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Our Current Virtual Church Message

Christmas People

I am a county sheriff in the State of Pennsylvania in the U.S.A.

There was a couple, Virginia and Ed Mullins, who lived down the road from me. I have known these people all of my life. Virginia and Ed had been married thirty-eight years before Ed's death ten years ago. Virginia and Ed had a small boy named Andrew they called Andy. Andy died in 1965 when he was three years old from a rapid onset of pneumonia. When Andy died, the life and substance of life went out of Virginia and Ed. Because the memories of Andy's passing were too painful to bear, Virginia and Ed built and lived in a small house next door to the large house where they lived when Andy was alive. They built the small house because everywhere they looked in the big house, they saw little Andy.

On Dec 10th or thereabouts of last year, we had a blizzard here in the foothills of the Allegany Mountains in Pennsylvania. Everything and everyone was snowed in. Nothing was moving during the storm. At about 7:30 P.M., at the height of the storm, someone knocked on Virginia's front door. Virginia has a security chain I put on the door and she opened the door slightly to see who was knocking. Virginia had turned on the porch light. She looked out on the porch and saw three people shivering from the cold. There was a man, a woman, and a youngster. The man explained the roads were blocked with snow and they were stranded. Virginia took pity on the three people and told them to come inside. The people looked terrible. They were shivering and gaunt looking. The youngster had a coat with a hood on the coat and Virginia did not see the youngster for a few minutes. The people were unusually quiet. Virginia asked them where they were from and the man said they were just passing through. As the strangers began to warm up inside Virginia's house, the man was a little more forthcoming. It seems the man and the woman had their work assignments terminated when they were out West. After their work assignments ended, they then lost a place to live. Their money had run out. They had not eaten in two days. The mom pulled the hood back from around the little boy's head and the little boy could have been twin of Virginia's little Andy. Virginia was standing up at the time. She fell back into her recliner in near shock.

Virginia always kept a full freezer and a full pantry. It was something she picked up from her mother who grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. Once Virginia had sort of "come to" from the shock of seeing the little boy, she ushered the strangers to the kitchen to get them something to eat. Of course, Virginia could not keep her eyes off the little boy. The man's name was Sean and the woman's name was Betty. Virginia asked what the little boy's name was and the couple said the boy's name was Andrew, but they called him "Andy." Virginia nearly collapsed but hung on to the kitchen counter and steadied herself. Virginia gathered herself together once again. To get food into these people in the shortest amount of time, Virginia put some peanut butter and jelly on the table, along with some milk. Since the three had not really eaten in days, they dug in and ate like hungry wolves.

Christmas was the season to be avoided for Virginia and Ed. The only decoration they put up was a lone Christmas candle in their front window. No tree, no lights, no tinsel, no cards sent, no decorations of any kind. Christmas was the most painful time of the year for Virginia and Ed, not just because they lost Andy, but because Andy had died on Dec. 24. The grief Virginia and Ed carried knew no bounds.

Now there was another Andy. The same age, who could have been the first Andy's twin.

Sean, Betty, and Andy finished off most of a loaf of bread and a lot of peanut butter and jelly. Virginia suggested they go back into the living room. Sean and Betty turned out to be kind, caring, sweet, and gentle people. They were innocent victims of the hard times now rolling across the globe. When the four of them got back to the living room Sean and Betty sat down on the couch, Virginia sat down in her recliner, and inexplicably little Andy climbed up into Virginia's lap. As she had done decades before, Virginia wrapped her arms around Andy. What was most stunning of all is that Andy laid his head on Virginia's shoulder in just the same way and in just the same place Virginia's Andy had done decades before. Virginia kept telling herself it was all coincidence. Virginia kept telling herself this new Andy was not her Andy, but still…

Things grew calm and quiet. It was 10:00 PM. Virginia told Sean and Betty they could sleep in the spare bedroom just around the corner. Virginia told them she would set up a place for Andy to sleep on the couch. Sean and Betty arose from the couch and said good-night. Virginia and little Andy remained in the recliner. Virginia did not know whether to feel joy or despair. So much grief… So much pain… For Virginia, Andy had come back. Andy slept in Virginia's arms throughout the night. Throughout the night, Virginia prayed but she did not know what she prayed. Throughout the night Virginia tried to choke back the tears, to no avail.

The next morning, Virginia asked Sean and Betty if they had any place to go or any place to stay. Sean was grieved but said "no." The truth was they were homeless.

After fixing breakfast, one of the biggest breakfast's anyone had ever seen, Virginia asked Sean to shovel a path through the snow to the back door of the big house next door. After the path had been shoveled, Virginia took Sean, Betty, and Andy next door. Virginia opened the back door of the big house and the three others followed. Virginia explained no one lived in the house and invited the three new people in her life to live in the house until things settled out in the economy. Sean and Betty were profoundly grateful. Sean and Betty went about cleaning up and fixing up the old home.

The next day, a warm spell moved through Pennsylvania and all the snow from the blizzard was gone within three days. Sean went about making needed repairs to the inside and outside of the big house.

All the plywood that had covered the windows and front door were taken off. Unbelievably, within days, the house had been repainted and remodeled by Sean and Betty. A renovation and remodeling job that might take months by a crew of four was accomplished within days by Sean and Betty. The house looked new, inside and out. The house was livable and lived in again just as three people had lived in the house decades before.

Virginia had avoided Christmas since her Andy had passed away. However, since Virginia had this new Andy in her life, Christmas had come alive again for Virginia. In the attic of the old house, in a box sealed up soon after the first Andy's passing, were all the presents Virginia and Ed were to give the first Andy on Christmas. Virginia carried the big box downstairs and over to her small house next door. This year, those presents from so long ago would be opened. The toys inside would be played with by this new Andy.

Cynthia (my wife) and I would stop to see Virginia about once every two weeks. I drove by Virginia's house every day going into the office and going home at night. I saw the unbelievable speed of the remodeling of the old house. Before Christmas, both Virginia's house and the house next door were fully decorated for Christmas. All Virginia could talk about was this new Andy. Cynthia and I met Sean, Betty, and Andy about two weeks before Christmas. They were the nicest people we had ever met. Virginia and Andy were inseparable.

Every Christmas Eve, Cynthia and I would go see Virginia. Cynthia and I never had children and we really bonded with Ed and Virginia. Cynthia and I were not quite sure about going to see Virginia this year without calling her first, something we have never done before. Cynthia and I decided to forego the telephone call and just go see Virginia and the new people in her life.

On Christmas Eve, we drove up the road to Virginia's house. I immediately knew something was very, very, very wrong. What I saw was beyond imagination. The old house was like it was before Sean and Betty arrived. The windows were boarded up. Once again, the exterior had peeling paint and was in need of extensive repair.

Cynthia and I got out of the car and walked up to Virginia's side door. We never knocked. We just walked in because we were like Virginia's family. The inside of Virginia's house was incredibly quiet. The house was so quiet I could not put into words the absence of noise in her home. The side door opens into the kitchen. We walked into the kitchen and did not see Virginia. We walked toward the small dining room which adjoins Virginia's living room. We got to the dining room and in the living room we saw Virginia sitting in her recliner. However, there was something else. Virginia's living room was filled with light. The light in the room was not from a lamp. The light was from some other source we could not identify. As we entered the living room, the light lifted up and disappeared through the ceiling. I looked over at Virginia. It was obvious she had passed on. In Virginia's right hand, she held a Teddy bear. In her left hand she held a picture taken in 1965 of her little boy, Andy. The boy in the picture looked exactly like the little Andy I had seen with Virginia two weeks before. The scene was not a sad scene. Cynthia and I felt we were standing on holy ground. The room was full of unbounded love, peace, and joy.

I made the necessary phone calls in regard to Virginia's death. Cynthia and I went next door to the big house, still with its boarded up windows and peeling paint. I walked to the back door. From all appearances, it appeared no one had been in that house for forty years or more. Cynthia and I walked inside the big house and there was a layer of dust and dirt on every inch of the floors, woodwork, and contents. We could see no one had lived in this house in decades.

One other thing…the truck. When I first saw the truck driven by Sean and Betty I was curious. The truck was an F-150 Ford pickup manufactured in 1965. The thing about the truck was, the truck was new. I mean, brand new. I checked the odometer reading and the odometer reading said .8 miles. The truck was not rebuilt. The truck was as new as it was when it came off the assembly line in 1965. Another unusual thing about the truck was when the snow was piled up on everything in this part of Pennsylvania, the truck did not have any snow on it. Not one flake of snow was on that truck. The truck didn't even have a drop of rainwater on it. The truck was clean as a pin. The truck looked like it had come off the assembly line and materialized right in front of Virginia's house. Because the truck was so old, I lifted the hood, just out of curiosity. The engine was brand, spanking, new just like it would have been in 1965. The truck had no dirt, no grease, no grime, not even a speck of dust on it inside or out.

After the hearse left and my deputies had gone, Cynthia and I locked up Virginia's house. We walked out to the car and got in. We sat there for a long time. We should have felt sad, but instead we felt joy.

Cynthia said, "Virginia received the greatest gift for Christmas." Cynthia was right. Virginia received Christ's greatest gift…eternal life.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (NIV)

This story is fiction but contains an incidence or incidences of truth. The message first appeared in December, 2008, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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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.

Entire contents copyright © 1999 - 2010 by Rev. Patrick Kelly, 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