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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

a gift in words

The library had a different kind of quiet today.  Emma could feel the holiday spirit just under the surface in the youngsters who jostled past her desk on their way to the children’s department. Christmas was only 3 weeks away, and the town was bursting with holiday cheer.

Emma had made sure the library was full of the joy of the season. Her favorite design book had given her some marvelous ideas for the display area in the adult department, as well as some suggestions for the wreaths for the front doors.  Even now, she reveled in the woodsy splendor of the Blur Spruce tree that reigned in the traditional corner. Yes, Christmas had come to the library.

Emma sat back in her desk chair, glancing at the books which she had just finished covering with clear book-wrap protectors. Books. They had been her life. If Dickens should have chosen to characterize her for his “Christmas Carol” masterpiece, he would have used books instead of ghosts. They represented her past, present and future. A scrapbook photo from her childhood showed a seven-year-old clutching a new book with a birthday banner in the background. Her high school annual pronounced a bright-eyed brunette as president of the literary society. A snapshot from college days revealed her dorm room as a place of soft lamps and neatly shelved books. Now, the name card on her desk called her “head librarian” – a dream whose fruition she still sometimes doubted. Books had been her friend for so long that she was still amazed at her good fortune to be able to spend her waking hours getting paid for doing what she loved. Books at home, books at work, books for leisure, books for learning, books for life. Yes, words were her world. And, as the years passed, she'd made a tentative peace with her lack of family and relationship because of their comfort. 

A sturdy voice interrupted her reverie. “Excuse me, I need help with a book.”

Emma was a bit surprised. Requests for help with books were getting rarer these days what with the computerized cataloging system the library used.  Back in her younger years, librarians were much more involved in book selection. These days, young people preferred to do things on their own.

She looked up, smiled because it was her job. “Yes, of course.  Which book do you need?”

The face she looked into was cheerful, determined and youthful. A dark jacket was slung over one arm, a leather attache case held in the other hand. A young entrepreneur? A business major at the university?

“Oh, I know where the books are. I just need an opinion. You see, I've read some of the articles you write for the university newspaper. I really admire your command of words. I want to know which of these books you would recommend.”

The books he extended to her were theology tomes, recent additions from noted evangelical authors. She gave a demure smile. “I’m afraid I’m not read up in this department. I’m sure both are excellent.  They are checked out regularly.’

“Thanks, maybe I’ll just take them both. You see, I’m preparing an address for my 3rd year Christology class. It has to been given before the Christmas break. I have to make it good.” He gave her an engaging grin and handed her his library card. 

Over the next two weeks, Emma often noted his curly black head bent over a library table. The young man would be tapping furiously on a laptop. Sometimes he would stop by her desk on his way out and chat for a minute or ask advice on how to word a particular phrase or how to solve a certain grammatical problem. Other times, he just waved congenially as he hurried to start his work. 

On the last week before Christmas, she was helping a young mother check out a book on Christmas crafts when she saw the now familiar jacket as he approached her desk. He waited courteously until she was free to talk to him.  He smiled, as always.

“Hi, Miss Emma. I’m getting ready to go home to my family in Chicago for the Christmas break. But I had to share the news with you – I got an “A” for my Christology address! I wanted to thank you for your help. And I want you to have a copy of it.” He handed her a manila envelope tied with a bright bow. “Have a wonderful Christmas.”

And he was gone, waving merrily over his shoulder as he went out the double doors with the pine-scented wreaths.

With the usual afternoon flurry of activity in the library, Emma didn’t have another thought about the envelope until she was tidying up her desk when the library closed at 6:00. She saw it lying there on her desk, and instead of starting her rounds of the library tables to corral errant books, she sat down and opened the clasp.

It was neatly typed and full of Scripture.
She expected that; she had heard Scripture passages before. But these particular verses seemed strangely significant.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . .” (God was a God of words?) “and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us . . . “  (John 1:14a) Jesus Christ was born of man and for man. He became one with His creation so they could become one with Him. The Savior incarnate. This is Christmas.” She paused in her reading.

That reference must be to Jesus. God could have chosen some other means of communication with His creation. But He chose the power of the written and spoken word - the Bible and the Son.

Funny that she had never considered that before – the fact that the thing closest to her heart also represented the heart of God come to earth in the form of a tiny Baby. Words. Living words. God’s words. The Word. Why had she said “no” for so long to the words of salvation she had heard as a child? Why through the years had she shut up her heart, not only to others, but also to Him? She bowed her heard, a solitary tear tracing a path along her cheek.

It was time. Time to embrace the words that would set her free; words that would transform her life with their power. She closed the pages of the manuscript and opened her heart in prayer. And a new chapter was written in the public library while the snow whispered outside the window and the angels wrote in heaven’s book.                                    

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for expressing so beautifully thought that I can relate to & have had as a librarian myself.

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    1. Beautiful, Val! There is just that sort of librarian at our favorite library, one who lives and breathes the place, busying herself making the most gorgeous displays for the children's department. The only sadness I've ever seen cross her face was when I mentioned the Lord to her. Praying for her this morning thanks to your sweet story.

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