“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at His birth.” Luke 1:14
Isn’t this a beautiful scripture to help us celebrate the meaning of Christmas? Although 2013 has been a tumultuous year in America and around the world, we can have “joy and gladness” because of the birth of the Christ Child. He brings hope and encouragement to all who believe in Him.
As I often do at this time of the year, I want to share a special story that I think you will appreciate. Perhaps you will want to read it when you gather with friends and loved ones. It is titled, “A Baby’s Hug” (author unknown).
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, “Hi.” He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.
I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard, and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map.
We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. “Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya’ buster,” the man said to Erik.
My husband and I exchanged looks, “What do we do?”
Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hi.”
Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came, and the man began shouting from across the room, “Do ya’ patty cake? Do ya’ know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo.”
Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.
My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.
We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the bill and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. “Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to those of the man.
Suddenly, a very old smelly man and a very young baby shared their love and kinship. Erik, in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.
I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms, and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.”
Somehow I managed, “I will,” from a throat that contained a stone.
He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, “God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.”
I said nothing more than a muttered, “Thanks.” With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.”
I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment, a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, “Are you willing to share your son for a moment?” He had shared His only Son for all eternity. How must God have felt when He put his baby in our arms 2,000 years ago?
The ragged old man had unwittingly reminded me, “To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children.”
If this has blessed you, please bless others by sharing it. Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back, or the car that you drive, or the house that you live in does not define you at all; it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.
This story warms the heart because it illustrates how little children can be so willing to accept and love other human beings, even those who are dirty, smelly and ragged. It reminds me of our trip to London a few years ago. Shirley and I had seen a theatrical performance one night, and when it was over we exited by way of a door leading to an alley. Sitting there in the shadows was an old, unshaven derelict who was obviously drunk. Well-dressed theatergoers were passing him by without a glance. Then I saw a mangy German shepherd snuggled beside him. The dog didn’t care that his “friend” was a bum whom polite society would consider worthless. Dog and Man had formed an alliance in their mutual misery.
Dogs and babies are often more likely to show compassion for the downtrodden and lonely than those of us who have been abundantly blessed. The mother of the baby in our story felt convicted by her revulsion for the old man. Perhaps there is takeaway value here for the rest of us. May I suggest that we think carefully about the message she wrote?
What is your reaction when you stop your car at a corner and are confronted by a “panhandler” asking for money? That is a good question. We all know that cash contributions are often used for drugs or cigarettes. But is it right to look the other way until the light turns green? I’ve done that many times. However, I have a friend who recently shared a better idea. He has created little packets that he keeps in the glove compartment of his car. Each envelope consists of a $5 dollar gift certificate to a fast food restaurant and a tract telling the recipient about Jesus. He hands the envelope to the person who claims to be homeless.
Let me pose several other questions. Do you know someone who desperately needs a little kindness during this Christmas season? It could be an elderly man or woman languishing in a nursing home that has been abandoned by his or her family. There are millions like them. Would a visit and a warm touch from you bring joy to one of those lonely individuals? Could you take a moment to remind him or her that the Christ Child came to earth to forgive our sins and offer the promise of eternal life? I think it would be especially meaningful to take your children or grandchildren with you on one of those “house calls.” That experience would be remembered for the rest of their lives.
The purpose of sharing these thoughts with you this month is because they lie at the heart of the Family Talk ministry. It was created nearly four years ago to bring encouragement, hope, compassion and family advice to as many people as possible. We have been enormously successful in that mission. Since January of this year, tens of millions have been reached online and engaged with the ministry through social media. Our radio programs continue to be heard on 1,000 outlets, and more than 300,000 people receive my monthly letters. You are reading one of them now.
I hope you have our mobile app on your smart phone and are telling others about how they can listen to solid programs with the click of a button. Our broadcasts are available 24 hours a day, and the app lists every program we have ever aired. Our technology tells us that twice as many people listen to these current or archived recordings than hear us on radio. The reach of the Internet is incredible.
Family Talk is not only attempting to strengthen marriage, parenting and the family; we are also working tirelessly to defend righteousness in the culture. For example, with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, (ADF), we will be bringing a lawsuit this month against HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to stop her Department from assaulting the Sanctity of Human Life. As I hope you know, the Obama Administration has mandated and intends to require that pro-life organizations, such as ours, and our healthcare insurers or administrators provide abortion-inducing drugs and devices to our employees, and thereby violate our deeply held convictions. Family Talk has not yielded to those demands and is going into court on behalf of many other organizations that believe the government is tragically wrong. We are on the front lines in the battle to end these atrocities. You will read about this litigation in the newspapers in coming months, and I hope you will be praying with us and ADF in this endeavor.
I must close by telling you that our contributions during the summer and fall of 2013 have been far below our needs. It isn’t difficult to figure out where that leads. It is likely that this shortfall in income has been caused in part by economic uncertainty and the utter foolishness of Obamacare. But if you can help us here at the end of the year, it would be greatly appreciated.
Will you prayerfully consider a gift this month to help us reach and impact millions of families? In the process, it is our desire to assist you in building your family legacy.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Come see us at Family Talk in the New Year.
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and President
This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from Family Talk. Copyright © 2013 Family Talk. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Printed in the U.S.A. Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk is not affiliated with Focus on the Family.