Christmas gifts are piled high underneath the Christmas tree, wrapped in a variety of papers and topped with bows: green, red and white.
The family is gathered all around. Grandma sits in her rocking chair, a picture book in her hands. The grandchildren her feet, sit spellbound, eyes glued to the pictures as she turns each page.
One child in particular, her oldest granddaughter, eyes aglow, listens again to the story she has become familiar with. The colorful images could tell the story, but she enjoys listening to the story as only her grandma can tell it. The Christmas gifts that so drew her attention earlier (she had sneaked a peak at gift tags when no one was looking, trying to find her name) are now forgotten as the story draws her in once more.
No matter that she has heard the story many times before, or is ‘too old’ to listen, she loves this story. It’s about a farm where a fire has broken out in the dry grass surrounding it, flames shooting high into the night sky. The farmer douses the fire and the stacks of hay, using only buckets of water. She can’t imagine what it would be like to only have buckets of water to put out a fire, with no fire trucks to come help. As the story continues, Grandma telling it in a voice clear and strong, she anticipates her favorite part.
After the fire is out, the farmer is walking across the dirt yard and kicks something with his booted foot; he looks down to see a hen, charred and obviously dead. Saddened at his loss, he reaches down to pick the hen up and discovers eleven downy yellow chicks under her wings. She had spread them over her chicks to protect them from the fire, giving her life for them.
The story goes on to say that God protects us under His wings, and that He sent His only Son to die for us, to lay down His life so that we can have life – the greatest gift of all.
After the story ends, she asks her grandma if she can look at the book. Grandma hands it to her, and she sits, slowly turning the pages, tears coursing down her cheeks as she ponders the enormity of the gift the hen gave for her chicks. She finally understands the picture painted and how Jesus gave His life for her. All around her chaos breaks out as the other children tear into the Christmas gifts, the story they just heard, seemingly forgotten. She knows it wasn’t that long ago she was the same way, so she sends up a prayer that her siblings and cousins will come to the same understanding soon.
Several years before my Grandma passed away, I wrote a letter, letting her know how much that book always meant to me; that it was one of my favorite memories of Christmases spent at her and Grandpa’s house. Not long after sending her that letter I found a manila envelope in the mailbox – it was from Grandma. Not being able to wait until I got back to the house, I tore it open eagerly and found the picture book inside. A smile lit my face, tears filling my eyes at the same time as memories of sitting at her feet flooded my mind.
As I look at that book now, writing this story, tears are threatening to spill again from my eyes and through my tears I read the inscription inside the front cover.
Our oldest granddaughter,
We love you. And thank you for remembering.
Love and Prayers, Grandmother
The copyright is 1945 – so the book is a bit older than I am – written for children so that they could come to knowledge of Jesus and receive His gift of love.
Many Christmases have come and gone. As we approach the season yet again, I want to remember that one of the greatest Christmas gifts I was ever given was Grandma telling me the story of “Little Red Hen.” It paved the way for me to accept Jesus into my heart as a young child and grow up to love and serve Him.
Thinking of this story now, makes Christmas gifts seem insignificant somehow… paling in comparison to the greatest gift that can be given, that of the laying down of life for the sake of another.
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Author's note: The first part of this story is fact based fiction. I couldn't remember a lot of details, so took 'poetic license.' Grandma did not write the book, it's just one she had from her Child Evangelism supplies.
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