Sermon Illustrations for Jesus Season: The Christmas Puppy

With this December series I’m offering some Christmas stories I’ve found through the years that may be of help to you as you prep for Christmas preaching and teaching assignments.

Before this post’s story, a note about reading and story length.

When I was first being trained in the craft of preaching, I was warned not to actually read stories during sermons. Stories should be told, I was taught, not read. And I was told this rule was true especially as it concerned longer stories.

Frankly, I’ve disobeyed the rule many times. I think that it is appropriate occasionally to read a story, even if it’s a long story – such as the one in this post. The goal is to engage the audience and in so doing reinforce biblical truth. If the story makes a powerful Biblical point, I say read away!

There is one caveat however.

I believe as preachers and teachers we should learn to read like actors. When I read Scripture or stories, I try to do so not as a professor, but as a dramatist. In fact, I often practice reading the stories I use to try to bring it to life. I think about approaching any reading from the pulpit the way I would approach participating in a radio drama, which I’ve had experience with over the years.

This advice applies if you decide to read the story below, excerpted from the December 1994 Focus on the Family newsletter. It truly is a Christmas classic.

Stella watched from the haven of her armchair as gusts of snow whipped themselves into a frenzy. Dragging her gaze from the window, she forced herself up out of her chair and she set out determinedly for the kitchen.

Suddenly she grabbed the handle of the refrigerator and leaned her forehead against the cold, white surface of the door as a wave of self-pity threatened to drown her.  It was too much to bear, losing her beloved Dave this summer!  How was she to endure the pain, the daily nothingness?

Stella drew herself upright and shook her head in silent chastisement.  She reiterated her litany of thanks.  She had her health, her tiny home, an income that should suffice for the remainder of her days.  She had her books, her television programs, her needlework.  There were the pleasures of her garden in the spring and summer.  Not today though, she thought ruefully, as the blizzard hurled itself against the eastern wall of the kitchen.

“Ah, David, I miss you so!  I never minded storms when you were here.”

Since the doctor’s pronouncement of Dave’s terminal lung cancer, they had both faced the inevitable, striving to make the most of their remaining time together.  Dave’s financial affairs had always been in order.  But it was just the awful aloneness…the lack of purpose to her days.

And now, on the first Christmas without Dave, Stella would be on her own.

She hadn’t even heard the creak of the levered mail slot in the front door.  Poor mailman, out in this weather!  “Neither hail, nor sleet….”  With the inevitable wince of pain, she bent to retrieve the damp, white envelopes from the floor.  They were mostly Christmas cards.  Carefully, her arthritic fingers arranged them among the others clustered on the piano top.  In her entire house, they were the only seasonal decoration.

Suddenly engulfed by the loneliness of it all, Stella buried her lined face in her hands, lowering her elbows to the piano keys in a harsh, abrasive discord, and let the tears come.

The ring of the doorbell echoed the high-pitched, discordant piano notes and was so unexpected that Stella had to stifle a small scream of surprise.  Now who could possibly be calling on her on a day like today?

On her front porch, buffeted by waves of wind and snow, stood a strange young man, whose hatless head was barely visible above the large carton in his arms.  She peered beyond him to the driveway, but there was nothing about the small car to give clue to his identity.  Returning her gaze to him, she saw that his hands were bare and his eyebrows had lifted in an expression of hopeful appeal that was fast disappearing behind the frost forming on the glass.  Summoning courage, the elderly lady opened the door slightly and he stepped sideways to speak into the space.

“Mrs. Thornhope?”  He continued predictably, “I have a package for you.”

Curiosity drove warning thoughts from her mind.  She pushed the door far enough to enable the stranger to shoulder it and stepped back into the foyer to make room for him.  Smiling, he placed his burden carefully on the floor and stood to retrieve an envelope that protruded from his pocket.  As he handed it to her, a sound came form the box.  Stella actually jumped.  The man laughed in apology and bent to straighten up the cardboard flaps, holding them open in an invitation for her to peek inside.  She advanced cautiously, then turned her gaze downward.

It was a dog!  To be more exact, a golden Labrador retriever puppy.  As the gentleman lifted its squirming body up into his arms, he explained, “This is for you, ma’am.  He’s six weeks old and completely housebroken.”  The young pup wiggled in happiness at being released from captivity and thrust ecstatic, wet kisses in the direction of his benefactor’s chin.  “We were supposed to deliver him on Christmas Eve,” he continued with some difficulty as he strove to rescue his chin from the wet little tongue, “but the staff at the kennels start their holidays tomorrow.  Hope you don’t mind an early present.”


Shock had stolen her ability to think clearly.  Unable to form coherent sentences, she stammered, “But…I don’t…I mean…who…?”

“There’s a letter in there that explains everything, pretty much.  The dog was bought last July while his mother was still pregnant.  It was meant to be a Christmas gift.  If you’ll just wait a minute, there are some things in the car I’ll get for you.”

Before she could protest, he was gone, returning a moment later with a huge box of dog food, a leash, and a book entitled Caring for Your Labrador Retriever.

Unbelievably, the stranger was turning to go.  Desperation forced the words from her lips.  “But who…who bought it?”

Pausing in the open doorway, his words almost snatched away by the wind that tousled his hair, he replied, “Your husband, ma’am.”  And then he was gone.

It was all in the letter.  Forgetting the puppy entirely at the sight of the familiar handwriting, Stella had walked like a somnambulist to her chair by the window.  Unaware that the little dog had followed her, she forced tear-filled eyes to read her husband’s words.  He had written it three weeks before his death and had left it with the kennel owners to be delivered along with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her.

Remembering the little creature for the first time, she was surprised to find him quietly looking up at her, his small panting mouth resembling a comic smile.  Stella put the pages aside and reached down for the bundle of golden fur.  She thought that he would be heavier, but he was only the size and weight of a sofa pillow.

“Well, little guy, I guess it’s you and me.”  His pink tongue panted in agreement.  Stella’s smile strengthened and her gaze shifted sideways to the window.  Dusk had fallen, and the storm seemed to have spent the worst of its fury.

Returning her attention to the dog, she spoke to him.  “You know, fella, I have a box in the basement that I think you’d like.  There’s a tree in it and some decorations and lights that will impress you like crazy!  And I think I can find that old stable down there, too.  What d’ya say we go hunt it up?”  The puppy looked as if he understood every word.

A smile warmed her face as she clutched the letter to her chest.

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