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  1. 1. 1 Izzy's Choice: A Christmas Allegory By John R. Wible, December 25, 2003 John's 23rd Annual Christmas Poem 2 ''It's not about you," intoned 3 Minnetonka’s eight-grade school teacher, 4 Henrietta 5 Mentor, "it's really not.” Something rang true in that statement for the beautiful Izzy, child of privilege. But, on the other hand . . . did it really? Being beautiful was easy for Izzy, I guess because she was. It also helped that her father, the famous and learned Judge 6 Abrams, had lots of money and that her mother, 7 Rachael was drop dead gorgeous. Funny how fame, money and beauty seem to go together. Expectedly, Izzy was popular in school; a class favorite and well, you get the picture. Izzy had lots of friends, but two of them were special, 8 Lucern and 9 Josh. Lucero was also from a wealthy family . . . really wealthy and cosmopolitan. He was the great-looking guy with all the stuff who had all his stuff together. Moreover, Lucern was a philosopher, “To thine own self be true,"10 he was fond of saying quoting Polonius' famous advice to Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Izzy always wondered what he meant by that. 11 Lucern evoked a fascination in Izzy that was rivaled by little else. 12 Josh was different. He had flaming red hair and freckles about which he took no small amount of heat from his classmates. His family ... well, it wasn't in the class with Lucern's. But - there was something "intriguing" about Josh.13 He was real -''what you see is what you get" real. And Izzy was attracted to that, too. 14 Lucern and Josh were different and no more so in their goals and plans for life. Lucern determined to follow in his father's footsteps in the international trading business. No one ever really knew exactly what he traded, but he made a lot of money at it - very exciting, fast moving and constant travel. Josh, on the other hand wanted to be a 15 preacher-boy, with all that goes with the profession about which he seemed to have no illusions. In fact, Josh never seemed to have any illusions. He was always a straight arrow, something else that Izzy really liked about him. Josh and Lucern for all their differences had one thing in common - they both loved Izzy. 1 Izzy is a version of Isaac, the Biblical character. 2 From Max Lucado’s book, It’s Not about me. 3 Lake Minnetonka Campground where studied both Bill Bright and Billy Graham. 4 Henrietta is Henrietta Mears, the youth director who taught both Bill Bright and Billy Graham 5 Mentor – In Greek mythology Mentor was the friend of Odysseus and teacher of Telemachus. The word is a synonym for “teacher.” 6 A form of Abraham. 7 Rachael – Isaac’s wife. 8 A picture of Lucifer. 9 A picture of Joshua, another name for Jesus. 10 A statement of “it’s all about pleasing myself, the world’s post-modern philosophy contrasted with Henrietta’s philosophy of, “it’s not about me. 11 Evil always holds a fascination for hose not on their guard. 12 While Lucern (Lucifer) is beautiful, an “angel of light,” Josh (Jesus) is nothing special to look at. 13 There is, however, something about Jesus that draws men and women to Him, perhaps his honesty, 14 Lucifer and Jesus have polar extreme goals for life. 15 Jesus was an itinerant preacher-boy. 1 | P a g e
  2. 2. Teen years flew by for Izzy and as time passed, she grew more and more beautiful. And beauty became more and more important to her because beauty brings acceptance and power,16 power over others and what is more important, power over your own destiny. If you are beautiful, you can feel good about yourself. "Isn't that what it's about any way," Izzy often thought, though Henrietta's Mentor's words sometimes passed through her head, "it's not about you?" On Izzy's 17 Twenty First birthday, something happened that would alter the course of Izzy's life (or would it?) Judge Abrams and Rachael gave a wonderful Christmas/Birthday party in Izzy's honor. And a great party it was. Everyone who was anyone was there and everyone who wasn't - wasn't. They exquisitely decorated the great hall of their mansion. Christmas was everywhere; from the seventeen-foot Carolina Spruce Tree to the 18 forty-odd arrangements of holly and ivy; to the mistletoe hanging from the huge chandelier. Over the mantle place was a big banner, ''Happy Twenty First Birthday, Izzy." ''Maybe it is about me," she thought as Henrietta shook her head. Among the well-heeled guests were, of course Lucern who seemed to blend right in and Josh who seemed to not. Lucern was as handsome and rakish as ever. Tonight, he wore an unusually toothy smile in his face. He had a plan and Izzy was it. Tonight, he would make his move and 19 take her for his very own. He dreamed of possessing that great beauty and making it his. He had everything else, why not. His plan was to "make her an offer she couldn't refuse."20 Josh also had a plan21 and it too, involved Izzy. After everyone had eaten all the 22 lane cake and ambrosia with real whipped cream and cherries on top they could, and all the top round roast beef in a 23 biscuit with mustard they wanted and had "small-talked" about all things unimportant, came the time for Izzy to open her presents. Izzy enjoyed being the center of attention, who wouldn't, and opening all the elegant gifts was the cherries on her ambrosia. She proceeded to open her presents - lots of nice things from the best stores. And then there were two presents left: one from Lucern and one from Josh. Two small boxes - very small boxes, looking strangely alike except for the paper and ribbon. Lucern's was the highest quality, gilded paper with satin ribbon. Josh's wasn’t. It was what one would expect from Josh, not flashy. Izzy opened Lucern's first. She tore off the richly decorated paper and fine satin ribbon to reveal a ring box. She popped up the lid and then gasped. She gazed upon a two-carat solitaire which Lucern's father had imported directly from the DeBeers' South African diamond mine at 24 Finsch. "Ooooh!" she cooed, "It's, it's . . . breath taking." And it was that. .. breathtaking. ''Izzy, I offer this to you if you will marry me," Lucern oozed. ''I can promise you that this ring has... 16 “Beauty is power,’ wrote the English playwrite and novelist, Charles Reade. 17 Twenty-one is the magic age of becoming an adult and making one’s own choices. 18 Forty is the Hebrew number for “many.” 19 Lucifer (Satan) eventually makes a move to “devour us like a roaring lion.” 1 Peter 5:8. 20 From “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. 21 God has a plan for each of us – for our good. 22 The mainstay of my grandmother’s Christmas dinner was her famous lane cake and ambrosia (orange pieces with coconut topped with real whipped crème and a red cherry on top. 23 Served at all country-club socials. 2 | P a g e
  3. 3. 25 friends. Come with me," he sought in his elegant continental manner which made even beautiful Izzy's head swim, much too elegant for a twenty-one year old young man. As she touched the ring to take it out of the box, her life-to-be seemed to flicker before her eyes in a succession of scenes accompanied by a John Williams score. Instantly, she was standing at the altar of her church wearing a taffeta wedding dress with a train as long as a princess'. In what was literally another flash, she saw three beautiful girls with long eye lashes and a huge home in the hills with a curvy winding driveway and a galaxy of lights26 in the windows – a dream come true. And then into view came a stage and a wildly appreciative audience applauding her beauty and talent as the stage manager came out to hand her a dozen long-stemmed roses. She found herself bowing gracefully and thought, "everything I ever wanted . . . and more." But where was Lucern tonight - Caracas? Istanbul? What very uncommon people was he charming tonight? "Come with me. Izzy," said Lucern, "and you'll have it all, 27 I promise." Surely an offer she couldn't refuse. "To thine own self be true," nodded Lucern. "Is this what it's all about," thought Izzy, ''having everything bright and beautiful? Is this ALL there is?" But the words of Henrietta Mentor echoed in her head, "it's not about you." Izzy's fantasy was brought back to reality by Josh's ''Izzy, Izzy, there's another present. It's from me. Please open it." Coming out of her fog, Izzy saw the last little present under the tree, the plainly wrapped one and she opened it also with anxious anticipation. It, too, was a ring, an engagement ring but predictably it had none of the grandeur of Lucern's ring. It was . . . nice, serviceable and earnest. Perhaps the setting clasped the littlest diamond she had ever seen, but a diamond nevertheless.28 ''Does this mean what I think this means" she asked Josh as the room grew instantly silent and everyone bent inward as though they were listening to E.F. Hutton. After what seemed an unusually long time Josh broke the silence, "Yes, it does Izzy, it means that I love you and I, too am asking you to marry me. Izzy, you know I can't promise you what Lucern can promise, in fact I can't promise you anything except the life of a preacher's wife and all that goes with it . . . and all my love for as long as you live." As Izzy touched this plain ring, once again she was transported through time. There was the same church (different dress, though.) And a two-bedroom, one bath parsonage that needed a lot of work just to be livable. Then she saw the birthing suite at County General and a child born . . but something was wrong . .. little 29 John Mark was a Down's Syndrome child. "This life is going to be hard,"30 she thought, "a life of work and taking care of somebody else." 24 DeBeers' Finsch mine, established in 1961, is situated 165km west of Kimberley in the Northern Cape province of South Africa and is the centerpiece of the diamond industry. 25 “It’s got friends,” a quote from “City Slickers,” 1991, referring to bars of gold in the mine. 26 Picture a Thomas Kincaid painting. 27 This is what Satan promised Jesus in the Temptation of Christ. See Matthew 4:1-11, New International Version; Mark 1:12-13, NIV and Luke 4:1-13, NIV. 28 Jesus promises to give His bride, the Church, a “White Stone” in The Revelation. 29 Inspired by John Mark Stallings, late son of Coach Gene Stallings, a story of inspiration to the Alabama family. 30 “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life and few thee are that find it.” Mathew 7:14. 3 | P a g e
  4. 4. And she saw her once great beauty ebbing away; worn by the years and drained by John Mark and the care he needed until in his late 20s he went to be with Jesus. No house in the hills, no long eye-lashed girls, no stage, no roses. Instead, she saw a tiny day-care center just for Down's Syndrome children, 31 "John Mark's House" read the sign in the front yard. And then it got bigger and bigger and it acquired ''friends.'' Friends in other cities and "friends" in other countries, important friends. And she saw hundreds of "John Marks" passing through the doors and then fading away. And through it all, she saw Josh standing by her side with that ever-present grin until his image, too faded away, having given himself away until there was literally no more to give32 and then joining John Mark with Jesus. And she saw herself an old woman, no longer beautiful in the same way33 as when she was 21 but beautiful nevertheless. She felt her face beautiful as though it had been etched by the knife blades of life and buffed by the giving of herself until, like Josh there was no more to give ... and then giving some more. And she could hear the words of Henrietta Mentor, "it's not about you." And she realized that it really wasn't. She wondered in this second dream state if life really consisted of not what you keep, but of what you give away; if you find yourself by losing yourself? Was Henrietta Mentor really right? ''Izzy, Izzy," her mother interrupted her thoughts, ''Izzy you've got a choice to make this Christmas Eve, what and who is it going to be?" The room remained silent. This required a response, silent she could not be. The air was pregnant with anticipation for the answer. What would her answer be? Who and what would she choose? *** Who and what indeed? Who and what do you think Izzy chose? Think you know? Not so fast, biscuit breath, really think about it. The more important question is who and what would you choose for yourself? What HAVE you chosen? Is it all, as Shakespeare says about being true to "thine own self?" Can you really "have it all?" Does it really matter? Christmas is about parties in Great Halls with seventeen-foot trees and wonderful food and lovely family and gifts, that's true. But, it's also about choice - so is life. There are always two rings under the Christmas Tree of Life, which will you choose and which will you wear? Now, go and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas! John R. Wible 31 The Stallings Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 32 As did Jesus. 33 “There is beauty in age that youth knows not.” Mistral’s Kiss by Laurell K. Hamilton, especially in a life well lived. 4 | P a g e