A Merry Christmas gift to you
Janet (and Ivan, in absentia)
This is free for church or family use only, and is not to be sold.
THE THREE WISE GUYS
By Ivan and Janet Smith
The faded plastic angel perched high above the forest of cut trees. Deeply tucked inside was a matching creche, defying anyone to remove it. It had just survived a legal battle with the ACLU. It had a right to be there; the sign high above the building in the background declared “YMCA.” If a Young Men’s Christian Association couldn’t house the true symbol of Christmas, who could?
A smaller sign, hand printed, read “Y’s Men’s Christmas Trees: $20.00.” It was only ten days before Christmas and according to tradition, the price would be lowered a dollar a day from now on.
“Come on, guys!” the teenage boy shouted to his two buddies. “The coast is clear!”
They headed straight for the manger, not caring that they trampled the trees as they went.
“Come on, let’s take the baby and put him on the roof!”
Brian, the leader of the gang, tossed the little image to Mark, the youngest and smallest member of the group. “You’re the quickest,” Brian said. “The fire escape is out back. Go for it!”
Mark obediently ran to the back of the building and began to climb the ladder.
“Hey! Stop!” The cop seemed to come out of nowhere, but his blinding flashlight hit Mark square in the eyes, causing him to drop the baby Jesus to the ground.
Brian and Ricky ran—right smack dab into the cop’s partner!
“In a hurry?” he asked them, laughing. “Afraid you might miss Santa?”
“Ain’t no Santa!” Ricky said.
“And you ain’t no angel,” the cop said, still laughing. “Come on, boys. I think we better take a trip downtown. By the way, you guys got names?”
“Yeah,” Brian replied sarcastically. “We’re the three wise guys.” He tried hard to laugh, but Ricky and Mark didn’t join him in the joke.
The policemen helped the boys into the back seat of the squad car. They sat, silently, staring through the wire divider between them and the officers.
Brian rubbed his fingers against the palms of his hands. They had never been so sweaty. But, he had never been in this situation before. Oh, sure, he’d done plenty of things wrong. But this was different. This time he’d gotten caught.
“Okay, everybody out,” one of the cops said. He opened the door and poked Mark in the back, steering him toward the steps up to the police station.
At least they didn’t handcuff us, Mark thought. If anybody saw them…
Inside, an old gray haired policeman sat, gazing at them with daggers in his eyes.
“What’d you guys do?” he growled at them. They didn’t answer.
“Cat got your tongue?” he asked. “I said, what’d you do?”
“We stole the baby Jesus,” Ricky said, his hands shaking in front of him.
The policeman’s mouth dropped open. He sat, speechless, for several moments. “You stole the baby Jesus?” he repeated, shouting accusingly at them. “That’s the worst crime we’ve ever had!” He shook his head, clicked his tongue and reached for the phone.
“Judge Walker? It’s Joe, down at the station. I hate to get you out this late at night, but we’ve got three juvies down here I think you should take a look at.”
He listened while the boys glanced at each other. The image of a black-robed figure danced in their heads. It was not the Nutcracker Suite! In fact, it wasn’t sweet at all.
“They stole the baby Jesus,” the cop said.
The boys fidgeted. The old cop looked at them, shook his head again and said “He’s on his way.”
The judge, who looked more like Santa Claus than a scary legal character, studied the boys, his eyes moving from one to the other, then back again.
“Do you know what you have done?” he asked, his voice bellowing. Dead silence followed. “I asked you if you know what you’ve done?” he asked again, his voice even louder than before.
“We stole the baby Jesus,” Ricky said, not daring to look up.
“And what do you think God would think of that?” Judge Walker asked.
The boys had never given much thought to God, but this was a pretty good time to change that.
“And what about your parents?” the judge continued. “What will they say when I call them to come down here to get you?”
Brian’s face turned as white as new-fallen snow. If the thought of God scared them, the thought of his mother and father finding out what he had done was even worse. He didn’t know God, but he knew full well how his parents would react. He would be grounded for the rest of his life!
“I’m not going to lock you up,” Judge Walker said. “Instead, I want all three of you—together—to do one good deed for someone every day. You will have to report back to me in nine days—on Christmas eve. You have to have proof of what you have done.”
“Well, boys,” Judge Walker said, sitting behind his huge desk clad in his black robe. “How did you do?”
He did not seem at all surprised when they began to relate the acts they had completed during the last few days.
“We helped old Mrs. Green carry her groceries home the first day,” Ricky said.
“The second day we saw a little girl fall on the ice. There was a car coming right behind her,” Mark said.
“We got there just in time,” Brian said, a big smile on his face. “Boy, that was a close one!”
“The third day we shoveled the church sidewalks after it snowed,” Brian said. “Here, we got everybody to sign a note after we helped them.” He shoved a pile of little square papers onto the judge’s desk.
“The fourth day we took care of Mrs. Parson’s little boy while she took the new baby to the doctor,” Mark said.
“The fifth day we walked Mrs. Hunt’s cats. She broke her leg, so she couldn’t do it herself,” Mark said.
“Yeah! And she was so happy about it that she hired us to do it every day,” Ricky said.
“We didn’t think it would count if we got paid,” Brian said. “So the sixth day we walked the cat and then we went to school early so we could help our home room teacher.”
“The seventh day we went to the old folks’ home and visited a lot of the people,” Mark said. “I think they liked it.” He smiled as he said, “We only got ten of them to sign the notes.”
“The eighth day we went to the church and helped decorate it for the Christmas program,” Ricky said. “It looked real pretty.”
“Then we got to the ninth day,” Brian said. “We knew it was the last day we had to do something good, so we wanted to make it extra good.”
Judge Walker waited until they all started talking at once. “Hold on!” he said, banging his gavel on the desk. “One at a time or I don’t have a clue what you’re saying.”
“Go on,” Ricky and Mark said to Brian. “You’re the boss.”
“We took the money Mrs. Hunt had paid us and we bought one of the Christmas trees from the Y. You know, the “Y’s Guys trees.” He laughed. “See? I told the cop we were the three Wise Guys!”
“What did you do with the tree?” Judge Walker asked.
“We took it over to the juvenile center. One of the kids in school said they didn’t have one.”
“We didn’t get anything signed,” Ricky said. “We didn’t want them to know it was from us.”
“Now you know the real meaning of Christmas,” Judge Walker said. “It is not only giving, it is giving from the heart. Not because you have to, but because you want to. I’m proud of you, boys.”
“We asked the Y’s Guys—the other ones,” Brian said, “if we can help them down at the Y Center after school. He said they’d be glad to have us.”
“Yeah, they’re going to give us a membership so we can swim and everything!” Mark said.
“But we’ll be sure to leave the baby Jesus alone,” Ricky said. “I don’t think He needs our help.”
“I think He’s already got it,” the judge said, standing up and walking towards his chambers. “Oh, and Merry Christmas, boys!”
“Merry Christmas,” the boys said in unison.
As soon as the judge was out of sight, they looked at each other and nodded. Then, unseen, they took out a can of Lemon Scented Pledge and began to polish the judge’s desk.
For the most requested article I've ever written, please go here to share my first Christmas in Venezuela.