Yesterday I visited with a writers group. Among the things shared was an essay by Erma Bombeck a beloved humorist who wrote the following;
“Everything is is in readiness
The tree is trimmed. The cards taped to the door frame
The boxes stacked in glittering disarray under the tree.
Why don’t I hear the chimes?
Remember the small boy who made the chimes ring in a fictional story years ago? As legend went, the chimes would not ring unless a gift of love was placed on the altar. Kings and men of great wealth place untold jewels there, but year after year the church remained silent.
Then one Christmas eve, a small child in a tattered coat made his way down the aisle, and without anyone noticing he took off his coat and placed it one the altar. The chimes rang out joyously throughout the land to mark the unselfish giving of a small boy.
I used to hear chimes.
I heard them the year one of my sons gave me a tattered piece of construction paper on which he had crayoned two hands folded in prayer and a moving message. OH COME HOLY SPIT!
I heard them the year I got a shoe box that contained two baseball cards and the gum was still with them.
I heard them the Christmas they all got together and cleaned
They’re gone aren’t they? The years of the lace doilies fashioned into snowflakes… the hands traced in plaster of paris…. the Christmas trees of pipe cleaners… the spools that held small candles, they”re all gone”.
And then the reader began to cry, swallowed – and began again brokenly.
“The chubby hands that clumsily used up $2 worth of paper to wrap a cork coaster are sophisticated enough to take a number and have the gift wrapped professionally.
The childish decision of when to break the ceramic piggy bank with a hammer to spring the 59 cents is now resolved by a credit card.
The muted thump of pajama-covered feet padding down the stairs to tuck her homemade crumb scrapers beneath the tree has given way to pantyhose and fashion boots to the knee.
It’ll be a good Christmas. We’ll eat too much. Make a mess in the living room. Throw the warranties into the fire by mistake. Drive the dog crazy taping bow to his tail. Return cookies to the plate with a bite out of them. Listen to Christmas music.
But Lord…………. what I would give to bend low and receive a gift of toothpicks and library paste and hear those chimes one more time”.
She looked up as she finished. Luanne could not stem the flow of tears as she finished with the sob….”I don’t hear the chimes anymore”.
I pray that all of us who are continually blessed to hear the chimes of remembrance, because of continued connection with the gifts of family joy in our lives, will bring to the altar the best gift we have: Compassion to those who listen but hear them not. That would be, at best, an invitation to our table to tell old stories of when there were chimes to be heard all over the place…. and at least, a look full into their eyes to tell them you love them and their God does too.