A Father’s forgiveness---Christ’s forgiveness, the greatest gift of all
The Greatest Gift
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I was twelve that Christmas eve of ‘48. In previous years my little brother and I had tried to stay awake all night so we could catch Santa. We always failed. This year proved to be the same. Minutes after consuming his bedtime milk and cookies, my brother was asleep. Worry, however, kept me awake. Would the gift I had prayed for be under our Christmas tree in the morning?
My brother’s scream woke me. “Get up! Get up! It’s Christmas!”
I blinked believing my eyes had been closed only for a moment, but sunlight was slanting through the window and Mom and Dad were at the bedroom door. Little brother was still screaming, “It’s Christmas!”
As I crawled from bed, I knew the moment of truth had arrived. Anxiety knotted my stomach as we all started downstairs. Moments later I stifled a scream of my own. There under the tree was the .22 caliber rifle I had prayed for.
During the summer I had taken a firearms safety course and won the rifle match competition in my age group at the conclusion of the six-week program. But it wasn’t the blue ribbon I now cherished most—it was earning Dad’s blessing on my having a rifle of my own.
After breakfast Dad gave me a single cartridge and allowed me take the rifle into the woods alongside our property. “Use it wisely,” he said. I had fired many rounds under his supervision, but this was the first time he’d allowed me out alone.
The woods teemed with rabbits and squirrels, but this morning they were not to be seen. I wanted so much to fire the rifle, but if I returned home with nothing to show for it, Dad would be disappointed. As I pondered the dilemma I saw a squirrel at the base of a large live oak. I crawled closer. Aimed. Fired. The squirrel fell and I raced forward to claim my prize. This is when I realized my horrible mistake. In my line of fire, through the brush just beyond the squirrel, was our house.
I stood alongside the squirrel, gripping my rifle with trembling hands as Dad strode my way. I began to cry. The rifle would be taken from me, I’d be thrashed, and I’d never again be trusted with a firearm.
When Dad reached my side he glanced at the squirrel and said, “Nice shot.” He then knelt at my side and asked if I’d learned a lesson just now. I could only sob as I nodded and fell into his arms. After a warm hug that quieted my tears, he picked up the squirrel and nodded toward home. “Let’s go. Your mom has lunch ready.”
The day began with my believing the rifle was the greatest gift in the world. I’d been wrong. The greatest gift was Dad’s forgiveness.
It has now been over a half-century since the events of that very special Christmas day. During these years I was again blessed with a Father’s forgiveness—-Christ’s forgiveness, the greatest gift of all.