Gordon E. Ellis
December 25, 2005

THE  CHRISTMAS  APPLE
(Based on a story by Ruth Sawyer. This is not my version. I tell my version but haven't written it down)

Once upon a time in GERMANY, there lived a little CLOCK-MAKER named Herman Joseph.  He lived in one little ROOM, furnished with a BENCH for his work and his tools, a CHEST for his wood, a CUPBOARD for his dishes, and a TRUNDLE-BED that SLID under his workbench.  Other than that, there was only a STOOL -- except for the CLOCKS that is.  There were HUNDREDS of clocks -- big clocks and little clocks -- clocks with WOOD faces and clocks with porcelain faces. There were SHELF clocks, grandfather clocks and CUCKOO clocks; clocks with CHIMES and clocks without chimes.  Everywhere you looked, there were clocks.

There was a little WINDOW in the front of Hermann's shop, with a shelf on it...  And THERE, Herman put his BEST clocks, so that EVERYONE passing by could LOOK at them and ADMIRE them.  And anyone in the city who NEEDED a clock ALWAYS came to see Herman Joseph.  HE was the BEST clock-maker around.

Now, I said Hermann was a LITTLE clock-maker.  And he WAS little, because his back was bent and his legs were crooked.  That made him very SHORT and funny to look at.  But, there was NO kinder face in the whole city.  The children LOVED Hermann.  Whenever a toy was broken, or a doll had lost an arm, a leg or an eye, the children would bring it straight to Hermanís SHOP.  And Herman would always STOP whatever he was doing and FIX the childrenís toys for FREE.

Now, there was a CUSTOM in those days for those who lived in the city to bring GIFTS to the great Cathedral on Christmas Eve and LAY them before the statue of MARY and the Baby Jesus.  In fact, people saved up their money ALL through the year so that they could bring something WONDERFUL to baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.  And, there was a LEGEND in the city that WHEN a gift was brought that pleased the Baby Jesus MORE than any other, He would actually reach down from Maryís arms and TAKE it.

Of course, THAT was only a LEGEND.  Old Mr. Graff, the OLDEST man in the city, could not remember that it had EVER happened; and most people LAUGHED at the idea.  BUT, the children liked to TALK about it, and POETS wrote beautiful VERSES about it.  And SOMETIMES, when a very RICH gift was brought to the statue, the people would whisper: Maybe now, weíll get to SEE the miracle.  Maybe baby Jesus will reach out and TAKE the gift!  But it NEVER happened!

EVERYONE went to the cathedral on Christmas Eve, EVEN those who had NO gifts to bring to the holy Child.  THEY, of course, went to see what GIFTS the others had brought, as well as to sing the Christmas carols and watch the candles burning.  And the little clock-maker, Herman Joseph, was one of THOSE people.  He NEVER brought a gift, even though sometimes people would STOP him and ask him WHY he didnít have a GIFT to give.  Even the BISHOP once asked him, Poorer people than YOU bring gifts, Herman Joseph.  Where is YOUR gift?  And Hermann answered him: You wait, your excellency, SOMEDAY you will see it.  I, TOO, will bring a GIFT to the Holy Child!

Actually, the truth WAS that that little clock-maker was so busy giving AWAY what he had to OTHERS in NEED all year long that he never had anything LEFT at Christmastime to OFFER.  BUT, he DID have a great idea, which he spent EVERY spare minute WORKING on.  No one KNEW about it except TRUDE, the neighborís daughter.  He had STARTED the gift when Trude was a BABY, and NOW, she had almost grown UPÖ and the gift STILL wasnít finished.

Herman Josephís GIFT for the Baby Jesus was to be a CLOCK, of course.  And it would be the most BEAUTIFUL clock in the WORLD.  Herman had WORKED on every PIECE of it for YEARS - giving it ALL the love and attention that he COULD.  And so, EVERY piece was just PERFECT!

Well, THIS Christmas, Herman REALIZED that with a little extra WORK, he could get his gift FINISHED by Christmas Eve.  SO, he STOPPED all his OTHER work -- OH, he still fixed the childrenís TOYS when they were broken, but thatís IT.  ALL of his time went to working on his SPECIAL gift for the baby, Jesus.  The only PROBLEM with that was that he NOW had fewer clocks to SELL, and his cupboards got pretty BARE.  In fact, MANY nights he had to go to bed with NO supper, because there was just NO FOOD in the house at ALL.  But STILL, Herman was happy, because his GIFT clock was getting more and more beautiful EVERY single day.

He made it to look like a STABLE, with RAFTERS, a STALL and a MANGER.  Baby Jesus lay in the manger, with his mother, Mary, kneeling OVER him.  And whenever the HOUR struck, THROUGH the doors on either side, VISITORS came.  There were KINGS, a 3 shepherds, 3 soldiers and 3 angels.  And as the hour was striking, the little figures knelt DOWN in adoration before the sleeping Baby, while the silver CHIMES played The Magnificat.

"You see," said the clock-maker to Trude, itís NOT just on Sundays and holidays that we should remember to worship Jesus, and bring him gifts, but EVERY hour of EVERY day! 

Well, the day FINALLY came when Herman FINISHED his clock.  And he was so PROUD of it that he put it on the SHELF in front of his WINDOW.  And ALL day long the CROWDS gathered outside to SEE the masterpiece.  And they wondered if THIS would be his OFFERING to the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.  And EACH and every day UNTIL Christmas Eve, the crowds CAME.  

And then, finally, it was the DAY before Christmas, and Herman made SURE that his clock was working PERFECTLY.  THEN, he cleaned up his little shop, and brushed his clothes.  When the blind BEGGAR came by his door, Herman wished him a Merry Christmas and gave him ALL but his last penny.  The last penny, he would spend for a big, juicy Christmas APP:E to eat with a crust of bread for his Christmas dinner the next day.

BUT, AS he was putting it into the cupboard, Trude came in CRYING: Whatís the matter? he asked her.  Itís FATHER, she said!  Heís been HURT!  And, all the money that we saved for the TREE, and for the childrenís GIFTS has gone for the doctor.  And the children are all excited about Christmas and presents!  And WE donít know what to DO!

Hermann smiled, Don't worry, Trude!  I will sell a CLOCK for you.  SOMEONE must NEED a clock.  And then weíll have PLENTY of money for a tree and gifts for the children!  SO, go home!  Sing and have fun with the children.  And I will be along soon!

Hermann picked out his best clock and went all over the city trying to SELL it, but NO one seemed to NEED one.  He shouted on the street corner, but NO one stopped.  Finally, he got up all his courage and went to see mean, old Mr. Graff himself.  Mr. Graff said he needed to buy a clock, but not THAT one.  HE would ONLY buy the CHRISTMAS clock, the one in Hermanís WINDOW, the pne Herman had made as a GIFT for the Baby Jesus.  AND, he would PAY Herman a THOUSAND dollars for it.  Hermann screamed, But thatís IMPOSSIBLE!  You CANíT buy THAT one? NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE, shouted old Mr. Graff.  Do you want to make those children happy or not?  Now, you go home and get it ready.  Iíll send someone over to pick it up in ONE hour.

Well, poor Hermann CRIED all the way home.  But THEN, as he passed Trudeís house, he heard the children SINGING and HAPPY.  And it MADE him feel GOOD that he could HELP them.  And SURE enough, in ONE hour, Mr. Graffís SERVANT was there to pick-up the SPECIAL clock, the GIFT clock.  But Herman would not TAKE the $1000.  He ONLY took $100 of it, which he gave to TRUDE right away.  And THEN, he trudged QUIETLY back to his shop.

As he opened the door to his shop, the BELLS began to RING in the great cathedral.  And SUDDENLY, the streets were FILLED with people, running every which way, holding tight to their gifts for the Baby Jesus.  Well, Iíve GONE empty-handed BEFORE, said Hermann, I guess I can go empty-handed AGAIN.  At least the CHILDREN are happy!  And AS he pulled his coat on and turned to leave for the Cathedral, Herman noticed the Christmas APPLE in his cupboard, and a little SMILE came to his lips.  His EYES lit up, and he thought to himself: It is ALL I have, my DINNER for two days.  I will carry THAT to the Baby Jesus.  Itís better than going empty-handed, after all.

Well, the great Cathedral was so PEACEFUL and beautiful as Herman entered it!  There were THOUSANDS of candles burning, and the smell of Christmas GREENS.  The ALTAR area was FULL of gifts, all around the STATUE of the Baby Jesus and his mother, Mary.  The gifts looked RICHER and more PRECIOUS than ever before: gold, silk, silver and paintings.  EVEN the king himself had brought his OWN crown and SCEPTER to LAY before the Holy Child.  And, after SEEING all these precious gifts, the little clock-maker walked SLOWLY down the long, dimly-lighted aisle, holding tightly to his Christmas APPLE.

When the people saw him, he could hear their WHISPERS: SHAME on Hermann Joseph, they said!  He has SO many CLOCKS, and heís too CHEAP to bring even ONE of them to the Baby Jesus.  SHAME on Herman Joseph!

BUT, Hermann stumbled on, his head hanging LOW and his HANDS groping the way.  It seemed like FOREVER before he reached the STAIRS up to the Altar.  But FINALLY, he MADE it!  There were SEVEN steps to climb, and he WONDERED if he could MAKE it: One - two Ė three.  And then, he STUMBLED and almost fell.  Four - five Ė six.  He was almost there Ė only one more.

And SUDDENLY, the whispering died away.  And in its PLACE rose a murmur of WONDER and AWE.  ALL over the cathedral, people began shouting: Itís a miracle Itís a MIRACLE!  And ALMOST as ONE, the people knelt DOWN, as the BISHOP raised his hands in prayer.

And the little clock-maker, stumbling to the LAST step, looked UP, and THROUGH his tear-filled eyes, he saw the Baby JESUS leaning out TOWARD him, with his HANDS outstretched to TAKE old Herman Josephís GIFT -- the Christmas APPLE!  Amen.