Hear the Sound of Heaven’s Joy
Chapter 5 A Newly Found Treasure
The impromptu songfest heard between Verses 12 and 13 of the traditional Christmas Story reading remained a conversation topic beyond the conclusion of breakfast. Everybody chipped in to help clean up the kitchen and the dishes, moving furniture and whatever else needed doing. There were plenty of leftovers to last until December’s calendar page gave way to the new year. The aftermath of such a gathering required help from the nieces and nephews who were assigned to childcare or clean up duty. Only after the jobs were all done, could they resume where last night’s Christmas Eve gift exchanging results had ended prior to Ethan’s arrival.
Ethan and one of his nephews did their part by splitting some seasoned wood and bringing in a fresh supply to restock what had heated the family room over the previous few days. Another teaching moment yes, but this time Ethan was the teacher. With that task done, Ethan turned his attention to the inevitable meeting with Papa that was necessary to clear the air. But with Emma and other family members drifting into the room, this would not be the ideal place to have that reconciling discussion with Papa, who was comfortably rocking himself to sleep.
Alert to Ethan’s concern, Emma pulled him aside and asked him to bring something down from the attic.
“Sure,” he responded, “What is it?”
“Your Christmas gift,” Emma said, “Look for a package tied with a bright red ribbon in the old storage trunk.”
“I’ve kept it there all these years since you’ve been away, ready for your return.” she explained.
Then Ethan suddenly realized that he’d totally forgotten about Christmas presents.
“But I don’t have anything to give you, Emma or anybody else here,” he said, “I just wanted to come home.”
“That’s the best gift you could give us,” she replied smiling while making a sweeping half-circle motion with her hand toward the others who had stopped talking long enough to listen, nodding their heads in agreement.
Ethan glanced at Papa to see his reaction and saw a similar smile emerging across his weathered face.
He also heard the crowd say, “Welcome home, Ethan!” A sound expressing pure joy at his unlikely return.
Hugs and handshakes came at Ethan from every direction, rendering him helpless to fight back any more tears.
“Hey Ethan,” Emma reminded him, “Don’t forget to bring your gift down from the attic”
Ethan climbed the narrow staircase until reaching the second floor landing and then up another flight to the unfinished third floor where he spotted the trunk. It was an old steamer trunk his grandfather had brought with him to America. As a boy, Ethan had seen the trunk but never its contents. Now would finally be his opportunity.
Ethan slowly raised the rounded lid until it was completely propped open. Inside, Emma’s neatly wrapped gift was lying on top. Ethan was growing suspicious of what Emma might be up to. Why didn’t she just hand it to him, herself? Ethan shrugged off the thought and picked up the package. Beneath it were two objects that Emma knew would pique Ethan’s curiosity. Sure enough. He set the gift aside and gazed at a small box now held in his hand. He gently removed its lid and lifted out a faded arm band bearing a large red cross marking on it used to wrap something inside: two pocket-sized New Testaments—both with a giant hole running through them at the exact same spot. Ethan quickly rewrapped the twin New Testaments and placed them back in the box.
Just below that little cardboard box was a wooden-framed display case with its glass front protected by a heavy cloth fabric. Pulling back the fabric revealed two medals: one shaped in the form of a cross, awarded for distinguished combat heroism and the other was heart-shaped, for being wounded in combat. In addition to the medals, an assortment of colorful service ribbons, collar and sleeve rank insignia were mounted against a dark felt-like background. A second identically-sized case displayed a different set of service ribbons and insignias. It was located immediately below a triangularly-shaped American flag display case. Ethan studied this newly discovered treasure, pondering its significance and relationship to Thad.
But why two flag display cases? Ethan remembered seeing an American flag displayed on the fireplace mantle downstairs just minutes earlier, the one handed to Papa at Thad’s memorial service… or was it? This newly found treasure was suddenly becoming an unsolved mystery, as well.
Chapter 6 A Lost Coin No More
Still puzzled by his trunk discovery, Ethan’s eyes moved to another compartment of the trunk that stored familiar things that he had actually seen over many years: crayon-written cards, drawings, and crafts he had given to his parents, photos of him with the family, and his very first Bible. Ethan thumbed through its tattered and bent pages that had somehow survived his early childhood. Yet, favorite passages and verses that he’d learned from his parents; Thad, his older brother, who’d led him to the Lord; pastors and Sunday School teachers; still remained held intact by a well-sewn, stitched binding and securely in his heart.
Ethan heard Emma’s footsteps approaching quickly as her voice calling out his name grew louder.
By the time Emma arrived, Ethan had put everything back in the trunk except for the gift package and shut the lid.
“Did you get lost?” she chuckled.
“No.” he answered, “Just lost in thought.”
“Why haven’t you opened it yet?” Emma asked, since Ethan sheepishly still held the unwrapped gift in his hand.
“Well, I haven’t seen that look since the time you tried explaining to Mama how her freshly-baked berry pie suddenly disappeared,” she said, “Somehow the evidence on your face, hands and clothing didn’t convince her.”
Emma knew Ethan’s insatiable curiosity would zoom right past the gift package setting atop the newly found treasure. She figured right. However, Emma didn’t realize some confusion might result from it. But she thought that Ethan should know what Papa had told her not too long ago. The Lord would still have to work things out within Ethan regarding their brother Thad. The entire family endured his loss together, yet with true hope.
“We need to talk some more,” Emma said. And with that statement, she pulled chairs closer to the trunk.
“But first, you need to open your gift,” she said, “And hurry up, Christmas is almost over!”
“Shouldn’t everyday be like Christmas?” Ethan countered, “We can be thankful for Christ’s birth all year long.”
Emma had no argument with that observation. But they had always been more like-minded than competitors anyway. The twins would soon resume the previous night’s conversation right where they’d left off, narrowing the gulf separating them over the past few years. But first things first.
Ethan started opening the present by untying the ribbon around it; slowly and methodically until Emma encouraged him to speed it up a bit. But he simply wanted to savor this long-awaited moment for as long as he could. Then just as slowly, removing the outer paper wrapping and finally the tissue paper. Out dropped a coin onto the hardwood floor, landing with a loud thud, then bouncing several times before rolling on its edge toward a gap between the floor boards wide enough to swallow the coin whole. Ethan leaped from his chair in time to snatch up the coin before it could disappear from sight. With a huge sigh of relief, he said, “That was way too close to becoming the next lost coin in this house.” Emma nodded in agreement.
“Do you recognize the coin?” she asked.
Ethan held the coin up to the light, examined it closer and responded, “This is the coin year I couldn’t ever find!”
“That’s right,” Emma said, “Now your collection is complete!”
“Where did you find it?”
“Oh, I know a reliable source,” she said coyly, “I couldn’t have found the missing coin without the Lord’s help.”
“Wait a minute,” he said, “Let’s see if that year’s coin is still mounted in your completed collection holder album.”
“Thank you, Emma, you’re truly an angel,” he said, as the familiar words of Jesus flooded his mind, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10 NASB).
Alan Summers, GBC Elder
Next up: Chapters 7 and 8 complete the story.
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1975 edition unless indicated.