Joy to the World!

“Christmas: the Son of God expressing the love of God to save us from the wrath of God so we could enjoy the presence of God.”John Piper

2019_12 25 white envelope

For the Man Who Hated Christmas: A true Christmas Story” by Nancy W. Gavin, December 2015.

It’s 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 ten years.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and 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 on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

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. 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. He so enjoyed coaching 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 a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.

Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up 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 white 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 small, white 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 the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.

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

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One response to “Joy to the World!

  1. chrissythehyphenated

    Joy for Grammy … I’m wallowing in a flood of Christmas photos and video from my lovies! The older grands were in pageants this year. The kids were SO cute in their angel and sheep costumes. One of the pageants even had a live baby! And Army Princess directed (and wrote part of) theirs; she was a theater major after all!

    The Buzzers combined Daddy’s love of Santa with Mama’s love of not lying to your kids with discussions about what parts of the Santa story are based on the real St. Nicholas and what parts are fun additions. Santa and Mrs. Claus joined the other characters in the Nativity scene and “St. Nick” left a nice note on the empty cookie plate that said, “Thank you for the cookies! Jesus and I really enjoyed watching your pageant. Love, St. Nick.”

    The Buzzers are doing their St. Nicholas thing for the 12 days of Christmas. Mama made a clever tree-shaped calendar, because Bunny likes to check off days. They always do that when Daddy is TDY too. During the 12 days, they will be collecting toys and clothes, then on Kings Day, when the real kings delivered their gifts to Jesus, they will deliver their gifts to their local thrift store.

    Army Princess had the kids fill a laundry basket with toys, clothes or books to give to other babies who didn’t have much and that would be a good birthday present for Jesus since when we give to others we give to Him. It was picked up by St Nicholas who left a note saying he would deliver it.

    Also from Army Princess – “Our priest is from Nigeria. His village he is from does not have a well and the people do not have indoor pumping. He started a fund through his mission society to raise money to build a well in his town and add plumbing to all the houses. I think if someone asks him what they can do for him he directs them that way. He’s very private about it because he doesn’t want to ask for money for it from the pulpit. Anyway, I know about it. So in October, Army Prince’s class studied generosity and they sent home a sheet encouraging parents to come up with a generosity project at home. So I told the kids about the well and they decided they wanted to raise money for it. So they collected all the loose change around the house or elsewhere that they could find, they emptied out their piggy banks and they asked Dad if they could work for him cleaning to earn money. So they got some extra chores to do and we paid them for it. They raised over $200! They gave our priest a check today for the mission society tagged for his well.”

    My heart is overflowing. Eyes too.

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