Lothar was mayor of a little German town named Saarbruken for 50 years. He exhausted himself trying to make the town better, but stubborn people and rotten political systems kept him from really changing anything. He finally retired in despair and spent his time making dolls.
His wife, Gertrude, spent her days helping the poor children on the streets of Saarbruken.
Six months after Lothar retired Gertrude was diagnosed with a terminal disease. She had contracted it from the unsanitary children on the street.
“My dear, will you be able to help the children any more?” Lothar asked one Sunday afternoon as Gertrude walked by his old reading chair.
Gertrude sighed, “I will try to be there for them when i can but i don’t think I will be able to for much longer.”
“Why did you do it for so many years, my dear? . . . Just a question.”
“Because I wanted to help make your city better.”
“You did it for me?” Lothar reached for her hand.
She tenderly settled herself down on his lap, “You inspired me with your dreams of the city. I did what I could.”
Lothar rested his head on her shoulder. He breathed in her perfume and wrapped his arms around her.
That night Lothar started a new project. He measured the mantle in their living room and calculated that it would hold 5 dolls sitting side by side. So he thought of 5 of Gertrude’s most dearly loved children from the street. He would make replica dolls for her so that she could remember the children she didn’t get to see any more. So that night, after Gertrude was fast asleep, he crept down to his shop and started to build. He lathed the wooden arms and carved the delicate faces. He cut and sewed the tiny clothing.
Lothar worked on the dolls three hours every night for the following three months. Gertrude got weaker and he knew that her time was short. December came and he decided that he would give them to her for Christmas. He felt that this was going to be her last Christmas.
Supplies were running short. The town was in the Saarlanda region which was vying for independence at the time but in the negotiations trade roots had been cut off. But before the shops had run out, Lothar had procured everything in just the right amounts so that he could finish the dolls.
Three nights before Christmas Lothar snuck out of bed and went down to his shop to work. He had to finish painting the faces and attaching the flaxen hair. But to his dismay he found that mice had found the hair and chewed it up or taken it away for their nests. The red paint had been completely spilled out and little footprints tracked all over his workspace. He collapsed in his chair and cried in frustration. He had not the connections to get these supplies before Christmas. All that he could do was paint the eyes and the noses and the little rosy cheeks. The lips and the hair he would not be able to finish.
He stomped up the stairs, drew back the covers with white knuckles, and slipped in quietly beside his wife. Throughout the next day Gertrude noticed he was terse and he shut cabinet doors harder than usual. That night he didn’t get up in the middle of the night like she had noticed he had for the last three months. Out of curiosity she got up and wandered down to his workshop. She saw the unfinished dolls, the emptied red paint and the scattered pieces of hair. She went and touched each one in the low light and spoke each name that she recognized. She sat down in her husband’s chair, put her face in her hands and cried.
The morning before Christmas Lothar found a note from Gertrude on the kitchen table that said she had an early hair appointment and would be back to make him breakfast. That day he went out and found a set of beautiful glass vases to fill the spot on the mantle. He wrapped and hid them and waited for Gertrude to come home.
“I like your hair cut, darling. Why did you cut it?”
“I cut it for you.” She stopped and wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. “Merry Christmas eve, my dear.”
“Thank you. You are so beautiful to me. Oh! what happened to your finger?” He held her bandaged finger. “I poked it with a needle.” There was a silence. Then she said, “You know, maybe we shouldn’t give gifts this Christmas. I already know you love me.”
“Ok, that sounds good. Don’t get me anything.” He would give her the vases anyways.
On Christmas morning Lothar brought out the three wrapped vases. Gertrude was too weak this morning and asked him to unwrap them for her. She saw them and leaned up enough to kiss him. She said his present was under the tree and he opened a small hand saw. He grabbed her hand and said, “I have to tell you something.” She reached over with her other hand and put it on his. He continued, “I wanted to build you something but I couldn’t finish it. It’s just I don’t know how many more years we’ll have together and I wanted to give you something very special.”
She squeezed his hand weakly. “I have something else for you. It’s down in your shop.”
He looked at her in wary confusion.
“Can you carry me down there?”
He looked at her frail frame. “I will definitely try.” he picked her up and they went down to the workshop, which he had not seen since the mice had ruined the dolls. He set her down in his chair and pulled the light bulb’s chain. He saw the 5 beautiful dolls sitting in a perfect row, complete and pristine with hair and lips. Some were boys and some were little girls but they all had the same hair color. It was Gertrude’s hair. He looked at her in amazement. “How- ?”
She held her bandaged finger up by her face and gave him an embarrassed smile.
“You pricked your finger for the lips? and Your hair!” He grabbed her hand and cherished her bandaged finger. He touched her smiling face.
“Now I’ll always be with you for Christmas.”
They cried and laughed in each others’ arms on Christmas day.
Many Christmases before, there was a gift similar to broken dolls. God had made them as the most beautiful gift he had ever given to his dear son. But rats came in and ruined them before they were ever completed. God saw the hopeless mess, he despaired and gave up on them. But when Jesus saw the disappointment on his father’s face he decided he would come down and fix them for Him. He would dress them in his own body and blood and make them once again a worthy present to please his dismayed father. They would not only be beautiful creations but they would be little pieces of himself he could give to his father, and they would forever be with Him.