley (age 9), your mom told me you were recently asking about the real meaning of Christmas. Allow me to tell you a story:
It all started at midnight. There was a blizzard. The wind howled so hard that it whistled. The motor inn’s neon sign was glowing like a Technicolor lighthouse in the storm. NO VACANCY, the sign read.
In the parking lot were snow-encrusted Packards, Plymouths, Fords, Chryslers, and chrome-bumpered DeSotos, crammed together like hogs at a trough.
Folks had been saying this was the worst snowstorm to hit rural Oklahoma. Maybe ever. And it was definitely the worst year of all time.
There was a global war starting, an economic depression, and dust storms the size of major continents were swallowing entire cities.
The Ford pickup pulled into the motel parking lot and eased to a stop. The young man behind the wheel was unshaven and tired. His name was Joe.
Joe glanced at his pregnant wife and forced a weary smile.
“Wait here, Mary,” he said. “Maybe they’ll have a room for us.”
“I think we should keep driving,” said Mary. “The sign says they’re full.”
“Can’t,” said Joe. “We’re on E.”
The young couple was on their way to California, looking for work. Mary and Joe had tried nine different motor inns that night; all booked.
The motel clerk was an unfriendly little snit. “Can’t you read English, kid?” the man said. “The sign says no vacancy.”
“Yes, sir. But it’s my wife, she’s pregnant.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“I said we’re booked.”
“We’ll pay double.”
“I may have some room.”
In a few moments the clerk led them to a garage behind the inn. The barn had a shingled roof and a Beech-Nut advertisement painted on the broad side.
The clerk threw open the doors to reveal a shed full of chickens. Also, a goat.
Joe took one look at the barn floor, covered in a film of chicken droppings, and he said, “We’ll take it.”
Within minutes, Joe had pulled the truck inside and closed the door. The wind moaned. The snow came down in quilts. The chickens were very curious. The goat was already chewing on Joe’s rear tire.
Mary waddled out of the passenger seat and yelped in pain.
And although Joe might not have been the sharpest fork in the drawer, he definitely knew something baby-related was happening “down there” because (a) Mary’s lower half was soaked, and (b) Mary was strangling him.
“Mary!” he shouted. “What can I do to help?”
But sadly, she had no instructions for him. Because remember, these were teenagers we’re talking about. Joe was a construction worker, not an obstetrician. Mary wasn’t even out of high school.
So he fetched hot water from the motel clerk, and plenty of rags. All he could do was yell, “Push, Mary!”
After an hour of labor, several motel guests had gathered to see what all the shouting was about. Verily, there was a great multitude of rubberneckers.
Joe held Mary’s hand, kneeling before her, smiling, and encouraging. And the irony here is that this baby wasn’t even his. Yet there was Joe, crouching beside his girl, cheering her on, ready to be a father come hell or high taxes. If that ain’t love.
“That’s it, Mary!” he said. “Keep pushing!”
“Joe!” she screamed. “I cant!”
“You can do it!”
“It hurts, Joe!”
“Whoa. That’s a huge head.”
“Here it comes, Joe!”
“Think I’m going to ralph.”
But thankfully, he didn’t ralph. Joe caught the infant in his arms and held the babe against his chest. And the whole world stopped moving. The snow outside ceased falling. The wind quit screaming. It was the most holy creature Joe had ever seen.
“Quick,” said Joe. “We need something to put him in.”
On cue, a few onlookers started digging through the garage. One man found a crate filled with oil cans. And so it was, they wrapped the baby in swaddling shop rags, and placed him in a peach crate.
Meanwhile, the crowd surrounding the barn had grown. There were three traveling vacuum salesmen, who had traveled from afar. There were cattle farmers from fields nearby, who had been keeping watch over their angus by night. There was some kid playing a drum.
Everyone gathered around the barn’s warm light in rapt silence. The cowboys removed their hats, an old woman prayed, and the innkeeper sniffled.
Everyone was exclaiming, “Glory to God! We’re sure as heck glad that’s all over!”
Anyway Bradley, something very similar to the events I just described happened about two thousand years ago in what is now present-day Palestine. It changed the world forever.
And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.