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Today's Commentary: Oh Christmas tree -- Sometimes playing Santa Claus can be different -- Christmas means a whole lot more -- Inspiration for a simple Christmas -- Merry Christmas -- A special Christmas story -- Additional Mike Huckabee commentaries
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This week, I’m recounting “Simple Christmas” stories shared with me a few years ago by my radio listeners. One thing we all learned from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is that it’s not how fancy your tree is that matters, it’s the love it represents. A radio listener of mine named Vicky from California sent me a beautiful story that illustrates that as well as Charles M. Schulz did.
Vicky recalled a time years before, when her young family was desperately poor and struggling to provide Christmas for their three small children. Her husband brought home a tree, but was so exhausted after working 14 hours, he hadn't noticed it was dead and brown on one side.
Sometimes playing Santa Claus can be different
By Mike Huckabee
Recently, police officers have become targets of hatred, assaults and even deadly violence. Right now is a perfect time to stop and reflect on the many ways in which police officers and other first responders such as firefighters and EMTs give up their holidays so that we can enjoy ours in safety. Many also go above and beyond the call of duty by performing incredible volunteer work. One of those was a listener of mine named Randy, a retired police sergeant from Wyoming. He shared a memory of a time when playing Santa Claus should have come with hazardous duty pay.
Randy wrote: "For many years, it was my distinct pleasure to assume the role of 'real Santa' at Christmas time. Though my sleigh was still a black and white sedan, my uniform changed from dark blues to a genuine Santa suit. I appeared on Christmas Eve, right at bedtime, delivering toys to needy children as well as my fellow officers…who had small children. What made this all work was the 'understanding' of the parents to make sure the kids were close to the front window upon my arrival, that they were not allowed out on the porch (where I left their gifts) until I was out of sight, and under NO circumstances were any pets to be loose.
All the parents were following Santa's instructions to the letter...until I got to my Chief's house. I gently placed (his sons') gifts on the porch (and) began to shake the bells, anticipating three squashed, tiny faces peering into the frosty night, trying to catch a glimpse of Santa. To my surprise...No faces. I shook the bells harder and added a hearty ‘HO, HO, HO!’ Still, no faces.
Now in mid-‘HO,’ I heard the front door open and a small dog barking. 'For cryin' out loud,' I muttered, as I jumped toward the driveway. If only I'd remembered the small wire fence surrounding his wife's flower bed. There was no time to pick myself up, as I heard high-pitched giggles floating on the cold night air. A quick double combat roll placed me out of innocent eyes' way, underneath my boss's pickup truck."
Then Randy heard a noise that seemed to be very close: "I smelled the dog food on his breath a scant millisecond before he yapped out the alarm. The 'WHOA!' that jumped from my lips was cut painfully short as I rammed my head into the pickup's driveline... The thought crossed my mind to reach out and pinch off his little windpipe, but that seemed a bit ugly for Christmas Eve."
A pair of cowboy boots suddenly replaced the dog: "I recognized my boss's voice as the words, 'Merry Christmas, heh, heh, heh," settled onto the cold concrete... 'Merry Christmas, Chief,' I replied as a solitary drop of black engine oil struck me dead center in the forehead. 'THANKS FOR NOT TURNING ON THE PORCH LIGHT!'
I continued on my rounds, a black greasy racing stripe running from my white curly beard to my belt, a well-lubricated lump on my forehead. I finished just as a soft snow began to fall, covering everything in a glistening blanket of white. It seemed the perfect punctuation mark to end another Christmas on Patrol."
Thanks again for that great story, Randy. And thanks to all the police officers and other first responders and military members who go above and beyond, and sometimes even roll underneath, to keep us all safe during the holidays and all year ‘round.
Christmas means a whole lot more
By Mike Huckabee
A few years ago, inspired by my book “A Simple Christmas,” I asked listeners of my radio show to share their favorite family Christmas memories. Today’s story shows us that Dr. Seuss was right: Christmas is not something that comes from a store. Christmas means a whole lot more.
Tina from California wrote to me that she was a struggling single mom for many years. She managed to keep a roof over her daughter and son's heads. But there was no money for the Christmas extravagances many families enjoy. They had to be creative and "make do."
Instead of buying cards, they'd call relatives and sing carols to them over the phone. And instead of buying fancy Christmas treats, they'd go into the kitchen and make donuts out of Pillsbury biscuit dough, and sweeten and decorate them with cinnamon and sugar. Tina said that for years, Christmas wasn't a good memory for her. All she remembered about those Christmases was being poor.
Then, Tina wrote, “When my son was 20, he said 'Mom, remember when we used to make donuts and sing to everyone for Christmas?'
Sulking, I replied, ‘Yeah.’
He said, 'That is one of my BEST Christmases. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love to give.'”
Tina wrote, “I have since changed my opinion...(Now), it is one of my best Christmas memories also. My heart grew 3 sizes that day!...Ever since, I make it a point to make a homemade gift for the people in my family. Last year, I made everyone throw quilts. Christmas is more than a day... It is a memory!”
Thank you again, Tina for that precious memory and a valuable lesson for us all. It’s not the presents you spend money on that stay with your kids for a lifetime, it’s your presence spent with them that they’ll cherish forever.
Inspiration for "A Simple Christmas"
By Mike Huckabee
One thing everyone loves about the holidays is all the great foods we indulge in only once a year. Every family has its special dishes that simply must be on the table, from oyster dressing to yams with tiny marshmallows. But sometimes, they don’t make for a great combination, on the plate or in your stomach.
Kevin from Maryland wrote me that he grew up in a Norwegian family that always served the notorious fish dish, lutefisk, which he jokingly called, “the piece of Cod that passes all understanding." (The recipe involves soaking a piece of cod fish in lye for three days. Seriously.)
Kevin recalled: “My mother, a fine teetotaling Christian who prided herself on never having alcohol in the house, was appalled the day my uncle brought a six-pack of beer as his contribution to the Christmas meal. To my mother’s horror, my father graciously accepted the libation. And so, in sullen silence, the family dinner was served...the traditional lutefisk and Godless beer.”
“I remember the smirk on my uncle's face as he began to eat the fish dish and wash it down with beer. My father, at the other end of the table shared in the merriment, while my poor grim-faced mother tried to remain polite...though sitting next to her, I was certain that she was asking God to strike her kin with righteous retribution.”
Now, at this point, Kevin went into some clinical details about the chemical reactions of the digestive system that I won’t relay here. Suffice to say that about half an hour into the meal, his dad and uncle suddenly excused themselves and bolted from the table. They both spent a miserable night of gastric distress, much to his mom’s quiet satisfaction.
Kevin said that was the Christmas he learned that mixing fish cured in lye with beer creates a volcanic reaction in the stomach similar to mixing vinegar and baking soda. He said it was also the year he learned that God answers prayers (his mother’s, at least.) And He's not above using science in working His will.
By Mike Huckabee
Merry Christmas! I hope this holiday and the coming year bring happiness and good health to you and your loved ones. I also hope you’re enjoying these “Simple Christmas” stories shared a few years ago by my radio listeners. I chose this one for Christmas Day because it proves that Christmas is a time for miracles. And not just the miracles that happened 2,000 years ago, but those that God is showing us every day if we just open our eyes and our hearts to see them.
A listener named Sheila from Oklahoma wrote to me: "I was diagnosed with Hodgkins' Disease lymphoma and felt I had been given a death sentence. I believed it was the last time I would celebrate my young son's birthday, my last Thanksgiving and my last Christmas. So everything about Christmas was vital to me. I hand-wrote personal messages to everyone on my card list, carefully selected and wrapped gifts and insisted on decorating my home alone with my son, in spite of chemotherapy.
The tree was a full-day endeavor because I was fatigued, and, of course, I had to cherish the memories of each special ornament. The two of us struggled with the lights but were almost finished with the entire tree. I had sat down to rest (when) my son announced, 'Mom! The lights went out!'...
I know it is trivial, but it just knocked the wind out of me. I bowed my head and cried because changing the lights meant undecorating the whole tree, and I just didn't have the energy.
'Lord,' I prayed. 'I can't do this. I need this Christmas, but I can't do this.'
Then I heard my son gasp, and I looked up to see all the lights were on again. And they stayed lit throughout Advent to Epiphany. For this and many reasons, my first Christmas with cancer was my best ever."
Thank you, Sheila, for that terrific story that contained two miracles. A simple one reminiscent of Hanukkah, in which the lights stayed on as a message that you were not alone.
And the second miracle: that story was about the Christmas of 1995. Sheila wrote to share it with me in 2011 -- 16 years after she thought she'd seen her final Christmas. Sheila, wherever you are now, I hope you are healthy and happy, and still sharing that wonderful story with everyone you meet.
A special Christmas story
By Mike Huckabee
A few years ago, inspired by my book, “A Simple Christmas,” I asked listeners to my radio show “The Huckabee Report” to share their favorite Christmas stories from their own families. They sent so many great ones, both moving and hilarious, that it became an annual tradition. To give me and my staff a holiday break, I thought I would again share some of my favorites with you between now and New Year’s. This first one perfectly illustrates how nothing can keep us apart from the ones we love at Christmas.
A listener named Phyllis wrote that it was Christmas Eve, 1942. A young woman was waiting, pregnant and alone, for her husband of 4 months, who'd been drafted into the Army and was training to be a pilot somewhere in the Arizona desert. He had written to her that he couldn't get leave, so they would not be together on their first Christmas as husband and wife. Refusing to let herself get discouraged, she kept a light on in the window as she wrapped a few gifts.
Meanwhile, he was way off in Arizona, quietly reading letters from her, when his sergeant came into the barracks and asked what he was doing there on Christmas Eve. When he heard about the soldier’s pregnant wife, the sarge gave him permission to go home. But that was just the first obstacle down.
The young private grabbed a few belongings and raced to find any way to get back to California. But there were no more trains or buses that night. So he walked to the nearest highway and stuck out his thumb.
Somehow, he hitchhiked 450 miles home. His last ride dropped him off several miles from the cottage where his pregnant wife was. He walked the last few miles in pitch darkness, assuming that at that late hour, his wife would have long since gone to bed. But as he neared the little house, he saw the light shining in the bedroom window.
When he opened the door, he found his darling, still awake and thrilled to be in his arms again. She'd waited up for him, never giving up hope that her dearest would find some way to be home for Christmas. Phyllis wrote, "This true story was told to me by my dad before he passed away in 2000. The young couple were my parents…And I was the baby they were expecting."
I'm glad that Phyllis’ parents' faith in the power of love to overcome all obstacles was passed down to her, and I thank her for passing their family’s cherished story on to us.