Everything has a crack in it
Christmas Eve Luke 2:33-35
The sermon for
tonight is in the form of a story.
This story comes from the book, BRIGHT VALLEY OF LOVE, by
Edna Hong. It is from
the chapter, “Everything has a crack in it,” and I have modified
this written story into an oral story.
That is, I will tell the story and not read it.
The story could be entitled, “Gunther’s First
Christmas,” because it is a true story about a young boy, Gunther,
who was a physically handicapped child in Germany.
Gunther was born in
Germany in the year 1914. Gunther
was a severely deformed little boy.
He had a severe case of rickets when he was a little child
that resulted in all his bones being curved.
His father was off fighting the war, and his mother had
deserted him, and so his grandma ended up taking care of little
thanks grandmother was totally ashamed.
She was ashamed of this little boy, and as far as she was
concerned, he was nothing but human junk.
In fact, that’s what she used to call him, “Come here you
little piece of human junk.”
When grandma looked at Gunther, all she noticed were his
deformed, curved bones. Her
eyes would focus on his foot
bones and ankle bones, and leg bones, and finger bones, and wrist
bones, and arm bones, and jaw bones.
All she saw was bones, deformed, curved bones, and there was
no doubt that Gunther was a piece of human junk.
talk. The only thing
that Gunther could say was, “ahwanna, ahwanna, ahwannah,” as he
rolled his head from side to side.
Gunther was kept in
the back room for years, so nobody could see him back there.
Of course, Gunther wasn’t really sad about this situation,
being locked up in the dark, back bedroom.
I mean, if you had never seen a cherry tree, you would never
miss seeing a cherry tree. If
you had never tasted rich, succulent cherries, you would never miss
tasting those sweet delicious delights in your mouth. Gunther had
never seen all the wonders of the world, nor tasted them, so he
wasn’t really sad. He
never knew what he was missing.
The only thing of
color in Gunther’s life was that once a week, a red checkered
table cloth would be flying in the breeze from a house next door.
Gunther didn’t realize what it was, but once a week, that flash of
beautiful red and white cloth would blow in the breeze against the
clear, blue sky, and Gunther would see it and smile.
Well, one day, some
ruffian boys from the neighborhood stole into grandma’s house
while she was away shopping, and these ruffian boys found this
little human animal, this pile of junk, near its bed. The boys had never seen anything like it in their lives, and
so they took their sticks and started to jab at what looked like a
bent up animal. When
grandma came home, she was absolutely outraged; not so much at the
little boys, but enraged that they found the piece of human junk
that she was hiding for all these years. Grandma
was so mad that her secret had been found out, that she
decided to take action. She
decided to send her piece of human junk to Bethel, a home for
physically deformed children in northern Germany. Bethel was a home where all the other deformed children were
sent. It was like a
junkyard, so grandma understood, where they collected junk people.
But just before she
was going to leave with Gunther and go to Bethel, Gunther sensed
there was something wrong. For seven years he had been locked up in the safety of that
back bedroom. For seven
years, he had only known grandma, and his eyes panicked.
He added one word to his vocabulary:
‘Ah don wanna, ah don wanna, ah don wanna.” And he was taken away.
Gunther was taken
away to Bethel, which means house of God, and there he stayed in a
house by the name of Patmos. He was brought into this house, into
his new world, and he couldn’t believe his eyes.
He looked, and on every table, there was a bright,
red, checkered cloth, and his heart fluttered for joy at
the beauty he saw.
Life started to
grow by leaps and bounds, and slowly and miraculously, Gunther began
to learn to talk. People
started to learn that Gunther was not mentally handicapped, but
physically. And no one
there at Patmos treated him like a pile of junk, for in the eyes of
God he was not junk, but a child of his loving Father.
In the bed next to
Gunther was a little boy by the name of Kirk. Kirk had epilepsy, and
he was slowly deteriorating and getting ready to die.
His father had been killed in the war, and his mother had
died of pneumonia, and little Kirk had no family left to take care
of him. Kirk was very
sad, because unlike Gunther, he had known the affections of
childhood. And so late
at night, Kirk would tell young Gunther what a mommy and a daddy
were like, warm and tender and kind.
The more Gunther listened, the more that Kirk’s mother and
father became Gunther’s imaginary mommy and daddy.
One day in
November, Kirk said to Gunther:
“By Christmas, I am going to be with mommy and daddy in the
Christmas room in heaven,” and little Gunther asked, “What is
Christmas?” And Kirk
said: “You don’t
know what Christmas is???” And
Gunther again asked, “What is Christmas?”
Kirk knowingly replied:
“Christmas is so good; it is so wonderful. It is the best
time of the year, and I am going home to be with my mommy and daddy
by Christmas time.” “No,
no, no, Kirk. I don’t
want you to go.” Kirk
whispered, “I want to go home to be with my mom and dad.” And so
Gunther and Kirk softly talked the night away in the darkness…
Well, time went by
and soon it was Advent, and then soon it was the fourth Sunday of
Advent, and on the fourth Sunday of Advent, all the children
gathered around the table for Advent devotions.
Pastor Fritz was about to have Kirk light the large Advent
candle because Pastor Fritz knew that this was Kirk’s last
Christmas with them and he was trying to make the lighting of the
candle special for Kirk. And
so Kirk took the little candle in his hand and was ready to light
the tall Advent candle, but Kirk went into an epileptic fit.
His hand jerked, the large candle flew, hit the floor and
cracked. Kirk went into
a spasmodic fit. Sister
Frederick gently picked up Kirk and took him out of the room and
calmed him down.
candle was placed back in its place on the table, and all the
children began singing a hymn, and everyone was singing ever so
loudly when Gunther shouted at the top of his lungs:
‘EVERYTHING HAS A CRACK IN IT!!!” … Everyone stopped
singing and there was silence, a silence so great you could hear it.
…And Gunther broke the silence when he whispered softly to
Pastor Fritz: “Everything
has a crack in it. What
is so special about Christmas anyhow?”
Pastor Fritz looked
at the children and asked, “Children, Gunther wants to know what
is so special about Christmas?
Can you tell him?” And all these children, the mentally and physically
handicapped, began using their minds and thinking.
Monica sang out brightly, “loorya suzanna. Loorya suzanna. Loorya
suzanna” which means “Gloria hosanna, Gloria hosanna.”
And Manfred, whose mind only thought in numbers, said:
“12/25, 12/25, 12/25” which meant twelfth month,
twenty-fifth day. Pastor
Fritz said: “Thank you, Manfred.” And then Petra, whose body was thirty years old and whose
mind was five years young, shouted happily:
“Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus born.” Pastor Fritz said: “Thank
you, Petra. That
helps.” And then
little Leni, an eight year old little blind girl, suddenly beamed as
a light turned on in her brain and she said:
“Christmas is special because … because…everything has
a crack in it.” Pastor Fritz smiled and spoke, “Yes, that’s
right, Leni. Everything
has a crack in it. And
the crack is ever so much bigger than you and I can see.
God is the only one who can see how big that crack
really is. Gunther,
everything has a crack in it, big cracks, little cracks.
The reason that God sent Jesus was to show us that God loves
everything with a crack in it.
And Jesus helps us to patch up those cracks, so they
aren’t so big anymore. And then when you get to the Christmas room
in heaven, there won’t be any cracks any more.” Gunther nodded, as if his young mind understood.
Well, days passed,
and it was now Christmas Eve, and it was the time of the telling of
the Christmas story by Pastor Fritz. All the children gathered
around him. Pastor
Fritz could tell the Christmas story better than anyone else.
He said: “Tonight,
children, would you gather around me for the telling of the
Christmas story, and I would like Kirk to sit on my lap for this is
Kirk’s last Christmas, and I would like to have Gunther sit
on the other side of my lap for this is Gunther’s first
Christmas. So Kirk and
Gunther sat on Pastor Fritz’s lap, and he began telling the story
of the birth of Christ.
he told the story, he had paper mache figurines, with angels and
shepherds and sheep and wise men.
In the children’s minds, the paper mache angels became real
angels, the shepherds became real shepherds, the sheep became real
sheep. In their minds,
the scene was truly alive. And when he came to the climax of the
story, little Leni, the little blind girl, couldn’t contain
herself anymore and she blurted out, “Little Baby Jesus born.”
Monica sang at the top of her lungs, “loorya suzanna.
Loorya suzanna.” Manferd
muttered his numbers, “12/25, 12/25, 12/25.”
Together, they all praised God.
Their minds were very small but their hearts were very big
The story was
finished and how Gunther loved it.
Before Gunther knew
what was happening, there was another kind of jubilation.
Everyone was jumping and shouting, and
everyone knew what it was all about…except Gunther.
The children began to receive their presents.
A doll for Monica. A
teddy bear for Leni. A
toy truck for Manfred. They
were all excited, but it still didn’t dawn on Gunther that there
was a present for him. And when his name was actually read, it still didn’t
dawn on Gunther that there was a present for him.
And finally, when the present was placed in his hands, it finally
started to dawn on him that indeed there was a present with his name
on it. Gunther had never received a present before.
He opened it with big eyes and murmured to himself,
“My…my…my…a toy train.”
He fondled the engine, and then the coal car, and then the
caboose. It was
Pastor Fritz said:
“That’s what Christmas is all about Gunther. God gives a gift to you…with your name on it.
The Christ child was given for you.”
And Gunther was so pleased with his gifts.
In his excitement,
he had forgotten Kirk. He
cried out, “Kirk! Kirk!” and ran to their bedroom, and there was
Kirk, lying on a pillow in his bed.
Kirk was fondly caressing a beautiful carving of a mother and
child. Kirk fondled
this carving of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus as he said:
“She looks just like my mommy,” and both boys were
pleased with their Christmas presents.
The next day was
Christmas morning, and Gunther and all the children were busy
playing with their new toys. They were having such a good time. Just before noon, Sister Frederick came into the living room,
pulling a wagon. Kirk
was in that wagon, listlessly lying on his large pillow.
She said that Kirk wanted to come and say goodbye to everyone
and touch each child. Little
Willie wanted to play “Silent Night” on his new harmonica, but
Sister Frederick said, “no,” that Kirk wasn’t up to that.
So Kirk touched each of the children, Monica, Manfred, Leni.
And when Kirk came to young Gunther, their hands touch a
little longer. “Good
bye Gunther.” “Good
bye Kirk. Say hi to mommy and daddy when you see them.”
“I will.” And
Sister Frederick pulled the wagon out of the room.
An hour passed.
Pastor Fritz came back into the room and told everyone that
Kirk had died. Gunther
started to cry, to cry tears like had never cried before.
So Pastor Fritz picked up little Gunther to comfort him and
held the child closely to his chest.
Gunther struck his face snugly up against Pastor’s Fritz’
warm sweater and put his face right up against Pastor’s ear and whisper:
“Everything has a crack in it.”
Pastor Fritz replied: “Yes,
I know. That is why
Jesus was born…for you…and for Kirk…and for everyone else
And that is the
true story of Gunther’s first Christmas.
have a crack in it. The
big world in which we live; this world of ours has a crack of
imperfection right through its core. And your life and mine?
We too have this crack of flawed lives right through our
inner core. How well we
know this. And that is why Jesus came to earth…to heal our hearts,
to restore our lives, to patch the flaws and cracks found at the
very center of whom we are. …
This past week, I
telephoned Edna Hong in Northfield, Minnesota, to tell her that I
was telling her story of Gunther on Christmas Eve and how much I
loved her story. She
was appreciative. She
wanted me to tell you that Gunther died this past year (1999) at
Bethel, that he lived a rich and full life, and that he died a happy