Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Story

Horatio Alger more or less invented the American dream.  Near the end of the 19th Century, he wrote a series of novels that involved impoverished boys who, through some act of selflessness or bravery, came to the attention of a wealthy man who mentored the boy into a successful middle-class life.  Mr. Alger was a productive writer, and his novels were well-known up through the mid-twentieth century when references to his works were common on television shows and in other books.  The conclusion of a Horatio Alger story was understood to be a happy ending.

Mr. Alger himself was from a middle-class New England family.  He studied at Harvard and found that he disliked teaching.  Unfortunately his background included being accused of distasteful and illegal activities with children, but he managed to retrieve a writing career from the rubble of his work as a Unitarian minister.

I love to hear a story about someone who lived in difficult circumstances but was able to overcome poverty, crime, sin, or other evil obstacle to succeed.  The Horatio Alger boys always succeeded in the end, no matter how much they suffered at the hands of unscrupulous cads who laid in wait for an unsuspecting lad.

I know a story about a boy who was born into a family who lived in poverty.  The father was a blue-collar worker, and the mom got pregnant by someone other than her fiancee before the couple married.  It was a rough start for the family.  As a matter of fact the boy was born to the unmarried couple while they were homeless because they were fulfilling a government regulation.  I don't know what they did for diapers; it's hard to care for a newborn when you're homeless.

Somehow the couple managed to get by, and they eventually married and lived in a small town where the dad could work.  They didn't have much money, and resources were stretched to feed the growing family.  There wasn't much formal education; the boys learned to read from the religious leaders.  Though the family was poor, they obeyed God's laws and placed their hope in God, not in money or fancy clothes.

Just like the boys in the Horatio Alger stories, this boy grew up to have a successful career.  He defeated death and Satan to become a King.  He rules over all of God's creation, and all things that we know today are held together through Him.

What a success story!  From a humble birth which we celebrate yet today at Christmas, the boy Jesus grew into a man who loved God's children on earth so much that he followed God's directions all the way to the cross where he died for our sins.  Through his obedience, he became King, Redeemer, Messiah, Savior, Light of the World, Immanuel.  First he was a boy in rags, though, the child we love at Christmas.

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