A man named Michael, a father of a teenage daughter, Jennifer, had been a member of a top-secret anti-terrorism task force in the military and his duties caused him to be away from home much of the time Jen was growing up. He was serving his country in a very important, very dangerous capacity that required his absence and a great deal of personal sacrifice. As a result, his daughter grew up without him. Indeed, his wife Judy had left him a couple of years previous and took the girl with her.
Finally, after several years abroad, Mike was able to go home. He longed to hold his princess in his arms and to spend every possible moment with her to try to make up for lost time, but when he knocked on the door of his ex-wife's house the girl who greeted him was almost unrecognizable. Jen had grown up physically and along the way she had rejected everything Michael valued. Her appearance shocked him and her words cut him like a razor. She told him coldly and bluntly that she really didn't want to see him, that he wasn't a father as far as she was concerned, that he had not been a part of her life before and wouldn't be in the future.
Michael, a man who had faced numerous hazards and threats in the course of his work and had been secretly cited for great heroism by the government, was staggered by her words. The loathing in her voice and in her eyes crushed his heart. He started to speak but the door was slammed in his face. Heartbroken and devastated he wandered the streets of the city wondering how, or if, he could ever regain the love his little girl once had for him.
Weeks went by during which he tried to contact both his ex-wife and his daughter, but they refused to return his calls. Then one night his cell phone rang. It was Judith and from her voice Mike could tell something was very wrong. Apparently, Jennifer had run off with some unsavory characters several days before and hadn't been heard from since. Judy had called the police, but she felt Mike should know, too. She told him that she thought the guys Jen had gone out with that night were heavily into drugs and she was worried sick about her.
She had good reason to be. Jen thought when she left the house that she was just going for a joy ride, but that's not what her "friends" had in mind. Once they had Jen back at their apartment they tied her to a bed, abused her, filmed the whole thing, and when she resisted they beat her until she submitted. She overheard them debating whether they should sell her to a man they knew whom they thought sold girls into slavery in South America or whether they should just kill her now and dump her body in the bay. For three days her life was a living hell. She cried herself to sleep late every night after being forced into the most degrading conduct imaginable.
Finally her abductors sold her to a street gang in exchange for drugs. Bound and gagged, she was raped repeatedly and beaten savagely. For the first time in her life she prayed that God would help her, and for the first time in her life she missed her father. But as the days wore on she began to think she'd rather be dead than be forced to endure what she was being put through.
Mike knew some of the officers in the police force and was able to get a couple of leads from them as to who the guys who she originally left with might be. He set out not knowing Jennifer's peril, but determined to find her no matter what the cost. His search led him to another city and took days, days in which he scarcely ate or slept. Each day that passed Jennifer's condition grew worse and her danger more severe. She was by now in a cocaine-induced haze in which she hardly knew what was happening to her.
Somehow, Michael, weary and weak from his lack of sleep and food, managed to find the seedy, run down tenement building where Jennifer was imprisoned. Breaking through a flimsy door he saw his daughter laying on the filthy bed surrounded by three startled kidnappers. Enraged by the scene before his eyes he launched himself at them with a terrible, vengeful fury. Two of the thugs went down quickly but the third escaped. With tears flowing down his cheeks, Mike unfastened the bonds that held Jen's wrists to the bed posts. She was barely alert enough to comprehend what was happening, but too groggy to respond. Michael helped her to her feet and led her to the doorway.
As she passed into the hall with Michael behind her the third abductor appeared in front of her with a gun. Michael quickly stepped in front and told Jennifer to run back into the apartment and out the fire escape. The assailant tried to shoot her as she ran, but Michael shielded her from the bullet, taking the round in his side. The thug fired twice more into Michael's body, but Mike was able to seize the gun and turn it on the shooter.
Finally, it was all over, finished.
Slumped against the wall, her father lay bleeding and bruised, the life draining out of him. Jennifer saw from the fire escape landing what had happened and ran back to Michael. Cradling him in her arms she wept and told him over and over that she loved him and that she was so sorry for what she had said to him and for what she had done.
With the last bit of life left in him he gazed up at her, pursed his lips in a kiss, smiled and died. Jennifer wept hysterically. How could she ever forgive herself for how she had acted? How could she ever overcome the guilt and the loss she felt? How could she ever repay the tremendous love and sacrifice of her father?
Years passed. Jennifer eventually had a family of her own. She raised her children to revere the memory of her father even though they had never known him. She resolved to live her own life in such a way that Michael, if he knew, would be enormously proud of her. Everything she did, she did out of gratitude to him for what he had done for her, and every year on the anniversary of his birthday she went to the cemetary alone and sat for a couple of hours at his graveside, talking to him and sharing her love and her life with him. Her father had given everything for her despite the cruel way she had treated him. He had given his life to save hers. His love for her, his sacrifice changed her life.
And that's why Christians celebrate Christmas.