A Christmas Story
Papa Panizza's Special Christmas Day
It was Christmas Eve and lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little wheatbelt town, for the sun had started to set in the West.
Papa Panizza didn’t often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and he read again the Christmas story. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary's little baby was born in the cowshed.
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" exclaimed Papa Panizza, "if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and because it’s summer, the little baby Jesus would have been warm." But as he read on about the wise men who came to bring the little Lord Jesus splendid gifts, Papa Panizza’s face fell. "I have no gift that I could give him," he thought sadly.
Then his face brightened. Putting down the Bible reached for a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny Ugg-boots. Papa Panizza smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were the best boots he’d ever made. "I should give him those," he decided and sat down again.
He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleeper he became. And as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he knew at once who the person was. It was Jesus.
"You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panizza." he said kindly, "then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am." … When at last Papa Panizza awoke to the sound of screeching galah’s he said, "Bless my soul! It's Christmas Day!”
He stood up, stretched himself and was filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. This would be a very special Christmas for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby? Would he be a grown man with a beard, a carpenter, or the great King that he is, God's Son? He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognised him however he came.
Papa Panizza put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, and peered expectantly out of the window. Where was Jesus? The street was deserted. Everyone was still in bed. Everyone except the postman who was delivering last minute messages of Christmas cheer!
Papa Panizza shouted across the street cheerily. "Come in and have some coffee, it is delicious!” The postman looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was so worn out that a lovely cup of coffee would bring him back to life, so he thought!
Papa Panizza watched him with satisfaction, but every now and then his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor. "Expecting someone?" the postie asked at last. So Papa Panizza told him about his dream. "Well, I hope he comes," the postman said. I'd say you deserve to have your dream come true." And he smiled.
When he had gone, Papa Panizza put on kangaroo tail soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street. Someone was coming.
The girl walked so slowly and quietly. She looked very tired and she was carrying a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face that Papa Panizza’s heart went out to her.
"Won't you come in," he called. The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief. "I'll warm some milk for the baby," Papa Panizza said. After it was warm he took the milk and carefully fed the baby from a spoon.
"He needs shoes," he said. But the girl replied, "I can't afford shoes, I have no money.
Sudden thought flashed through Papa Panizza’s mind. He remembered the little boots he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the baby’s cold little feet and made up his mind.
"Try these on her," he said, handing the baby and the Ugg-boots to the mother. They were a perfect fit. "You have been so kind to us," the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go. "May all your Christmas wishes come true!"
But Papa Panizza was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street but only saw some poor people! “Look at those poor hungry people” said Papa Panizza, who hurried to fetch them hot kangaroo tail soup, but still waiting for the Important Stranger.
All too soon it was evening. Papa Panizza walked slowly back into his room and sat down wearily in his armchair.
So it had been just a dream after all. Jesus had not come. ….Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room. ….This was not dream for he was wide awake. At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day. He saw again the old postman, the young mother and her baby and the poor people he had fed. As they passed, each whispered, "Didn't you see me, Papa Panizza?"
"Crikey, who are you?" he cried. Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream, the voice of Jesus. "I was hungry and you fed me," he said. "I was naked and you clothed me. I was worn out and you gave me rest and a cup of coffee to revitalise me. I came to you today in every one of those you helped and welcomed."
Then all was quiet and still. Only the sound of the big clock ticking. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panizzas’ heart until he wanted to burst out singing and dancing with joy.
"So he did come after all!" was all that he said.
Adapted from the story of Papa Panov by Leo Tolstoy