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A Christmas Eve Tale to Remember

December 6, 2008

Each Christmas I think about Brian Cardiff.

He was my best friend growing up as a boy in Columbus, Ohio. Everyone loved Brian. He was the leader of our 6th grade class at Como Elementary, and he was adored by students and teachers. He was smart, athletic, kind, and grounded. We all knew great things lay ahead for Brian.

The Cardiff family had a wonderful Christmas tradition, and it went something like this. Each year Brian’s younger brother would ask the family if he could go outside to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus and his nine flying reindeer on Christmas Eve.

Brian would accompany his little brother out into the darkened night to gaze up at the sky looking for Santa Claus and his sleigh making the rounds in the snow-covered neighborhood.

They never reported seeing Santa but each time the brothers would return, the Cardiff parents would inform them that Santa had already been to their house, delivered the family presents, and moved on to the next stop. The family would then open Santa’s presents on Christmas Eve. This was the Cardiff tradition, and it was repeated year-after-year.

The impact of simple Christmas traditions can follow us for generations - not only as we live them but as we talk about them with others. It might be something said in a simple conversation, a family story, or the cutting down of a Christmas tree. But we often remember them for a lifetime and they affect who we later become in life.

With Christmas around the corner it is the time to remember the things we are grateful for – even if it’s as simple as a person who impacted our lives or possibly changed our outlook on life. Even more so today - in these uncertain economic times - it is well to remember those things and to remember that better times are ahead.

Christmas is also a time to remember that there is much that can be said in keeping alive a youthful spirit and to the simpler and unpretentious lifestyle we all enjoyed at one time in our lives.

I’m reminded of the answer former President Richard Nixon once gave an interviewer when he was asked to name the one book he would take with him if he were a castaway on a desert island. Without hesitation he responded, "I’d ask for the Bible" - saying that it was great literature and had everything - love, hate, joy, tragedy, war, and peace – all the dynamics of life known to man.

Nixon was right - and one of the most intriguing passages of the Bible is Matthew 18:2-4 where Christ characterizes an individual’s conversion to Christianity as being childlike - in other words the strongest faith comes from a humble and sincere heart - much like that of a child .

So it is that many valuable things are learned when we are young and we should keep them close and remember them always.

It was over 40 years ago that Brian Cardiff narrated his Christmas story to me. He later attended the United States Naval Academy and was killed during a flight training mission over the Mediterranean Sea in 1975.

But his boyhood Christmas Eve tale is still being told.