Freddie quivered with excitement as he gazed at the bulging stocking. It was so very kind of Mr. Hollis to think of him, the little orphan boy, and include him in with his own children. They had just opened theirs and now every eye was on the trembling Freddie as he proceeded to discover the contents of his pre-cious stocking. In plunged his hand and excite-ment gave place to perplexity, as out tumbled not all sorts of sweets and toys such as had been in the other stockings, but only a host of plain wood shavings. In plunged the little hand once more to achieve the same result. Freddie looked puzzled. Well, surely there must be some precious gift tucked down out of sight, perhaps in the very toe of the stocking. But no, nothing could he discover except more of those frustrating shavings. The little boy by this time was a picture of disappointment as he sat gazing at the now empty stocking. But to Mr. Hollis, standing by, it was all a huge practical joke. "Ha, ha, ha, that's a good joke on Freddie," he laughed.
Freddie slipped out of the room as soon as possible and ran to the hayshed, to sob out his aching little heart among the soft comfort of the hay. He was so very disappointed. He had tried so hard to help Mr. Hollis around the farm and do each chore cheerfully which was-n't always easy. And he did so miss his parents who had both died, his father when he was six and his mother three years later, just before he had come to Mr. Hollis. And now the cruel-ty of the joke that Christmas morning seemed the last straw. Down flowed the tears, thick and fast. Many a boy would have become em-bittered for life as a result of such treatment, but Freddie was different. His mother had of-ten told him that there was a kind Heavenly Father whose love for little boys was even greater than that of any earthly parent. And now on that memorable Christmas morning Freddie was proving that it was indeed true. Such a sense of comfort surrounded and filled his sad heart that he just knew that he could tell Him about it and He was sure to under-stand. Freddie felt so much better after confid-ing his troubles to his heavenly Father that he could even go about his usual morning chores.
He never quite forgot this incident, how-ever, and while it did not embitter him it made him ultra sensitive to the feelings of little children. It also influenced him in his writings of hymns, especially the one which begins, 'My Father has many dear children; Will He ever forget to keep me?' Eventually Fred A. Graves became a noted hymn-writer and wrote other well-known pieces such as: 'He was nail-ed to the cross for me,' and 'Honey in the Rock.'
Mr. Hollis, on the other hand, became the loser for his treatment of the little orphan boy. He became increasingly moody and dissatis-fied with life until one day he decided to end it all in suicide, quite a contrast to the happy and useful life which Freddie grew up to lead. Mr. Hollis had never learned the simple fact that Freddie had discovered that Christmas morning; and perhaps it is true to say that we adults are slower to accept these simple truths. There is indeed a Heavenly Fath-er waiting for us to cease carrying our troubles, to stop trying to remedy our sins, in short, try-ing so unsuccessfully to cope with life in gen-eral, and to simply look to Him as Father and trust Him to take over our lives.
But there is the fact about the shavings, too. All through life, we get our hearts fixed on things or on people. We expect them to satisfy our longing aching heart. In fact, we don't realize how much we have relied on them until one day we discover that they are nothing but shavings after all.
I believe that it would be the most won-derful of all Christmases, if we could discover as individuals the great Gift of our Heavenly Father which will never disappoint, which will never lose its wonder or its capacity of satisfy-ing our hearts. It was about that Gift, given to poor, sinful, wretched humanity many years ago, that Isaiah wrote: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
You see, when nothing but shavings is found in the "stockings" of our ambitions and cherished hopes, our Heavenly Father is stand-ing by, not only to hear the anguished cry of our disillusioned hearts, but to remind us that up to that moment we have either spurned or been unaware of His Gift to us. The Gift of His Son, and in His Son the gift too of salva-tion from sin, and from eternal punishment for that sin. "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."
By Trudy Harvey