The PJ Tatler

Scott Ott's Real Christmas Story: Peeking at Treasure Through the Knothole

Script for Scott Ott video above…

I’m Scott Ott, and here’s a thought.

The magic of Christmas is how it’s all so effortless. You wake up in the morning and the tree is surrounded by colorful boxes and bags and all you have to do is open the gift.

Well, it probably hasn’t been like that for you for a few decades.

But remember?

We lived in a country house that was built in the 1700’s. The wooden floorboards upstairs were thin and a bit creaky. Near one of two bedrooms shared by four boys was a small knothole in the floor. I don’t recall if we punched the knot out, but it was gone, leaving a dime-sized hole in the floor through which one might peer into the living room below.

But you had to practically get down on your belly and press your cheek against the pine to see through the knothole. And more than one of us boys did that, more than once, especially on Christmas morning.

We four boys were brought up by our grandparents, Jim and Jessica McMaster, who rose before dawn every day–Pop to drive to Philadelphia to making steel railcars and Nan to do more difficult work, managing a household full of four boys.

But despite their clockwork pre-dawn rising habit, on Christmas morning, they pulled the covers up tight to their chins and they slept in. We pleaded and whined for them to arise, and take us to the gifts, because we couldn’t go without them. That’s the rule. But we practically had to roll them out of bed, such was the extent of their yuletide lassitude. They seemed oblivious to the fact that just below these pine boards lay unimaginable treasure for the taking. It was all so effortless. How could they be tired at a time such as this?

Making things look effortless is exhausting isn’t it? They sacrificed time, and money, and sweat, and sleep, and busted knuckles to make Christmas effortless for us.

I have a Jewish friend who jokes about how easy it is to become a Christian–just believe in Jesus. Whereas, to become a Jew, he says, you need to strive to comply with a bunch of rules, and to get circumcised. The latter requirement, he says, really cuts down on the adult male recruiting pool.

But he’s right–Christianity is effortless. All you have to do is be perfect. That’s what Jesus said,”Be perfect, as your Heavenly father is perfect.”

Nanny used to make us take our dirty boots off in the basement. Depending on what we had done outside, she might make us strip down in the basement so the filthy clothes could go right into the washing machine, and we, right into the shower. Pop later told us that early in their marriage, Nan would ask him, “Jim, why do boys have to be so dirty?” She also never understood why football pants were white, nor why they always came home green–on the backside.

Jessica MacMenamin came from a family of girls, and had lived as a single woman in a pristine city apartment, with nice things, well into her middle-age. She was Mary Tyler Moore.

As wonderful as she was, Nanny was merely human — and yet she didn’t want all of that dirt in her house. Why would I expect to parade into God’s house with my dirty boots, and my stained garments, and my dirty mind, stained attitude, and grungy behavior? I can pretend there is no God, but it would be foolish to pretend that a holy and just God doesn’t care about sin.

Oddly enough, just like Nan, God loves his kids–and he’s willing and able to strip the filth, and wash them clean before bringing them up from the basement.

And while it may seem effortless to us — like a kid getting a present on Christmas morning — He sacrificed all that was dear to make it happen.

That’s the story of Christmas: God stakes everything on a helpless infant, sending his only begotten son into the world as a lamb among wolves, to be torn and slaughtered.

You know, I can’t possibly appreciate what it was like for Nan to leave that cozy, immaculate apartment, to move into a rundown monstrosity from another century, overrun by four noisy, dirty, obnoxious boys, with no way to escape. She never had a driver’s license.

What’s worse, she had to watch a her elegant green velvet couch get worn slick from wrestling boys. Her magnificent Zenith wood cabinet TV roughed up and scuffed, its knob broken, then ripped off by boys who worked it like a machine gun. All of her best was treated like trash by people who saw no value beyond their own impetuous impulses.

Jesus, was separated from his Father, and sent from Heaven to walk among those who wallow in the world.

The lashing that scarred him beyond recognition before they nailed him — before we…before I nailed him to the cross — that whipping and crucifixion was a visceral act that gave outward expression to what we do every day to the image of God stamped upon us at creation.

At Christmas we tell stories, in poem and in song, about a fantastic world of wonder, selfless generosity, peace and joy — all meant to conjure “the better angels of our nature,” as Lincoln put it.

Jesus told stories about the way Life really was, the way life should be, and the way life will be for those who will accept the gift of God — the God who demands perfection, and then gives it to us freely. He gives us Jesus.

He sent His only son, to be perfect for you, so that He could call you his own child, and so you would inherit your Father’s treasure.

Are you still on your belly, with your face pressed to the floor, eagerly peeking through the knothole? The treasure is yours for the asking. But you can’t get it without Jesus. That’s the rule.

I’m Scott Ott, and there’s a thought.