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The Parable of



Matthew 18:12-14



     There was one empty chair at the table on Christmas day.  It was a small chair, with a booster seat for a child.  But all the other seats were full, including all the sofas, lounge chairs, love seats, and stools.  With aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings, there were thirty-five family members in all.  The smell of turkey was beginning to fill the air.

     “Can we open the presents now, Mom?” asked Simon.

     “Is everybody here?” asked his mother.  She looked around the room.  Familiar and beloved faces were everywhere, filling the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and even the stairway.  Every one of them was smiling.

     “Wait ‘till I get my camera ready”, said Aunt Ruthie.

     “Where’s my video camera?” said cousin Walt.

     “All you kids, get down on the floor by the tree”, said Aunt Samantha.

     The excitement in the air was palpable.

     “How are we going to do this?” asked Uncle Bob.  “One at a time, or all at once?”

     “If we do one at a time, we won’t be done until Easter”, remarked Grandpa Jones.

     “You heard the man!” said cousin Susie.

     The living room burst with activity.  Bows and colored wrapping paper went flying everywhere.  Shouts of glee and happy clapping mingled with the laughter and smiles.

     Eventually, the din wound down to a steady buzz of voices as the children began to play with their toys.  The adults began gathering up the litter in trash bags until it became more of an organized mess.  All the packages under the tree were gone.

     All except one.

     The lone package was wrapped in pure white paper with a bright yellow ribbon.  Yellow had been Sarah’s favorite color.  She would have been five years old this Christmas.

     “Who’s going to open Sarah’s present?” asked Simon.  Everyone stopped talking and looked at the pretty little package under the tree.

     “Why don’t you do it”, said his mother.

     Simon nodded with a smile, put down his toy, and reached for the package.  “To Sarah, from Santa” the tag read.  He opened it carefully; it seemed important to him not to rip the paper.  Inside the box was a beautiful little doll, in a frilly yellow dress, with white lace, and yellow ribbons in her hair.

     Simon passed it around so everyone could see it.  Everyone took a turn at stroking its hair and straightening its dress.  Finally, it came back around to Simon.

     “Shall we put it on her bed like we did last year?” asked Simon.

     “Yes, Sweetheart”, said his mother.  Simon started up the stairs, with his parents, brothers, and sisters following.

     “Here you go, Sarah”, said Simon, as he placed it gently on her bed.  “Merry Christmas.”

     “Merry Christmas”, the others said.

     After a few moments of silence, his mother turned Simon by the shoulders and they all went back downstairs.

     The mood lifted when dinner was served.  The table was covered with trays of food, and people had to eat off a plate on their laps.  Before long, the food disappeared, and everyone was groaning and stretching with full bellies.  Not long after that, people started to bid their farewells and head for home.

     Simon’s mother enjoyed a house full of people, but no matter how many beloved relatives they had, there was still an emptiness for the one that was missing.  Just as she was wiping down the dining room table, Simon came running down the stairs excitedly.    

     “Mom!” he said.  “Come quick!  Sarah’s in her room!”

     “What?” said his mother.  “Simon, she can’t be.  You’re imagining it.”  Still, she and her husband ran up the stairs with their other children to Sarah’s room.

     It was empty.

     “She was standing right there!” Simon insisted.  “Right next to her bed.  She was dressed all in white, and she was holding her new doll!”

     Everyone looked around the empty room.  But then their eyes came to rest upon Sarah’s tidy little bed.

     The Christmas doll was gone.




THE LOST SHEEP  (Matthew 18:12-13)


     “What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and go into the mountains, and seek that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he finds it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”