When our oldest son, Jacob, was about 8 (1989), my parents took him Christmas shopping. He had saved his own money to purchase gifts for me, his dad, and his brother. I don’t even remember what he gave me as a present that year, or what he gave his little brother. But none of us will ever forget the precious gift he gave his dad!
Jacob found his dad’s present at a going-out-of-business sale at a local men’s clothing outlet. My mother wrapped my gift from him before they came home, but Jacob wanted me to see the other two gifts he had purchased before we wrapped them. He was especially proud of the $1.00 purchase he had made for Randy, his dad. It was the ugliest, most garish red and white Hawaiian print shirt I had ever seen.
I couldn’t wait to see Randy’s face when he opened that box and had to wear that shirt. I confess! I egged it on unmercifully by telling Randy how much he was going to love his present. However, when Christmas morning came, the joke was on me. I witnessed a perfect, living picture of sheer love that still brings chills to my heart.
Randy opened his ugly shirt as I waited to see the terror in his eyes, but all I saw was the love of a father for his child. Without hesitation, Randy immediately donned the hideous shirt. Then he said reverently, “Jacob, this is the most beautiful shirt I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s so special that I designate it my official Christmas shirt, and I’ll wear it every Christmas day for the rest of my life.” And believe me – he has done just that.
Christmas does not officially begin at our house without that shirt. The boys wait anxiously, even now, as Randy slowly gets his clothing all lined out on the bed. When he buttons the last button on that ugly red shirt, the festivities begin. And every Christmas night, Randy removes that hideous shirt for cleaning and packing. One year later, the ritual is repeated. But on that first Christmas with the ugly shirt, God and my husband used that one moment in time and that one shirt to teach me the real meaning of Christmas – the love of a father for his child.
That was Christmas 25 years ago; now, fast forward 10 years. Little did I know how much that shirt would mean to me during the toughest time in my life! In 1999, Jacob had a car wreck one week after he had begun college. The prognosis was bleak – a brain injury that promised death or a vegetative state at best. We rejected that report and chose to believe the report of the Lord that says, “By His stripes we are healed.” As a family, we took turns and spoke that verse (and dozens of other victory Scriptures) out loud around the clock for 10 days! Honestly! Every minute of every day – we spoke God’s truth over Jacob!
Yet, after 10 days in a coma, things were not improving. In fact, Jacob’s lung collapsed, and the doctor spoke of pulling the plug. We refused and told him Jacob would walk out of that place on his own two feet – in Jesus’ name. Even so, we all wanted to see the evidence of our faith quickly. We needed hope.
We got it when Randy came bouncing into the ICU waiting area one morning wearing the ugly red Christmas shirt. We all began to cry hysterically because we knew what that shirt meant. The people around us probably thought we were crazy – crying over a shirt.
Randy said that in the early hours of morning, the Lord had spoken to Him in that still, quiet voice we all know and cherish: “Put on your shirt. Today is Christmas.” And what a Christmas (in September) it was!
From that point, Jacob began to come back to us little by little, victory by victory. He awoke on the 11th day. He recognized and remembered everything; and he even began to use sign language to communicate, lift his head, sit up, stand, walk, swallow, and talk. Seventy days after his wreck, on Thanksgiving Day, Jacob Lucius walked out of that hospital on his own two feet.
Our journey was not an easy one. In fact, it was a lonely, uphill battle at times. But God is faithful! Jacob now has a son of his own. Talk about the goodness of God! That is grace and mercy all wrapped up in one package – a grandson born to a son the doctors had diagnosed as “done.”
This year, the shirt celebrates its 26th Christmas, and there’s talk of a new shirt. Yes, Randy thinks Jacob needs his very own Christmas shirt. He has plans to take our grandson, Tyler Reed Lucius, to search for the most hideous, horrible, gaudy shirt on earth. If I know my Randy, Jacob’s shirt will be better (or worse) than the first one. And if I know my Father God, the story of the Christmas shirt(s) has only begun. I am confident we have more lessons to learn, and He always uses the most unexpected moments to teach us. I can hardly wait.