Pastor Mark was born on Christmas Sunday, 1955. His mother believed that any year Christmas fell on Sunday was an extra special year.
On those Christmas Sundays, his family would write down their most important memories of that year. They were recorded in one of those old composition notebooks with the black and white cover.
This year once again, Christmas fell on Sunday. Pastor Mark looked at the clock. It was only 5:00 a.m., but he was wide-awake. He quietly slipped out of bed, and did not wake his wife, Cindy, who was sleeping peacefully.
His family had all been up late last night. There was the Christmas Eve’s service, which Cindy said was Mark’s finest. Then they entertained family and friends at their home—which now included their daughter’s boyfriend—Jason—with an earring. Perhaps it was the talk of his daughter graduating from high school and going off to college, or maybe it was just that boy named Jason, but Pastor Mark had not slept well.
He slipped on his robe, went into the kitchen, and put on a pot of coffee. He then went into his office and retrieved the black and white composition book of Christmas Sundays.
When he filled his coffee cup, he sat down at the table and prayed over the words he would write for this year. The first event that entered his head was the death of Bin Laden. His heart was heavy as he reflected over the past year of terrorist attacks and the world’s political affairs. “Is there nothing good to report?” he whispered to himself.
Picking up his pencil he thumbed through the book until he found the first blank page. He entered: Christmas Sunday, 2011. For some time he looked at the yellowing page with the thin blue lines, before he began to turn back the pages.
Most of the early pages were in his mother’s handwriting. She had written flowery notes and short stories, which all reflected her gentle and loving heart. There were a few brief entries from his father, and later came the childish handwriting of he and his sister.
Recorded in the book were his birth in 1955 and his sister Emma’s in 1966. 1977 represented the year he graduated from college, and 1983 noted his graduation from seminary.
The event for 1988 was his marriage to Cindy and 1994 was the year their daughter Jennifer was born.
The year 2000 was a tear stained page in his mother’s handwriting. Below she had carefully pasted his father’s obituary.
The last entry was in 2005 and he recognized his own handwriting. Below he had carefully pasted his mother’s obituary.
His eyes began to water. This was not just a book of random years, or a collection of Christmas Sundays. They had all been years worthy of remembrance.
He returned to the blank page and entitled it: “The death of Bin Laden.”
He stared at the words he had written. Unlike his mother’s gentle words, the words seemed harsh and unkind. In 2000 when his mother made her entry, did she know it would be her last? What if 2011 would be his last? Would this be the story he wanted his daughter to read, or perhaps his grandchildren. He thought once more of that awkward young man who had sat next to his daughter last night. He chuckled, “I’ll put this away and think on it later,” he said aloud.
He dressed for church, and left a short note for his wife. “Gone to church early. Much to do before the service. I will meet you at church. Merry Christmas, Mark.”
Shortly, Cindy awoke and found the note. She had been married to Mark long enough to know that if he had something on his mind, even Christmas morning would not detain him. “We will just open gifts after lunch this year,” she thought smiling.
When Pastor Mark entered his church office he saw a small box with a card attached sitting on his desk. He glanced at the card, thinking it must be a little gift from a church member. He would open it once he turned on the Christmas lights.
He walked out into the dimly lit hall, but something about the handwriting seemed familiar. He walked back to his office and opened the card to read these words.
Christmas Eve, 2011
Dear Pastor Mark,
     At age 10 years, I was among the children that came to decorate the church for Christmas. Some of the children decorated the tree, others wrapped the garland, but I was assigned to set up the nativity scene.
I carefully unwrapped the ceramic figurines and placed them around the small wooden stable. The last of which was the Baby Jesus. He was so smooth and sweet and I wanted him for myself.
When the decorating was completed, all the mothers and children stood back to admire. Then at once I heard them gasp, “Where is the Baby Jesus?” As they looked through the piles of boxes, I knew they would not find him, because he was safely hidden in my pocket.
I never thought that little figurine would even be missed, but my own mother was nearly in tears. I recall her fashioning a new Baby Jesus out of clay. The new Baby Jesus did not even have a nose, he was too large, and was clearly a misfit. However, every year since, he has shown up in that manger as a reminder of my secret crime. Last night I showed the Baby Jesus to my boyfriend, and asked him what I should do. This was his answer: The Christ Child belongs to everyone, not just to you. If you keep him hidden in a box or locked up in your heart then others may not have the opportunity to know him.” So Daddy, I think it is time I return the Baby Jesus to his rightful place…
Pastor Mark’s eyes were so filled with tears that he could barely see his daughter’s signature on the card. Gingerly he removed the tiny figurine, went straight to the sanctuary, and placed it in the manger. He then knelt down at the altar and prayed, “Dear God forgive me for misjudging a young man named—Jason.”
He arose with a new joy in his heart. He now knew the story he would record in that little composition book with the black and white cover.

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