If ever you have the chance to visit Athens, Alabama, please do. For seven wonderful years I was blessed to serve as Pastor of First Baptist Church in Athens. I love the place dearly.
No visit to Athens would be complete without viewing the courthouse. The courthouse was built at the turn of the last century and stately stands overseeing the whole of Limestone County. The courthouse has four grand second story porches with dozens of limestone stairs ascending to each. A copula adorns the top.
On the north west corner of the square sits U. G. White Hardware. For many years Mr. & Mrs. Hubert Aycock owned and operated the vintage store. If Mayberry had a hardware store, it had to be exactly like U. G. White. There, you could buy a #2 washtub, a length of chain, or a Christmas gift. The place just smelled of home.
Each Christmas eve I try to visit members who have lost loved ones during the previous year. I make a special effort to visit those who have lost children. One Christmas eve, as I made my evening rounds, I noticed the lights were still burning at U. G. White. I stopped to visit for a moment.
As soon as Mrs. Aycock made eye contact, I knew something was amiss. I asked if she was ok and she was not. She told me that a single mother had come into the store months earlier and put her child’s Christmas on lay-a-way. Over the months since she had come by regularly to make payments on the gifts. She had paid in full yet she had not picked up the gifts. She knew making each payment was a financial sacrifice for the young mother. With each payment, came a visit, and in each visit the two forged a relationship.
In tears, Mrs. Aycock said, “I just can’t bear the thought of that child not having Christmas because I closed before his mother got here.” Honestly, that thought never entered my mind.
That cold Christmas eve I left Mrs. Aycock with a prayer and an offer to assist in any way possible. She hugged me, thanked me, wished me a Merry Christmas, and stayed to keep the lights on and the doors open just a little longer.
This Christmas don’t miss the greatest gift of your life. The price has been paid. You need only receive it. The lights are still on and the door is still open, for now.
Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and the pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.
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