December 25th AKA Jesusí birthday
By Marina Rojas
When I was growing up, my family would not have claimed to cling to any religious notions. There was a big white Bible that sat on our coffee table, but we werenít allowed to touch it; it was for show.
If someone mentioned church, my father would bristle and tell us kids we didnít have any business going to church until we were old enough to really know what we wanted. When pressed, my mother would clean us up, put on our best clothes, and shove my brother and me off onto the local Baptist church with a dollar for offering in our fists.
She was from Ireland; a Roman Catholic who felt that if she patronized any other denomination, she would experience immediate spontaneous combustion. Since the Baptists werenít too unruly, she figured God would forgive her for sending our impressionable spiritual minds their way. When we came home, she always asked us if anyone said anything against Catholics. I would always report that no one had traversed that line in the unseen sand, and she would then ask us what we learned.
One time she had been pretty well put upon by one of my auntís to send us to church. It was the holiday season and, of course, our eternal souls were up for grabs. My aunt was hoping to get us saved; my mother was hoping just to get us back after service. She told us to behave ourselves, and stuffed the obligatory dollar bill into our hands. Squeezing our hands tightly, sheíd whisper in our ears, "Hold on to this dollar and give it to the church! This is Godís money! Donít you lose it!"
I couldnít ever figure out how Godís money dropped down out of heaven and ended up at our house, but I was determined to dutifully return it to Him. My brother would try to get change for the dollar, so heíd have some left over after church to buy some candy with. He soon discovered that as soon as heíd drop it in that basket going by, he couldnít get his change out fast enough. They would always take his whole dollar. That kind of perturbed him.
But, this particular Sunday, we went into Sunday school and heard about the story of Jesusí birthday. We discovered that Santa Claus was just a cover story for getting presents, and the real reason that made December 25 so special, was it was the birthday of Jesus, who was Godís kid. My brother, who rarely paid attention to any of the Sunday school stories, sat in rapt attention. He didnít fuss, or wiggle or pinch me. He sat listening to the teacher, soaking in all the details of this story of Jesusí birthday. You see, my brother was born on December 25.
After Sunday school, we went outside to the playground for a while. The grown ups would talk, so us kids would take advantage of the time to play. I grabbed the nearest swing and was soon flying high in the sky. Kicking my feet, I felt as light as a bird. As I swung higher and higher, I decided to fling myself out of the seat. Kicking a hard last kick, I flew way up into the air, coming down on the ground with a big thud.
I landed near a circle of children who appeared to be in a great conspiracy. Everyone was huddled around someone, all talking quietly. I dusted off my bottom and headed straight for the circle.
Imagine my surprise when I realized the center of attention was my brother! Although he was a real Dennis the Menace, his antics were usually a little more covert, so I was dying to know what he was up to.
I leaned in closer to see what was up. In his hand was a pile of dimes. He was grinning like crazy as the other kids were poking him, and then dropping a dime into his hand. I couldnít figure out what was going on, so I stood there a while to figure it all out.
Then I heard my auntís shrill voice, "What in the world are you up to?" All of the children in the circle turned to run away. My brother jumped two feet high. The dimes flew everywhere. He fell to the ground, grabbing them up.
"Michael John Fletcher! What were you doing?" my aunt had him by his collar, staring at the money. "Why were those children giving you
He smiled that freckle face grin, "I donít know. I think they like me."
"Hmpf!" My aunt did not believe him.
She drug my brother over to some of the children, who by now were standing next to their parents. She asked them what was going on. The children explained that my brother had told them all how his birthday was December 25. All the while, my brother was grinning from ear to ear. Since he was born on December 25th, Michael John had decided that made him Jesus, or at least Jesusí proxy. He had heard in church that everyone wanted Jesus to touch them, or vice versa. So he was charging them 10 cents apiece to touch him or to touch them, which of course he felt was his duty as Jesusí proxy.
My aunt flipped. She pulled my brother towards the church, and used him to bang on the front door. When the deacon who was closing the church finally answered the door, my aunt was bright red from yelling at my brother at the top of her lungs. My brother was a little ragged from the ordeal, but he was still clinging to his dimes and grinning.
I donít remember what my aunt was saying, but it was something about him not being Jesus, and never having a ratís chance of becoming even remotely like Jesus. She told the deacon that my brother wanted to make a donation to the church. My brother informed the deacon he did not want to make a donation to the church. The deacon stood there in the middle of them, not knowing quite what to do.
So my brother, ever the entrepreneur took the opportunity to make a business deal. He asked the deacon, "Do you want Jesus to touch you too?"
The deacon answered almost immediately, "Of course." So my brother said, "Well, give me a dime, and he will!"
My aunt boxed his ears, and made him give all of his ill-gotten gain to the still bewildered deacon. My brother was yelling at her that all he was doing was going along with what the Sunday school teacher had taught him about his birthday, and my aunt was yelling back that he was just a sassy little heathen who would never make it to the gates of heaven unless he repented, andÖ
Well, then we got into her car, and drove all the way home in silence. My brother sat in the backseat plotting ways to get his dimes back, basking in his new found celebrity. (Sometimes I think he invented the "pay for your miracle" ministry that seems so prevalent today.)
My aunt decided that he and I did not need to come back to church for a long, long time. My mother never asked why. We didnít bother explaining.
Marina Rojas is a writer, cartoonist, humorist & editor, published monthly in various e-zines. A wife, mother and grandmother, she serves God at her home church as a prayer partner, English and Spanish small group leader. http://www.realezsites.com/pers/marinaink/.
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