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Christmas Memories from
Daily Encouragement Net readers
Three years ago my daughter, Emily, started asking for a dog for Christmas back during the previous summer. With both my husband and me working fulltime, I didn't have the time, or want the responsibility, of taking care of and training a puppy. But my daughter would not be swayed, no matter how many times I told her we didn't have time to properly care for puppy. Unbeknownst to her, while all this was taking place, I contacted a woman who rescues animals and places them up for adoption. A co-worker of mine had adopted a dog for her son the previous Christmas. She emailed me a picture of Chance, a black cocker-spaniel who had been found in the middle of the road and brought to her by a good Samaritan. The picture she sent was one of the most pitiful things I had ever seen. He had apparently been hit by a car and had dislocated his hip. They had to completely shave him to perform the surgery to repair his hip and clean him up, since his hair was all matted and tangled. Looking out at me from this picture was a dog with no hair, a 4" incision with stitches on his hip and two huge, sad eyes. I thought, "How could Emily love something so pitiful looking as this dog was? He definitely wasn't all nice and new." But then I thought, "Why not? This poor dog obviously needed someone to love him and care for him more than anyone else or thing I could think of." And those eyes staring at me from the picture seemed to say "please take me home with you!” We brought Chance home 1 week before Christmas. By then his hair had started to grow back and he was recovering nicely from the surgery. He is now completely healed and totally and unconditionally loved by our whole family. It was one of our best Christmas' ever! I learned that the gift of love doesn't have to be all shiny and new, and we have received back far more love from him than we could ever give him.
Our family was just starting out. New city, new job, two young boys 4 and 6 years old. We drove a Pinto Hatchback, lived in an upstairs apartment, and had very little money. We were not sure how we were going to have the Christmas Dinner, the Gifts, and all that meant "Christmas" to us. I had given my life to Christ a few years back and my whole family, not just me, was about to witness firsthand His faithfulness and the true meaning of giving. On Christmas Eve we all went to my sister-in-laws house for the evening. She's the only person we knew in town, and she did not know Christ. When we returned home after dark. I opened the door and before I even turned on the light, I knew something was different. I could see unusual shadows from our kitchen table. We tuned on the lights to find our table overflowing with bags of food! There was even a Ham! That's when the boys spotted the gifts under the tree! My heart knew in an instant Who was responsible. My suspensions were confirmed when I read the Christmas Card left on the table: "Merry Christmas from Your Friends in Christ".
My favorite Christmas story happened in 1981. My father had undergone surgery for colon cancer and even though my mother and my brother and I were told he would not recover, my father didn't know. He was sitting by the Christmas tree with my mentally retarded daughter, who was 8 at the time. They were looking over the gifts that were already gathered there and reading off the names. Erin turned to my dad and said, "Mommy was crying." When Dad asked her why, she replied, "Because you're not going to Heaven." Evidently that simple statement planted a seed for my father. We had tried to witness to him for years and had prayed daily for as long. About two months after this scene I was visiting my dad in the nursing home where he'd gone, he thought for therapy, but in reality it was to die. He began asking me questions and saying he wanted some answers. I knew he was ready to talk about the Lord, but somehow I also knew, it wasn't to be me to lead help him accept Jesus as his personal savior. That night when my husband came home, I asked him to go see dad and told him, "Dad is ready." My two children and I prayed the whole time my husband was at the nursing home and when he came back we knew by the look on his face that we would one day all be in Heaven together. My father died a week and a half after that night, but I can still hear the angels singing praises that he is there with them! Even a young child can lead them.
I had gone with my Dad, who was a free minister in the Church of the Brethren for many years and is not deceased, to a small church nearby - just Dad and I. I sat near the front while he was guest minister that day. I was impressed by the hand carved motto on the front of the pulpit which said, "Sir, we would see Jesus". On the way home I told Dad of my impression and he said, somewhat frustrated, "Yea, but you couldn't see what it said on the back of the pulpit where I sat." He told me a note had been affixed to the back saying - The Sermon can be preached in 20 minutes. (Now you must understand that in those days in our church the sermons were typically 30 to 50 minutes long.) After a few moments of silence Dad finally said "Humph, they want to see Jesus in 20 minutes", and I knew it was not a good idea to say more, but smiled to myself.
A few years ago my wife and I had just moved to a new town. Having relocated twice in 6 months we were really depressed and in despair. We had recently lost our home, our jobs and our vehicle. That Christmas instead of Christmas stockings we had items made from kitchen towels and elastic that you put plastic bags in one end and pull out at the other. My wife made them. She called them baggits and sold a few to help supplement our meager income. We were only able to get each other things like a tooth brush, handkerchiefs, or a pair of socks or something. Nevertheless that was the most enjoyable Christmas ever. We didn't have cash but we had Jesus Christ and the spirit of contentment. We'll always remember that Christmas with the baggits.
I was talking with my mom the other day about how I just loved all the people around the house during the holiday season. In keeping with tradition-we would have people over after Mid-night mass. All throughout the year my dad would be inviting everybody and anybody to "stop over for breakfast after mid-night mass". Mom said to this day she can not figure out who the three young people were who stopped by one year....It was when I was one of the "little kids". Since I have 6 older sisters and a brother-nobody thought anything odd at first about these teen-aged visitors. They came in and made themselves right at home. I'm told they played with us younger kids, helped put toys together, shared the traditional venison sausage breakfast, and then left. Afterwards when my parents inquired as to who they were-not a single member of the family knew! Each thought that one of the others had invited them. They never came back nor where they heard from again. I'm relatively sure that they were not "angels" or messengers...after they had gone and things were being cleaned up and put away-an empty whiskey bottle was found underneath the couch!
Here is a story you might want to include on your Christmas story page. When my niece was 2 or 3 she called baby Jesus baby Jack. Which was funny in itself. At Christmas time my parents set up a wooden Nativity Scene by the door leading to the kitchen. The year my niece discovered that the baby in the manger was "Baby Jack" she was so excited. She had her so much about him. Anyway, anytime she was at my parents house she had to have Baby Jack in the house with her. I can't tell you how many family gatherings we had where a wooden baby Jesus in a wooden manger was in attendance. It is a very sweet memory...one that I will never forget!!
A Christmas I will never forget. I live in Kansas City, Missouri and had been told by phone on November 24, 2002 that my mom had gone to the emergency room complaining of stomach pains. Of course, I prayed and called my mom who had been admitted to the hospital for observation. The doctors discovered a mass in my mom's stomach and also saw a spot on her liver and in her lungs. Of course, with this news we were all shocked and continued to pray for God's healing. My mom was released from the hospital on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I visited her in Ohio at Thanksgiving and she didn't feel too well during my visit. My mom was diagnosed with cancer on December 4, 2002 and had her first chemotherapy treatment on December 13. After this treatment my mom became very nauseated and could not keep anything down, not even water and was admitted to the hospital again. With the reports on my mom's condition, I traveled back to Ohio on December 18. When I arrived at the hospital, my mom was in good spirits and looked really good except for the drainage tube inside her stomach. We continued to trust God for her healing and prayed. What you don't know about my mom, she was 71 years old and my mom and my dad had adopted six children that started out as foster children in their home. The youngest was 2. I prayed to God that if my mom died who would take care of the children? I prayed about her faithfulness, like God didn't know. We celebrated Christmas in her hospital room with a small lighted Christmas tree that a sister-in-law had brought to the hospital. My mom passed away on December 30, 2002 with all of her family surrounding her. Of course, this was not what we wanted to see or accept, but in all of this, we could still thank God that my mom did not suffer and linger in that cancerous condition. We know that she is in heaven rejoicing with God. And, my dad at 71 is taking care of the six adopted children with the help of their extended church family in Ohio and my two sisters that live there.
CHRISTMAS 1908 Written by "Trix" when she was in her 70's
"I just can't wait till Christmas", said Trix. "Wonder what we will get from Santa this year." "I don't know, but I sure want a doll." Pauline answered. "I'm scared, too," said Trix. "I have to get up and sing a song in church." We never went to church Christmas Eve before, and Aunt Lue is coming, too. That makes it so special. Trix had been going to Mrs. Pease the minister's wife after Sunday School and before Wednesday Prayer meeting for weeks, practicing "Oh Hush Thee My Baby". Trix loved going to the Manse. There were so many interesting things to see. She read The Water Babies, a page at a time, while waiting for Mrs. Pease. As she chatted with Mrs. Pease she said, "I wish I had a Christmas card to send Aunt Inez." Mrs. Pease said, "You could easily make one. Just copy the Quaker from the Quaker Oats box and write "greetings from Quaker Hill" on it. For the next few days Trix was busy making the cards for all her friends. "I can't get them perfect" she said, "but I know they will recognize the Quaker." "Momma, I've got the cards finished and the envelopes made and addressed and I need some stamps." Momma counted them. "Five... and they are very pretty. Here are your two cent stamps. If you had not sealed them, they would have gone for one cent." Next morning Trix stood out by the road till Mr. Beckman came by to put them on the mail wagon. Two days before Christmas it snowed about 10 inches. "Oh, Momma, how can we get to church without getting all wet and soggy?" "Don't worry about it" said Momma. Aunt Lue arrived the next day on the mail sleigh with bells jingling and bags and boxes being piled off in the snow. Then before they knew it, it was time to get ready for the celebration at the church. Trix and Pauline were so excited they could hardly keep their feet on the floor. "I hate to walk to church in this snow, don't you?" said Pauline. "I hate to walk home worse" answered Trix. Just then "jingle, jingle, jingle" in the driveway and there was Mr. Beckman, bundled up to the ears, with a sleigh full of hay and blankets and hot soap stones. Every body piled in and snuggled down with Mr. Beckman's family and away they went. The church was warm and every beam and post covered with fresh greens from the woods. A large tree was in the center of the stage and Trix fussed about how were they going to get the Sunday school class up there with their large sparkling letters that spelled out Merry Christmas. Some how they made it. Somehow Trix got up on stage alone and stood near the end where Mrs. Pease and the piano were. Some one pulled her forward and she could feel the heat from the footlights billowing her dress and petticoats out. She had on 2 petticoats and each one had 3 ruffles trimmed with home made crocheted lace, white as snow, and stiffly starched. What a relief to be over that hurdle. The celebration went on with more carols than the kids had ever heard before. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, (which seemed to come from the rafters), Oh Come All Ye Faithful, We Three Kings of Bethlehem Are, Old King Wenseslas Went Out, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night. All had a little different setting. Then came the tree and presents for all and with many expressions of Merry Christmas, the meeting broke up and everyone made their way home, some on foot, some in sleighs. The church lights were gradually turned out and Christmas day came quickly. Excitement was in the air in th morning. The first gifts Pauline and Trix got were warm red woolen bathrobes and they sat around the stove in the still chilly room to open the package by their very own Christmas tree. The children got real dolls, and paper dolls with tissue paper and gold and silver trimmings to make paper doll clothes with, and Pauline got wax crayons and Trix pastel crayons, and their stockings were full with candy and nuts and a big orange in the toe. There were many happy Christmases before and after this but somehow this one stands out in memory. Maybe it was those voices, proclaiming Jesus, coming from the rafters, or Old King Wenseslas walking barefoot in the snow. It was a wonderful Christmas.
When my own son was very little I would set up the manger scene and he would rearrange it. I would always smile, thinking how wonderful it was that he was relating to the scene. I would then happily rearrange the pieces, thinking about how he would change it. It became a game that we both thoroughly enjoyed for a few years.
During the Advent season of 1999, I'm sure a lot of us remember one big worldly concern was Y2K and all the talk about the millenium. I was driving home with my son (who was 9 at the time) one evening, and we were talking about the millenium. He wanted to know how long 1,000 years was. I tried to illustrate this (and obviuosly wasn't thinking about my choice of words) by telling him that it's been about 2,000 years since Jesus was alive. He instanly corrected me by saying "Dad, don't you mean since Jesus was on the Earth, because he's still alive!" All I could do was clear my throat and say " You're absolutely right!"
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