Jackie was a bright little boy. He had just turned five in August. Some folks would say that his smile could light the world. But life had been hard for a child so young.
He didn’t know who his daddy was. His momma brought home an endless string of boyfriends, but they never stayed long. That was okay with Jackie, because when they were there, momma didn’t pay any attention to him at all. He learned long ago how to climb up on the chair in the kitchen and get the box of cereal. He also learned, through trial and error, how much milk to pour. Some days, that might be the only food he got.
He used to go to Mr. Korshek’s apartment and watch Daffy Duck with him on his VCR. Mr. Korshek was always good for a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk, too. But Mr. Korshek didn’t live there anymore. He heard Mrs. Vanya say that he went to Heaven. Jackie wondered where Heaven was, and if he could go there someday to watch cartoons and have a snack with Mr. Korshek. He was such a nice old man.
Jackie was walking down Union, looking at all of the pretty lights. He had spent most of the day peering into fancy store windows, his nose pressed against the glass, looking at all the fine things on display. One store had a whole lot of stuff, including a train that went round and round. He thought that it would be nice to have some things like that.
He didn’t know where his momma was. Yesterday morning, she took him to the bus station. He kept asking where they were going, and once even asked if they were going to Heaven to see Mr. Korshek. But he stopped asking when he saw how mad she got. When they got to the station, she said that she needed to go to the bathroom. She told him to stay there, and then she left. Jackie wondered why momma didn’t use the bathroom in the bus station, but guessed that it must not have been working.
He spent last night in an alley, sleeping in a box somebody left there. It was so cold, but at the time, Jackie was too tired to care.
People were hustling and bustling about, their arms full of bags. One lady knocked him down. She said bad words when she dropped her bags. Jackie helped her pick them up, and she hurried away. He walked by a man in a red suit with a big white beard. The man was standing behind a little red pot, ringing a bell. He kept saying, “Merry Christmas!” but Jackie could tell that the man was really tired.
That afternoon, it began to snow. It looked pretty as it fell through the streets. All of the lights reflected on it, and it became a wonderland. But it was awfully cold. Jackie went into a store to get warm, but the man at the door told him that he couldn’t come in without his momma or daddy.
Jackie could smell food just about everywhere. It smelled good, and it made his tummy make funny noises. But right now, Jackie was tired. It was his bed time. The stores were soon all closed, but the pretty lights were still on. He walked around for a little while longer, looking at the lights, and then found an alley to sleep in. He found a pile of newspapers to make a bed with. He turned the papers over so that the wet ones were on the bottom and then curled up in a little ball to get some sleep.
Sometime in the night, he woke up to see a bright light. The whole alley was filled with it. A very tall man with the kindest smile he had ever seen (even kinder than Mr. Korshek’s smile) was standing there looking down at him. The man stooped down on one knee, resting his forearms across his thigh.
“Hello Jackie,” he said. His voice sounded kind of like thunder, but not the scary kind. “Would you like to go home with me?” He smelled like he had some kind of spicy aftershave on. “I’ve got a real nice place for you to stay. I’ll make sure that you are never cold again. And you will never again be hungry.”
Jackie looked closely at the man. He didn’t have a beard, and his hair wasn’t white or long. He looked just like any other guy, and yet . . . “You aren’t Santa, are you?” Jackie asked, “I’ve never seen him, but I’ve heard some of the other kids talking about him.”
The man laughed. It sounded good, like little bells. Jackie liked to hear him laugh. “No, Jackie, I’m not Santa. But today is when some people celebrate my birthday, and I’m inviting you to my party. And you can stay there with me always.”
Jackie tried to stand, but found that he just couldn’t. “Gee, Mr. I’m sorry, but I wonder if you could help me get up?”
The man took Jackie’s little hand in his big warm hand and lifted him to his feet.
“Do we have far to go?” asked Jackie, “I’m pretty tired, and I don’t know if I can go too far.”
“Not so far, Jackie. Not so far. And you don’t have to worry. I’ll carry you all the way.” And with that, the man lifted Jackie into his arms. Jackie had never felt so warm and comfortable in all his five years.
“Gee, Mr. You sure are nice. But I don’t even know your name.”
The man smiled down at the boy wrapped safely in his arms. “Jesus,” he said, “My name is Jesus.”
“And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And Jesus said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me . . .” Luke 9:47,48
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