Franklin had a far off look in his eyes as he sat there amid the wrapping paper piles from his Christmas morning present opening frenzy. While he had certainly gotten a good haul, the big present — the pinnacle of his Christmas gift hopes for the whole year — was not what he’d been wanting.
At the top of his wish list had been the newest video game system. He already had one, but it was for kid games and in Franklin’s estimation he was beyond ready to move to the next level of video games. After all, he was 10 now, not just a kid. He’d been less-than-subtle with the hints dropped to his parents.
When he’d scanned the offerings under the tree he spotted what he thought was a box just the right size for the video game. He wasn’t allowed to open that one until last.
Finally after opening packages of socks, underwear, some books, new pants, and a video game for his old game system, and watching his younger brother and sister open all of their presents, Franklin’s dad (with an excited gleam in his eye) pointed to that last package. With unbridled fervor, Franklin tore into the package. He could almost feel that new game controller in his hand.
But, with the wrapping paper of that package finally strewn around him, he realized that he was not getting the top item on his list for Christmas that year. Instead of the new video game system, he held in his hands a box containing binoculars —not really what he wanted, and certainly not what he expected.
As he sat there he recalled how he had asked about getting some binoculars numerous times, but not for his biggest Christmas present. He loved going outdoors, especially with his grandpa, and looking for signs of wildlife in the fields, creeks and woods around their home. He already knew his songbirds fairly well and he could ID an Eastern bluebird in the pasture back when he was seven. So it is not that he didn’t really want the binoculars, it was just that he had been expecting something very different. So there Franklin sat, not exactly upset, but not really too excited either.
His father chimed in: “I know you’ve been wanting these. They are really nice. They will last your whole life if you take care of them. Just think of all the things you’ll see!”
Both Franklin and his father were disappointed when the 10-year-old pushed the box containing the binoculars behind the Christmas tree and went to get some breakfast.
A couple days later, Franklin went over to visit a friend who had gotten that new video game system. Wow! It was fun. The graphics were better than he’d envisioned and the new controllers were nothing short of amazing. Mid-afternoon, Franklin heard the diesel rumble of his grandpa’s truck outside. He reluctantly put down the controller and thanked his friend. He knew not to keep grandpa waiting.
When Franklin climbed into the truck he saw his grandpa had brought his new Christmas waterproof work boots, a pair or warm gloves and a stocking cap. In the cup holder was a mug of steaming hot cocoa. His grandpa’s weathered hand left the steering wheel and patted the pair of new binoculars on the seat.
“You’re probably going to want these,” he said with a smile.
The first really good snow had fallen the previous day and the temperatures were in the mid-20s with a clear, sunny sky overhead. The first stop was the eagle’s nest on the farm. Franklin had seen it (and the bald eagles) many times, but he really enjoyed seeing the nest in a new way for the first time. He even got an up close look as the majestic male returned to the nest. From there Franklin and his grandpa hiked around the woods and the shrubby fringes of the farm, studying the squawking blue jays and stately cardinals on the way. Their feet crunched in the snow and icicles dripped from tree branches. Otherwise, the only sounds were from the wild Ohio around them. It was nothing short of Christmas magic. Franklin had forgotten how much he loved to do this with his grandpa.
Franklin was starting to get tired, cold and hungry as dusk began to settle in. They were crouched down peering into what looked to be a giant groundhog hole at the edge of the woods way back behind the barn.
“Probably time to head back,” his grandpa croaked.
At the sound of his words, there was a scramble in the woods right beside them and a stunning red fox scurried to the wooded fringe. It was by far the closest Franklin had ever been to a fox. Franklin raised the binoculars to his eyes and found the eyes of the fox staring right into his own — haunting, amber, wild eyes.
The eagle had been amazing, the cardinals had been beautiful, but those eyes through the new perspective of the powerful lenses stirred something in Franklin’s soul that he’d never known before. It changed him. Through his unexpected Christmas gift, Franklin saw the animal’s vertical pupils widen just a bit in the growing darkness before the fox broke their connection and walked, unconcerned, into the shadows of the woods.
Isaiah 53: 2-6
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.