It was Christmas Morning at the Magic Monastery, and all the monks were filled with joy and excitement. A wondrous Christmas Tree stood in the Great Hall, and St. Nicholas had come and gone the earlier night, leaving beautifully wrapped gifts for all the brethren.
I could scarcely contain my excitement as my name was called and a brother brought me a gorgeous gift box with a great scarlet bow on the top and a card reading, “Merry Christmas, Little Monk, from Your Father.”
“What could it be?” I wondered, as I shook the box as discretely as possible. It made no sound. In fact, it had no sensation at all. It seemed… empty… which disturbed me a bit. I began to worry.
Was the box truly empty? Had I displeased the Father this year? Had I misbehaved? Sinned? Treated others as less than sacred? Had I disobeyed Him, or crossed His will? These fears shot through my heart like lances of ice.
I thought through the year, all my challenges, temptations, falls… my shortness of temper, impatience, mistrust, lack of faith… my carelessness, my selfishness, my failures in grace. For just a moment, it seemed overwhelming. Of COURSE, this box was empty! What ever made me think that I deserved a Christmas present from the Father of Lights? I was, and had been all year, an utterly undeserving child. Why should I even bother to open the box?
I sat, dejected.
Then, my name was called to open my gift, as all the brethren sat around me with smiling encouragement and the joy of grace on their faces. I wanted to weep. I wanted to tell them my box would be empty, for I’d earned no gift from the Father this year.
But an older monk, a few seats away, just nodded and smiled at me, as though he could see deep into my heart.
“Ah, Little Monk… you are filled with fear. Do not be afraid. All of our boxes are light. Be brave, Little Monk. Trust the Father, and open your box. See what lies within. You cannot see with eyes of fear, look inside with eyes of trust,” his gentle voice intoned, as he encouraged me.
So I took a deep breath, removed the bow and wrappings, and found a carved wooden chest with the most beautiful scrollwork engraved all around, inlaid with silver and gold. The box itself took my breath away. And when I opened it…
There was not “nothing”. Within the Box… was “Everything”. Inside the Box was all I ever needed or would ever need, all my friends and the family of God, all joy, beauty, truth, pleasure, and beyond everything else… love. There were no words to describe… either the Gift, or my heart at receiving it.
As I gazed, rapt in awe, at the contents of my Box, a scroll seemed to float upwards among the infinite contents, and catch my eye. I grasped the scroll and drew it out, as the Box sat warmly on my lap.
“Read it,” the old monk prompted, as the brethren looked on.
The Scroll said: “My dear son, Little Monk. Merry Christmas, and enjoy this Box and its contents in this new life, this new beginning, this new year that I give to you. Never forget, My presents do not come because you deserve them, or because you have earned them. I do not ‘compensate’ My children as employees. I, your Father, give My children GIFTS, simply because I Love you, and for no other reason. I Love you, I seek only your good, always… and I keep My promises. You can always trust to that.
“Remember this, written by My great musician… ‘Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.’
“This Box is My ultimate Gift and contains all other gifts. The name… is Grace. You delight in Me, Little Monk. That is mutual. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
And the scroll was signed, “Your Loving Father.”
All around me, the brethren smiled, nodded, and simply said, “Amen”.