On February 24, 1948, one of the most unusual operations in medical history took place in Ohio State University’s department of research surgery. A stony sheath was removed from around the heart of a 30-year old man named Harry Besharra.
As a child, he had been shot accidentally by a playmate with a 22-caliber rifle. The bullet had lodged in his heart but had not caused his death. However, a lime deposit had begun to form over the protective covering of the heart adn gradually was strangling it.
The operation was a delicate one, separating the ribs and moving the left lung to one side. Then the stony coating was lifted from the heart much in the same way as an orange is peeled. Immediately the pressure of the heart was reduced, and it responded by expanding and pumping normally. “I feel a thousand percent better already,” said the patient soon after the operation.
There is a parable of life here. It is so easy for our hearts to develop a hard protective coating because of accidents and incidents and injuries in our life. They are coated by the deposits of a thousand deceits and disappointments, hardened by the pressures and problems of circumstance. Inevitably, they become smothered and insensitive, choked out even to things divine.
Ever so gradually we find it easier to sneer than to pray. It becomes simpler to work than to worship. Self-satisfied, proud, often cynical, our hearts need a spiritual operation that only something so refreshing as Christmas can perform when we dare to surrender our hearts’ burden before the cradle of Bethlehem. There’s something about meeting the innocent babe in the manger that softens our hearts.
I am reminded of the story ofHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Dr. Seuss cartoon story which we’ve been watching since 1966. Why the Grinch was such a “mean one” and hated Christmas was up for much speculation in Whoville, if you will recall. It could have been that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could have been that his shoes were too tight. But we knew that the most likely reason of all must have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
For all of us, in this busy and stressful time of year, we can miss the wonder of Christmas if we allow the trappings of the season to make our hearts hard, or even to shrink a few sizes too small. Here’s hoping you have a big-hearted, joy-filled Christmas this year, with plenty of opportunities to be a cheerful giver and share the hope of our Savior with the world around you.