Did you hear about the department store that had two Santas? One for regular kids and one for kids who wanted ten toys or less

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Dynamic Illustrations

The Pastor’s Professional Research Service

October/November/December 2003


































Go to http://www.sermons.com to subscribe to Dynamic Illustrations.

Copyright 2003 by Seven Worlds Corporation


Some years ago, a court in Pennsylvania ruled that it was only legal to display a nativity scene on public property so long as there were also secular items like Santa Claus and reindeer added to it. This would clearly diminish the religious significance of the nativity scene, and make it less offensive to the general population. -- Fleming Rutledge. The Bible and The New York Times (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), pp. 55-56.

Did you hear about the department store that had two Santas? One for regular kids and one for kids who wanted ten toys or less.

The Christmas that she was six years old, Myrtle Potter had her heart set on getting a store-bought doll. On Christmas day, Myrtle and her cousin, Tom, couldn’t contain their excitement any longer, and they snuck an early peek at their presents. There was a pretty little doll hidden among the presents, but to Myrtle’s dismay, its tag said it was for her cousin, Dorothy. In her disappointment, Myrtle took Dorothy’s doll and hid it away, hoping to keep it for herself. But all that day, Myrtle’s misdeed weighed on her heart. She knew she had to return Dorothy’s doll. That evening, when the family opened their presents, Myrtle’s mother presented her with the prettiest little doll she had ever seen. Myrtle was overjoyed, but she excused herself so she could go find Dorothy’s doll. When she found the doll, she was dismayed to find that it had sustained a tiny smudge on its cheek. Myrtle knew what she had to do. She took the clothes off her exquisite doll and put them on Dorothy’s plainer doll. And then she snuck her own doll into the pile of toys with the tag on it that read “Dorothy.” Even though Myrtle got the stained doll for Christmas, her heart was filled with joy because she knew that she had done the right thing. -- Myrtle “Cookie” Potter in Christmas Memories, compiled by Terry Meeuwsen (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), pp. 13-18.

Every Christmas, the Los Angeles Dream Center provides thousands of Christmas gifts to needy children in the surrounding neighborhoods. They may collect around ten thousand presents a year for thousands of poor children.

One year, a certain child approached a Dream Center bus driver and asked him for prayer. This little boy desperately wanted an electric train set. The bus driver knew that God answers prayers, but he also knew that there would be over 10,000 presents at the party. The odds seemed against him. With misgivings in his heart, the bus driver bowed his head and prayed for a train for this little boy.

The presents were passed out randomly according to gender and age. The bus driver held his breath as this certain little boy tore into his gift. It was an electric train set. -- Tommy Barnett, with Lela Gilbert. Dream Again (Orlando, FL: Creation House, 1998), pp. 1-3. (Adapted)

A lady named Mary Northrup reports that she was in labor for 23 hours for the birth of her first child. The day after their child’s arrival, Mary’s husband, Mark, presented her with a 2-foot tall trophy inscribed with the words, “For a championship delivery. Thank you. Love, Mark.”

I doubt that Joseph could afford a trophy for his betrothed wife, Mary. -- By Mary Northrup. Chocolate for a Lover’s Heart, compiled by Kay Allenbaugh (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp. 139-140.

At age 20, Kim Mullaney was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition that usually results in infertility. Kim and her husband, Timothy, resigned themselves to the sad fact that they would never have children. At age 37, Kim began experiencing some health problems and consulted her doctor. His diagnosis? Kim was eight months’ pregnant!

But that’s not the end of the surprise. Five days after first learning of the pregnancy, Kim developed medical complications and the doctors induced labor. The Mullaney’s son, Samuel, was born a few minutes later. In five days, the Mullaneys went from being childless to having a newborn baby. -- “The five-day wonder pregnancy” by Timothy J. Mullaney, Ladies’ Home Journal, April 2002, pp. 58-63.

Subject: Holiday Memo "FROLIC"

To: All Employees

From: Management

Subject: Office conduct during the Christmas season

Effective immediately, employees should keep in mind the following

guidelines in compliance with FROLIC (the Federal Revelry Office and Leisure

Industry Council).

1. Running aluminum foil through the paper shredder to make tinsel is


2. Playing Jingle Bells on the push-button phone is forbidden. (It runs up an incredible long distance bill.)

3. Eggnog will NOT be dispensed in vending machines.

4. Company cars are not to be used to go over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house.

5. All fruitcake is to be eaten BEFORE July 25.

6. Work requests are not to be filed under "Bah humbug."

In spite of all this, the staff is encouraged to have a Happy Holiday. -- CleanLaugh

When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today? When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today. It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the king was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the person whose birth we celebrate. -- Brian L. Harbour, James W. Cox, The Minister's Manual: 1994, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1993, p. 254.

Consider A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Because of his own greed and his reaction to personal grief, Scrooge rejected the spirit and meaning of Christmas. He refused, you remember, to give help to the poor who were gathered in workhouses in the London of his time, or were “on the treadmill” where men pushed all day long projections of a wide wheel on a horizontal axis. Obligated to pay taxes which helped to maintain these poor houses, Scrooge saw no need to make a Christmas contribution to the individual poor. But at night the ghost of his partner, Marley, comes to him, and warns him that he will be visited by three spirits. The ghost of the past appears and shows him his childhood once again and he sees his dead sister; the ghost of the present comes and he is shown the happy but poor family of Tiny Tim; and the ghost of the future also arrives and he sees the grave of Tiny Tim, whom he would not help, and his own grave, neglected, uncared for, unremembered. He asks, “Are these the shadows of the things that will be or are they the shadows of the things that may be, only?” He prays to have his fate reversed. Then he wakes up on Christmas morning, sobbing violently with the spirit, and he cries aloud, “The shadows of the things that would have been may be dispelled. They will be, I know they will.” Then he confesses, “I don’t know how long I have been among the spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby.” -- Ernest Edward Hunt, III, Sermon Struggles (New York: The Seabury Press).

A couple in Germany many years ago were preparing their evening meal when they heard a knock at their door. Upon answering the door, standing there, in the deep winter cold, was an ill-clad youth asking for food. The couple took him in to give him food and shelter for the night.

Being Christians, they prayed for this rather destitute young man. Somehow they both felt that they should take him into their home and adopt him as their own son. This they did. Little did they know who this stranger was and what he would accomplish with his life.

His name? . . . Martin Luther. -- E-zine: DAILY ENCOUNTER http://www.actsweb.org/encounter.htm.

The Philippine people hang a parol (pronounced pah-ROL), which is similar to a lantern, over their doors. They do this to celebrate the star that led the way so brightly to the where the baby Jesus lay in the manger in Bethlehem. At first, the parol were all star-shaped, but now a variety of different shapes are used. Every one gives off a bit of light to remind us all that the Light of the world has come. -- The Pastor’s Story File, Dec. 2001, p. 4. (Adapted)

Around this time of year, every year without exception, people begin to complain about how stressed out they are. They complain about everything from having to shop to the size of the crowds at the malls. Yet the day after Thanksgiving continues to be (without exception) the biggest shopping day of the year.

Several years ago, the Media Foundation labeled this notorious shopping day the “Buy Nothing Day.” The idea behind this was for consumers across the country to break the habit for just one day and–you guessed it–buy absolutely nothing. The Foundation stages comical demonstrations outside malls all across the U.S. and Canada.

Shopping is a national pastime, and when you think about how much stuff we buy in a day, it really is ridiculous. The Media Foundation wants to challenge consumers to confront this habit just one day out of the year. Try it this year. Promise yourself you’ll buy nothing the day after Thanksgiving! -- “Buy Nothing Day,” by James J. Farrell, The Clergy Journal, Nov./ Dec., 2001, p. 20. (Adapted)

Most of us are familiar with the play and movie A Christmas Carol. One especially interesting scene is the one right after the Ghost of Christmas Past has visited Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is obviously distressed by the ordeal, but he dismisses the visit with a “Bah, humbug!” and decides that it wasn’t real, but more likely just something that didn’t digest well from the previous night’s dinner. Was it a vision that he should take to heart or just indigestion? That’s for us to decide. -- Brett Blair, Sermon Illustrations, 1999. http://www.sermons.org (Adapted)

An old soldier approached the Roman emperor Augustus. The man was involved in a lawsuit that was turning out badly for him, and he asked for a favor. He appealed to the emperor to appear in court on his behalf.

Augustus was too busy, but asked a member of his staff to speak on the man’s behalf. The old man was insulted, and panicked, but still refused the offered help. He rolled back his sleeves to reveal scars he’d earned in war, and shouted, “When you were in danger at the battle of Actium, I didn’t send in a substitute. I fought for you myself!”

Augustus decided to appear in court himself.

God did not send a substitute. God Himself came to us.

The retail business is particularly brutal at Christmas. The stores are full of noises as cash registers ring up sales and people grumble under their breath as they elbow their way further ahead in line. Christmas will always be a hectic time.

One holiday season, a little boy whose mom was shopping in a particular department store lost his helium-filled balloon. He started to cry as he watched it float up and then stick to the ceiling. A clerk witnessed the event, and called for a janitor to help. She asked him to get a ladder and climb up to rescue the balloon. The janitor’s response was, Are you crazy??

Suddenly, the store was silent. You could have heard a pin drop. People stopped shoving and pushing at each other; the cash registers stopped pinging as everyone around watched the man climb up the ladder and retrieve the balloon. The little boy’s face lit up. At that moment, everyone started to cheer. Then the janitor took his ladder and left. The noise started back up, people started pushing and shoving again. Everything was back to normal. But just for a second, a brief second of time, everyone had seen through the commotion long enough to witness a tiny act of love that portrayed the Christmas spirit. -- Adapted from Hugh Litchfield, Preaching The Christmas Story (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press).

Go to http://www.sermons.com to download exciting sermons for the Advent/Christmas season.


Pat is an RN, whose specialty is caring for patients after they’ve been sent home from the hospital. A few days after Christmas she was finishing a shift when her babysitter called. “Pat, I don’t know what to do,” she said. “Amber woke up with her cheek swollen, and her temperature is over 104.”

“I’m on my way,” Pat said. Her nine-month-old daughter had just started teething. The fever and swelling sounded like an infection. Probably nothing to worry about, but Pat called the pediatrician to make sure. As soon as she described Amber’s symptoms, the doctor said, “Meet me at the hospital. Right away.”

She raced home, trying not to panic. Amber was in her crib, looking glassy-eyed and as if she had a golf ball in her cheek. “Grab her diaper bag. We’ve got to hurry,” Pat told the babysitter, as she scooped her daughter up into her arms.

They were met at the hospital by the pediatrician, who whisked Amber into an exam room. Pat’s nurse’s training to remain composed and objective in a crisis crumbled. She was frightened, and helpless, like any other mother with a dangerously ill baby. All she could do was pray.

Finally, there was a diagnosis. A virus had entered the baby’s bloodstream through the opening in her gums where her teeth were coming in. She couldn’t be released until her temperature came down.

In the days that followed, Amber’s family took turns sitting with her. At night, Pat slept on a cot beside her crib. “Shh, you’ll be all right, honey,” were the soft words of reassurance when Amber cried, comforting her until she was calm again. But Pat needed comforting too.

By New Year’s Eve, Pat was exhausted. That evening, still feverish, Amber finally dozed off. Sometime after midnight Pat was awakened, but she wasn’t sure by what. Amber wasn’t crying--she wasn’t even in her crib!

That’s when Pat saw an elderly woman in a blue dress and glasses, rocking Amber in her arms. One of the volunteers from the ward, she thought. Amber is in good hands.

The woman smiled and gestured for her to go back to sleep. Whatever it was about her that soothed the baby, it worked on Pat as well. She drifted off again easily.

The next morning, she got up feeling rested and refreshed. Reflexively she put her hand on Amber’s forehead. It was cool. A nurse took her temperature and confirmed that the fever had broken.

“Do you know the name of that elderly volunteer who was here around midnight?” The nurse looked at Pat quizzically. “We don’t have volunteers in the middle of the night.”

“But God does,” says Pat Larimore after this experience, “All day, and all night.” -- Adapted from “Angels Among Us,” by Pat Larimore, Guideposts, Dec. 1999, p. 66.

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