Jim in Alabama shared a story that reminded us of how the Christmas season brings everyone together. During his time in the military back in 1973, Jim was stationed near Nuremberg, Germany. He wrote:
“Being born and reared in the South, I had never met people from Puerto Rico. But we had four guys from Puerto Rico and Queens, New York. Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” would play on Armed Forces Radio and these guys made us all start to dance and sing along. They sure knew how to have a good time. They helped us all not be so homesick.”
Thank you for that great memory, Jim. I can’t think of anything more American than guys from Alabama, New York and Puerto Rico all joining the US Army and celebrating Christmas in Germany listening to Jose Feliciano sing “Feliz Navidad!”
Next, what might be a close encounter with the real Santa Claus. Margaret from Washington wrote that her 60-year-old sister Liz lived in an adult home. She had cerebral palsy and autism, the mental capacity of a six-year-old, constant pain from two broken hips and her spine, and limited speech due to her medication. She didn’t have much joy in her life, but she loved Christmas and still had an unwavering belief in Santa Claus.
Liz had a great caregiver named Crissie who told Margaret that Liz and her deaf housemate Alice saved up $20 from their meager support checks, the price of a photo with Santa at the mall. So Crissie agreed to take them.
After waiting an hour in line, they finally got to the front to discover the photo price was $23. The “elves” wouldn’t budge on the price. Crissie called the home but was told she wasn’t allowed to spend her own money on residents. So Crissie reluctantly signed the news to Alice and began pushing Liz’s wheelchair away. Margaret said her sister began throwing a fit as only she could, and Crissie started pushing as fast as possible, with Alice trotting behind and Liz’s screams echoing through the mall.
As they reached their car, they heard someone shout, “Liz, wait!” They turned around, and there was Santa, out of breath. He’d been running after them. Liz stopped screaming immediately. Santa gave them all candy canes and said he’d love to pose for a photo with them, no charge. Santa hugged Liz and Alice, and said, “HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas!” as Crissie took a cell phone photo.
Now, here’s where the story takes a magical turn. The photo turned out great. You could even tell that Santa’s long white beard was real. Margaret was so touched by his kindness that she went to the mall with a thank-you card and the photo, so they could identify the mall Santa who performed that special act of kindness.
She showed the photo to the mall manager’s secretary, who took it back into the office. Margaret wrote:
“The manager came out and told me she thought it was a great photo…but that was NOT their Santa.”
They had no idea who that kind, jolly man in the beard and red suit who magically appeared out of nowhere in their hour of need could have been. I’ll leave it to you to decide.
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Isaiah 11:6 tells us that "a little child shall lead them." That's what the Christmas story is all about. And the miraculous connection between children and Christmas goes far beyond toys and Santa. Jennifer from Arizona wrote:
"When my son was about 2-1/2, I noticed he took a pair of his flip-flop shoes and placed them under the Christmas tree. I asked him why. (He said,) "They are for little Jesus. He doesn't have any shoes, and I am giving Him my shoes." I asked him who 'little Jesus' was, and he told me, 'God's son.'
Now, mind you, we hadn't, at that point, taken him to church yet. I had no idea where he got this story...It just goes to show that the little ones have more vision and hope than most adults when it comes to Christmas."
You're right, Jennifer. And I have another miraculous Christmas story to prove it. Gerald from Alabama wrote:
"My Dad was stationed at England Air Force Base, Louisiana, in 1962. In mid-November, he got orders to go to Spain for 90 days. I was 8 at the time. My mom and I went to the base to watch them take off in cargo planes. She said "I wish he didn't have to be gone during Christmas."
Some of the planes had already taken off, and there were about three or four waiting to leave. According to my mom, I said, "They are not going to go," and I pointed to one of the planes that hadn't taken off and said "Daddy is in that plane," as it began to head to the end of the runway. I said, "It is going to stop at the end of the runway, turn around and come back and park right there" as I pointed to a place.
The plane stayed at the end of the runway about 10 minutes, turned and came back and parked at the place I pointed out. My mom got chill bumps all over her when this happened and she was really surprised when the Airmen started to get off, and there was my Daddy. The other planes started to land...The orders had been cancelled.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas that year...I remember some of what I said and especially the part about the plane turning around and coming back to park. But my mother was in awe that everything I said actually happened. This is the most memorable Christmas ever in my lifetime."
I'm not surprised, Gerald. That is definitely a story for us all to remember!
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Joe from Oklahoma shared a special Christmas memory that sounds like something the dad in “A Christmas Story” might have pulled. Joe still vividly recalled when he was seven, and he and his two siblings rushed downstairs expecting to find stockings and gifts. Instead, they found mayhem. A toppled glass of milk, chairs thrown around, and the tree on its side.
They rushed to wake their parents, who came downstairs with crafty smiles. Joe’s dad was a police officer. He told them Santa had spilled the milk, refused to clean up after himself, and was rude to him. This had sparked a tussle that spilled out into the back yard. Then he pointed out a pile of dirt in the back yard the size of a fresh grave. Joe assured the kids that Santa escaped alive…but he said, “Rudolph will never (relieve himself) on our roof again.”
Well, I must admit, that’s one original way to create a lifelong Christmas memory for your kids! Or maybe just to scar them for life. Either way, it was unforgettable!
Annette from Texas also shared a funny Christmas memory that’s taken on serious meaning over the years.
Around the time she and her twin sister were teenagers in Pascagoula, Mississippi, in the late ‘50s, a tradition started in their small Baptist church to create a living Nativity scene. Members would dress up as all the characters of the Nativity, so that cars could drive by in reverence and awe and see the Christmas story in 3D. It took months of work, part of which was coaching teenagers on how to “be still and know God.”
However, they never could teach the live animals to be still and know God, so it could be pretty nerve-wracking, trying to stand motionless next to a live camel or goat with some less-than-reverent ideas of its own.
Luckily, Annette was given a very special role that didn’t require any animal wrangling, but it had its unique hazards. She wrote:
“I was the angel on high – 20 feet high to be exact…When the angel climbed rickety, dark stairs at the back of the makeshift manger stall, the act itself took such fortitude and perseverance that the spotlight on her was snuffed every 15 minutes and a new angel would appear as fast as she could safely make that climb.
I prayed for all I was worth: not to fall, not to faint, and not to freeze to death…a few blocks from the Gulf, we never knew if we would have freezing cold or temps so hot at Christmas we could have worn bikinis under our angel attire – IF that would not have been a sin…But I digress. We were told that angels could not move a muscle. Even if the nose itched (or some other place), or if we felt a sneeze coming on, we HAD to remain perfectly still...Being 20 feet off the ground with arms outstretched for 15 minutes and a thin wooden support-cross hidden behind me in my white robe, I couldn't help but know—or pray for—God's presence.”
Annette said she didn’t remember having any epiphanies back then. But time and again over the years, when she needed guidance or to trust that things would work out, or to know that stillness can bring a peace that passes all understanding, she’s thought back to what she learned from her scary job, dangling over the Nativity Scene. As she put it:
“God reveals Himself to us in His son through His Holy Spirit. And I don’t need angel wings or a halo to fly to His presence. Just that hidden cross of support.”
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All the emphasis on shopping and consumerism that’s grown up around Christmas tends to remind those of us who grew up poor that we didn't feel deprived because, as kids (not being “lucky” enough to have social media to tell us), we didn't realize we were poor.
Ginny from Alabama had the perfect story to illustrate that. She wrote:
"I am 83-years-old now, but I remember this like it was yesterday. It was during the Depression...My daddy had gotten a job with the CCC (the Civilian Conservation Corps.) We lived in two rooms we rented in a big old house and shared the bathroom with the family we rented from. One room served as kitchen and my parents' bedroom, and the other was the living room, and guess where I slept.
Our Christmas tree was a holly tree my daddy had cut in the woods where he was working...I was probably four or five. I was sitting in my mama's lap while she rocked me in front of the fireplace. She was crying. I remember asking her why she was crying, and she said 'because we couldn't get you much for Christmas.'
I can remember being confused by what she said because I had gotten the clay modeling set I wanted. My aunt had sent a doll, but...the doll to me was extra. Since I got the clay modeling set, that seemed plenty...
Several years later, when things got easier, the place under the Christmas tree was filled. But the Christmas I remember the most was that one Christmas when I got the clay modeling set."
Thank you, Ginny, for that important reminder that the holidays we remember best aren't necessarily the ones when we got the most lavish gifts but the ones where we felt the most love.