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Our Current Virtual Church Message

Attic Toys

It was D2. I suppose changing names and terminology makes the grim parts of life a little easier to take. D2 meant The Second Great Depression. This depression was far worse than the one in the 1930's. This depression, D2, put nearly everyone out of work, millions out of their home, and left millions on the verge of starvation. D2 also brought the inevitable wars. People were holding prayer vigils day and night in nearly every city and town for Jesus to come back. Across the globe, there was no hope. There was money but the money was worthless. There were riots, violence, and crime waves everywhere. Crime was so prevalent in most cities if you had a home you did not want to leave, no matter who you were. Small towns were safer. Small towns like Midvale had groups of men and women, each one armed, roaming every part of town to make sure there were no "outsiders" or marauders coming in from larger cities.

In Midvale as well as elsewhere in the world, because of D2 there were orphans of every age. Parents put out of their home with not a cent to their name would take the young ones to Muncle Mansion always promising to come back in "a few days." The only problem was "a few days" turned into months and months into…well, you get the picture. Muncle Mansion was an old place. Badly in need of repair, the mansion was built in the 1890's by an industrialist from Midvale. Two couples moved into the place as renters and when the tax sale came up, the couples bought the place for the price of a fraction of the back taxes, on credit. Shortly thereafter, a little boy of three was dumped on the front steps, the couples took the little boy in, and word spread Muncle Mansion was an orphanage. Soon there were fifteen children living at Muncle Mansion.

The second year of D2, in July, someone got the idea. The idea was to have some kind of Christmas in July celebration for the kids over at Muncle Mansion. However, there were no gifts to give. People could not afford to buy food, what food there was. So people in Midvale, like people the world over, ate little. Giving a gift of any kind was out of the question, probably forever, because there were no gifts to give. Christmases with gifts piled under the tree would be a distant memory, especially the new orphans at Muncle Mansion.

In downtown Midvale, among all the boarded up stores and shops, the Christmas idea kept coming up at Robinson's Coffee Spot. Robinson's doesn't serve coffee much these days. Now all you get at Robinson's is some weak tea and a slice of bread. People still gather though. Every Thursday night people pile in to see each other. Most of the time people order a cup of tea and the bread is free. Well, the Christmas idea kept getting talked about and everyone agreed the kids in Midvale needed to see a Christmas like the old days. Gracie Parks said the only toys she could give anybody would be the old toys in her attic. Bob Roberso said he could clean them up if she had any she would like to give away. One thing led to another and pretty soon a wave of good tidings began to sweep over Midvale. Both churches in Midvale got involved, the Community Club got involved, the PTA (what was left of it) got involved, well, everybody got involved. Old toys were brought out of attics, basements, garages, closets, and any other place where toys might be stashed. Pretty soon, a warehouse was full of every kind of toy.

Then the cleaners, painters, repairers, and polishers got involved. What happened to an old, dingy, worn, dirty toy was a miracle. Electric trains got refurbished and rebuilt down to the last detail. Barbie dolls, board games, chemistry sets (those old dangerous kinds), doll houses, erector sets, you name it, every toy, large or small came out looking absolutely new. It wasn't just a handful of people bringing back old toys from the toy graveyard either. Young folks, widows, widowers, even people living in shelters and camps got into the act. A city-wide Santa's workshop was underway. What was so amazing was the toys did not look old when they were done with the refurbishing. The toys appeared to be really and truly new. The body shop people in Midvale got together and repainted and touched up so well even the manufacturer wouldn't be able to tell if the toy was new or used. After being made new, a bicycle from the late 1940's looked like it was just made.

The couples at Muncle Mansion knew something of the project but had no idea about the scope and dimensions of what was going on. Even the people in Midvale who were doing all the restorations had no idea about how much was done or how many toys were being made new. As Thanksgiving passed at Muncle Mansion with only beans and rice to eat, the two couples at Muncle Mansion decided to hold a Christmas party for the children. Since the two couples knew very little about the attic toys being made new, the couples decided to help the children on Christmas Day stave off their pain and disappointment by asking one of the town residents to pose as a clown. There were no clowns in Midvale. However, there was a guy who could make people laugh and the couples thought maybe they could entice this guy, whose name was Orson Stovall, to be the clown for the Christmas party. Orson was approached and he declined at first but after thinking it over, Orson agreed to be a clown on Christmas day.

Christmas Eve arrived. It was a dark and dreary day. No one had anything to give. No one had any money. The mood of Midvale along with the rest of the world was one of total doom. About 11:00 AM on Christmas Eve, someone on the Midvale school board called the choir director at one of the churches. A decision was made to open up the old school gym for a community sing on this darkest of Christmas Eve's. Word spread in Midvale like lightning. Neighbor told neighbor, friend told friend, word spread in ways no one could explain. Well, that evening the old gym filled to capacity, then some. Somehow, someway, no one knows who, what, or when, but the gym was fully decorated for Christmas. There was a glow in the gym that night that did not come from any kind of man-made lighting. Love has a light of its own and as people began to sing, love filled up this place. As the evening went forward and the more people sang the less they cared about what they did not have. The poverty of the times eating so many people alive was replaced by the love and richness of Christ Jesus. The hour grew late. Normally when Christmas Eve comes around people want to be at home but because of the darkness of the world, no one wanted to be anywhere but the gym. So the singing continued.

In the gym, the hour was truly late and as everyone got up to leave, someone on the P.A. system said "No, you can't go just yet. We have a special visitor." Of course, everyone thought it would be a Santa. However, this year was no ordinary year in Midvale. This year they got a clown. The sight of the clown, the aura of the clown, the ridiculous nature of the clown set people off into hilarity like no one had ever experienced before. The clown was a guy who dressed up like the goofiest Santa on earth. The clown had hair going in every direction, big floppy shoes, weird hat, flaming red beard, and of all things a tail! People were literally on the floor laughing. Young or old, tears of joy ran down their face. For these moments, D2 did not exist. Then the clown brought out the spring loaded clown-in-the-box-shot-out-of-a-cannon-whatever-they-were. The clown in the box had a button and when you pressed the button, a clown shot out of the top of the box and went up in the air about fifteen feet. Every person, young or old, got a clown box and everyone…well, they pressed the button. Over and over, the air was full of flying clowns who looked like the goofy clown in the gym. Things ran on for another hour or so. The whole evening wound up about 1:30 AM Christmas morning.

While the orphan kids were at the gym a crew of men and women from the town converted what had been a dark and loathsome basement area into a massive play room and recreation area. Truck loads of old junk and trash was hauled away, walls were painted with paint from an abandoned paint store, and fantastic murals were painted on the walls. Now inside that massive play room was placed the most incredible assemblage of restored attic toys ever. Both couples and the orphans got home about 2:00 AM in the morning. No one knew about the attic toys or the play room. Everyone went to bed except one couple who went to the hospital because she was in labor expecting a child.

Everyone at the mansion was up and around by about 9:00 AM Christmas morning but things were pretty subdued. There was no Christmas tree and no toys in the big living room. The doom and gloom of D2 was beginning to return. Everyone ate a few bites for breakfast and sort of hung out in the living room and family area for awhile. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It was the clown. Things did not stay subdued. Primed by last night's hilarity, laughter began all over again. The clown led everyone into the new play room downstairs. In the middle of the room stood a magnificent Christmas tree full of ornaments and covered with lights. Over against one wall were boxes upon boxes of gifts for each child. Now, in normal times a kid might turn up his or her nose at an old attic toy, but not now, not in this place, not in this time. In this place, in this time, there were shouts, and laughter, and the purest joy when the presents were opened. What each kid said most often was, "It's new!!! It's new!!!"

Not only were there gifts for the kids but also for the adults. And there was food. There were turkeys, hams, an unbelievable array and amount of food. As the clown seemed to slip away each kid was entranced in the toy of the moment and did not notice the clown leaving. Things began to settle down about 4:00 PM in the afternoon. Everyone was tired and exhausted, but deliriously happy. About 4:30 one of the couples came into the playroom. It was the couple who had left for the hospital. When the couple entered the playroom you could hear a pin drop. There was absolute and total silence. The couple was carrying their newborn son. In the silence of the moment, one of the children said quietly, "It is the baby Jesus!" The name was close because the baby had been named Christopher. Christopher's mother and father were Mary and Joseph Rogers.

In other parts of Midvale, what cannot be explained happened without an explanation. Kitchens filled with food, Christmas trees appeared where no tree had been, and living rooms filled with toys, all without anyone seeming to do anything at all. Surely it was if Midvale had been transported to heaven, or heaven had somehow been transported to Midvale.

Later that winter, in late February or March, Joseph Rogers ran into a friend of his at The Coffee Spot. The friend said, "Too bad about Orson Stovall, wasn't it." Joseph said, "What do you mean?" The friend replied, "Didn't you know? Orson died a week before Christmas. For about a month, no one knew about it except his sister over in Pine Valley. Who did you get to be the clown at Christmas? I heard a rumor after Christmas the clown was Orson." Joseph, quite stunned by the news said, "I don't know. I didn't know Orson had died and I am about the only one who even knew he was supposed to be a clown. We didn't have any arrangement with anyone except Orson."

This article is fiction. The article was written in November of 2007 and first appeared in December, 2007, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

Whenever you read this, Merry Christmas to you and to all those you hold dear.

Luke 2:1-52 (NIV) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. [2] (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria .) [3] And everyone went to his own town to register. [4] So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David , because he belonged to the house and line of David. [5] He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. [6] While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, [7] and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. [9] An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. [10] But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. [12] This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." [13] Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, [14] "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." [15] When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." [16] So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. [17] When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, [18] and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. [19] But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. [20] The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. [21] On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. [22] When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), [24] and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." [25] Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel , and the Holy Spirit was upon him. [26] It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. [27] Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, [28] Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: [29] "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. [30] For my eyes have seen your salvation, [31] which you have prepared in the sight of all people, [32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel ." [33] The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. [34] Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel , and to be a sign that will be spoken against, [35] so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." [36] There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, [37] and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. [38] Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. [39] When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth . [40] And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. [41] Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. [42] When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. [43] After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem , but they were unaware of it. [44] Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. [45] When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. [46] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. [47] Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. [48] When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." [49] "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" [50] But they did not understand what he was saying to them. [51] Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. [52] And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NIV)

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018