It was very early Sunday morning, and Avery could not sleep. Thoughts about the Christmas cantata and the Sunday-school Christmas program made round after tedious round through his weary mind. Then he began to worry again about the gifts Janet was buying for the children. He knew they couldn’t afford them. But attempts to talk about the matter always seemed to end in irritated disagreement.

His sermon for that day was to be on hope for the hopeless, good news for the frustrated. Now he wondered whether he would be able to preach convincingly the new reign of peace in the lives of men through Jesus Christ, when he didn’t feel that peace.

Christmas had not been very enjoyable around the manse the past few years, he thought. It seemed to be a continual round of discussion, negotiation, ultimatum, and capitulation. As father and minister he felt that the spiritual values ought to outweigh the material aspects of celebration. But it was very hard to bring the season into focus this way, even in his own family.

The outdoor decorations should have been up by now. Lights along the roof line. A well-proportioned tree in the picture window. Just like last year—and how many years before that?

Where was the joy to the world—or the joy in his world anyway? What had happened to all the pleasant excitement of the Christmas pageant and the family tree and other familiar parts of the holiday season?

Avery got up, walked across the hall into his study, and stretched out in his lounge chair, as if to try to get a better perspective on God, the world, Christmas, the good news, money, God’s love, his family, and all the other things that were bothering him. Just what was the matter? Didn’t he like his people and his work? Didn’t he love Janet any ...

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