My Christmas got better when I saw him. It doesn’t take much these days for me to have a good Christmas.  Some new socks and t-shirts under the tree will do. A good report from the doctor on the annual check-up doesn’t need to be wrapped—just the words “your numbers look good” will do. Having the kids home and happy, makes for a good Christmas. No, it doesn’t take much to have a good one.

But, it took the guy with the rake to make it a better one. I don’t know his name, but this is the second time I have seen him. He has walked down our street carrying nothing but a rake. He has stopped at different homes asking if we need any yard work. This is not a kid looking for some spending money; this is a grown man looking for money to pay bills and have a roof over his head. Like I said, seeing him made my Christmas better.

If I am ever out of work, I have a resume; he has a rake. On my resume, it will say that I went to college and seminary, and that I have served this and that church. I can put together a pretty impressive resume, and maybe, if the church booted me out next week, I would have a decent chance of finding some work somewhere.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to be walking through neighborhoods holding a rake instead of a resume. When I “Say Grace” this Christmas, I will remember the man with the rake.

I will also remember a story that happened several years ago. We had just ordered at Billy Bobs BBQ when Natalie began to act the way two-year olds can act.  She was hungry and fussy.  I thought she was beginning to act like a deacon’s kid, so I took her out to the car in the parking lot.  I scolded and cuddled.  I talked and listened.  I wiped away tears—hers, not mine.  “Now are you ready to go back into the restaurant and behave?”

Her answer was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of an overhead helicopter.  I raised my head just in time to see the colors and logo on its side.  I have been often to the children’s hospitals in Atlanta, Egleston and Scottish Rite, and I recognized instantly that it was one of their helicopters.  It had just taken off from Tanner and was headed back to Atlanta.  And its cargo?  A child—someone’s child.  Someone’s beloved little boy or girl who was sick enough to be life-flighted to Atlanta.  I don’t even want to think about the horror of that.  I said a little prayer for the unknown child and then looked back at mine – my healthy child.

And my attitude quickly changed from “Why can’t I get mine to behave?” and “When am I going to get to go back in and eat my BBQ?” to “I’m grateful mine is healthy” and “my food can wait.”  Everything changed in an instant.   We went back inside to “Say grace” over a meal, a prayer now made more meaningful.
I have so much to be thankful for this Christmas.  A man with a rake and a helicopter with a child make my Christmas a lot better.

~Pastor Steve

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