“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”Luke 19:10
At first glance, the man could be confused for a certain, folkloric saint known for delivering gifts to children during the Christmas season. But, he was no saint, and he did not like children.
On the street where I grew up, Mr. Buck was known as the “mean-old-man-at-the-end-of-the-street.” Usually clothed in a dingy, old red bath robe and black cowboy boots, he was infamous for charging to the roadside and screaming, “Stay outta my yard!” to anyone who dared to get near his property line. To the kids on Bayou Shores Drive, he was old, scary, and intimidating.
Then, one Christmas Day, while my little brother and I were rummaging through our Christmas morning loot, our dad announced, “Boys, get dressed. We’re going to deliver Christmas Dinner to Mr. Buck!”
Although it was only a few houses down, the walk to Mr. Buck’s house felt like miles. We knocked on the door and waited. No answer. Just as we were ready to give up, we heard the sound of several locks turning inside. The door cracked and then slowly swung open.
“What do you want?” He peeked from behind the door, still unshaven and unkept.
“M-M-M-Merry Christmas, Mr. Buck.” We stammered out our assigned lines. “We brought you some Christmas dinner.”
Mr. Buck slowly grabbed the plates we’d brought. “Thank you” was his only reply. Then he locked himself back inside.
Over the years, it became a family tradition to deliver Christmas dinner to Mr. Buck. As time passed, my dad developed a relationship with our neighbor and learned about the sadness and grief behind his gruff and angry exterior.
After losing his wife, Mr. Buck had allowed grief, bitterness, and resentment to consume his life. He began abusing alcohol to numb the pain, which eventually led to estrangement from his kids and grandchildren.
Thankfully, my father was a relentless evangelist who refused to allow this lost and hurting widower to remain alone and hopeless in his self-made hell. Although it took years, my dad eventually led Mr. Buck to Christ and helped him reconnect with his family.
Although my parents have long since moved away, we occasionally drive past the old house on Bayou Shore Drive. As we near the end of the street, past the dingy, grey-brick house where Mr. Buck once lived, we always reminisce about the old man in the red robe and black boots who came to know Christ because of a family tradition that God used to touch his heart.
It all began with Christmas dinner!