When I was a kid, Santa Claus brought me an airplane. It was one of those plastic airplanes with a real gasoline-powered motor. It wasn’t exactly remote control, it was tethered to a “controller” with about 50 feet of mono-filament fishing line. The line was attached to the airplane and the controller looked like a big letter D. The control lines attached to the controller along the straight edge of the letter D and you held the rounded side in your hand. I can remember opening the box and being so excited. The cover of the box showed a ferocious airplane in flight, decorated up in WW2 markings, arcing through the sky above a pastoral farmhouse. The boy controlling the airplane was miniscule but that airplane was enormous. It was as if the young man was protecting his house from German fighters with this airplane. When I ripped the paper off that box, I too envisioned protecting my neighborhood from enemy fighters. They were out there, I just had to go out there and find them.
I spent three days building that airplane. I put it together, sanded the rough edges, painted it in desert camouflage colors, applied the US markings, tested the motor, and attached the filament line.
Watch out Luftwaffe, Captain Muncy is about to take to the skies!
In order to fly this airplane you needed a 100 foot circle with a relatively smooth perimeter to land and take off from. The “pilot” stood in the middle of the circle, the “co-pilot” stretched the line out until it was taut then started the engine. When the airplane took off, the pilot was supposed to stand in the middle and rotate as the airplane flew in a big circle around him. The hand controller was supposed to enable the pilot to pitch the airplane up and down, so long as you kept it between the trees.
My friend started the engine and it screeched to life.
“Scramble! Scramble! Scramble! Enemy fighters approaching! Pilots man your planes!”
The airplane leapt off the ground and screamed into the air while I spun a quick circle. Yes! It was air-born and I was ecstatic. And then the tension came off the line.
One minute I was Chuck Yeager looking for bandits, the next minute I was Wrong-Way Feldman. The airplane, now relieved of its pilot, flew away in a lurch while the lines of mono-filament floated to the ground. The craft headed over a small hill then nose-dived into a rocky runway. I remember a screeching piston engine gradually getting quieter, then a faint whisper, then a crunching sound, then silence.
That’s a common Christmas story. A dreamed of present that turns out to be somewhat of a disappointment. I say somewhat because for a brief moment in time, I was a fighter pilot.
How many of us have stories like mine? Something we’ve dreamed of, longed to have, begged to receive, turns out to be fleeting and short-lived.
After we open our presents and my own kids unwrap their own fighter planes, we’ll remind ourselves that Christmas’ true gift comes in the form of a baby, born into poverty, raised by a tradesman. He traveled by foot across unforgiving terrain ruled by Roman soldiers. He preached a gospel of love, forgiveness, and salvation. And he reminded his people that his gift is free, it’s ours and it can be easily shared. We don’t have to beg for this gift and we don’t have to wait in line for it. And even if we break free of our strings and stray, even if we crash into the rocks and it feels like we’ve destroyed ourselves, the salvation of Jesus Christ is there for us. Waiting. His salvation will be there today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. No strings attached.
May the peace of God and the joy of Christmas be in your hearts today…and tomorrow
Merry Christmas my friends.