Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Broken Nutcracker Ornament

I used to think that the story I am going to share was a Christmas story. The more I think about it, maybe it belongs with Thanksgiving as it deals with being humbled and being able to appreciate that which has been given. In either case, please enjoy these thoughts I wrote down many years ago, long before internet and this thing we call blogging existed.

The Broken Nutcracker Ornament

I thought I would share a Christmas story with you. It requires a bit of historical background for it to put it in perspective. Starting out as a young couple, my wife and I had only a few ornaments to put on our Christmas tree. My folks took that as an opportunity to start a new tradition; giving us an ornament the week before Christmas. That tradition continued for many years and we now have a wonderful collection of ornaments, some that were given and others that we have acquired on our own.

Houston has a tendency to flood every once in a while and my folks lost all their Christmas ornaments that had been stored below ground level in their town home garage. It was a chance for us to return the favor and continue a wonderful tradition. We began to give them an ornament; presenting it about a week before Christmas.

My folks had given us a special treat, tickets to see the Nutcracker at Jones Hall. We had a great time and enjoyed the performance with its traditional music and dance. On the way out of the hall we picked up a small porcelain Christmas tree ornament, a hand painted nutcracker soldier. It would look very nice on my folk’s tree and we were to have dinner with them the next evening.

We entered my folk’s home for dinner and with hugs and thanks for the evening they had given us the night before and handed my mother the wrapped gift. Gifts are more than packages and wrapping paper; they are a thought process, a process that attempts to touch each other’s soul. That having been said, my mother opened the carefully wrapped ornament. Somehow her hands, normally a study in control and precision, skilled as an operating room nurse, one who hands sharp scalpels hand over hand; became clumsy and unable to hold the ornament. It fell to the floor and hit the dark brown tile so as to break, make that disintegrate, the small porcelain nutcracker ornament. There was a moment of silence as we all looked at the mess. I quickly explained that it hadn’t been too expensive and that I would replace it. My mother swept up the fragments; mostly dust particles, and took them to the kitchen. We had dinner, occasionally marked with outpourings tears and apologies for having destroyed the thoughtful gift.

That next week while shopping at the mall we found a replacement nutcracker ornament, very similar except that it was made of wood. There would be a reduced breakage factored in since it was wood. To be on the safe side I took a linen handkerchief and fashioned a parachute, the four corners being tied with kite string to the nutcracker soldier as a mild joke. I thought of my self as clever and felt good about going to my folks on Christmas Day.

Christmas at my folk’s home was already filled with eager anticipation. As soon as the door opened I had the small gift, separated from the rest we planned to exchange when the time came. Mom was in the kitchen putting the final touches on dinner. I could hardly contain myself as I went to greet her, my hand holding the little nutcracker soldier all wrapped up. I noticed a few tears forming in her eyes as she tucked her hand under her apron, expecting her to withdraw something to wipe away those tears. Instead she had pulled out something small hidden in her hand. No words could be exchanged as she handed me the small porcelain nutcracker ornament; the same one that had been pulverized on the tile floor the week before. She had used all her talents and persistence to reassemble the fragments and make it whole. It was the most precious gift exchange I have ever had the privilege to be a part of as I handed her the silly wooden soldier wearing a handkerchief parachute.

The importance of how a gift is received far out weighs how much it might be worth in the market place. Those two nutcracker ornaments are beyond earthly value and represent a piece of our worth as souls. The Lord requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit to receive all that he has for us. May we provide him with those most noble of all human qualities that we may come to understand and appreciate His gift to us is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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