December 7, 2017

Luke 2:11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

 

The True Christmas Spirit.

It was just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of 
our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It 
has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or 
so.  

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not 
the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it-- 
overspending --the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for 
Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma--the gifts given in 
desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.  

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual 
shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth.  I reached for something special 
just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.  

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior 
level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there 
was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city 
church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged 
that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, 
presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold 
uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.  As the match began, I was 
alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a 
kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears.  It was a 
luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.  

Well, we ended up walloping them.  We took every weight class.  
And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around 
in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that 
couldn't acknowledge defeat.  Mike, seated beside me, shook his head 
sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said.  "They have a 
lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right 
out of them."  

Mike loved kids--all kids--and he knew them, having coached 
little league football, baseball and lacrosse.  That's when the idea 
for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting 
goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes 
and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.  

On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note 
inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. 
 
His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and 
in succeeding years.  

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a 
group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another 
year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to 
the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.  

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.  It was 
always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, 
ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their 
dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.   

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical 
presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.  

The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer.  When 
Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got 
the tree up.  But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the 
tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.  Each of our 
children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree - 
for their dad.  

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further 
with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed 
anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.  

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us. 

May we all remember Jesus--who is the reason for the season, who 
gave us the greatest example of giving--and strive to follow his 
example this year. [source unknown]
Categories: Freedom From Fear

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