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Angels are watching over us

December 22, 2022

Molly from Washington has a story about how the angels are watching over us…and sometimes, they’re not too happy with what they see!

“I remember our Christmases at home. They were magical. Although we didn't have much the rest of the year, my mother would somehow transform our house and our lives into a magical wonderland once a year. There was always snow in Virginia, and there was always Christmas all around the town. Christmas meant that we would be getting our stockings filled with goodies that we rarely, if ever, got throughout the year. We would always have a small handful of nuts, a small handful of hard candies (green and white ribbons were my favorite!) and an orange. What more could you want?

The house was decorated with all of our treasures that we had collected over the years. Mama had a village that lit up and it twinkled on a bed of white snowy cotton. The tree had beautiful lights and all of the ornaments we had made and collected. At the very top of the tree was an angel. She had golden blonde hair and there were clear strands of thin plastic that shot out all around her. When we lit her up every Christmas, it was my favorite moment! She just shimmered and seemed to have an ethereal glow. I always felt like I had just found my long lost friend, and I knew that she would be watching over me. We always had a fresh tree, and the smell would fill the house. It was such a happy time!

It was almost Christmas of 1958. I was 11, and my brother, Jimmy, was 13. It was the first Christmas that I remember us being so excited. We didn't get a lot of presents or toys throughout the year so we always looked forward to getting our one present. This year, I was surprised to see that my brother and I had the exact same box under the tree. It was the same size, same weight, and was wrapped the same. When we shook them, they sounded the same too. There was no sound at all! We were hoping for a rattle or jingle that would give us a clue as to what was inside. Half of the fun was trying to figure out what it could be. We were truly puzzled this year. How could they buy us the same thing? He was a boy and I was a girl. The presents felt like they could have a book inside. I did not want a book for Christmas! I was always an avid reader and I did love books, but I could get them at the library or from a friend. I did not want to find a book under the tree. I decided I would just have to wait and find out.

It was two days before Christmas and my mother and stepfather went into town to do some shopping. That left Jimmy and me there alone. We were sitting there not long after they had driven out of the driveway when Jimmy suddenly had a brainstorm. Why not open the presents and see what we were getting? He was sure he could do it so nobody would know. I told him that I didn't think that was a good idea. We would surely be caught and then it would ruin our holiday. He said he was going to do it anyway. He went to the tree and began to slowly and very gently pull the tape off of one end of the present. I was watching from a distance and when he said he had it nearly open, I couldn't stand it anymore and I ran over to see what was inside. As he pulled back the paper from the end of the package, we both let out a squeal! It was a transistor radio! We were thrilled! We carefully put the tape back and put the present right where it had been.

I looked up and there was the angel staring right at me! I had just committed a great sin and all in her presence. It felt like her eyes were burning into my soul! Oh, if only I could redo the last few minutes! But it was too late. I had sinned and there was no way to change it!

Christmas morning came and everyone went downstairs to begin the celebration. I opened my sock first and popped a piece of candy in my mouth. It was so good. I was so thrilled to get some treats and I always made them last as long as I could. Then it was time to open our present. I ripped mine open and tried to look very surprised and excited. I felt so bad! I felt like a thief and liar. I was feeling so guilty and it felt like I had a 50-pound weight hanging on my back and I could not get rid of it. As I sat there, I looked up at my beautiful angel and I felt her eyes upon me once again. There seemed to be sadness in her eyes. I asked her to please forgive me. I never enjoyed the radio as much as I would have if I had waited until Christmas morning to open it! It was like a constant reminder that I was a liar! As we all gathered around the table to eat our wonderful dinner, I felt my stomach drop and I couldn't eat very much at all. I loved Christmas dinner almost as much as I enjoyed getting a present, but this year, I just couldn't get an appetite.

The following year, I waited until Christmas morning, and I got a nice coat with a fur collar. I was thrilled! My brother suggested peeking again, but I told him that I was never going to do that again! I had learned my lesson, and it was one that would last me a lifetime! I looked up at my angel, and she seemed to be glowing brighter than ever! And she seemed to have a much more peaceful look on her face. I knew then that I was forgiven, and I promised her that I would never peek at presents again!”

Thank you, Molly, for that reminder that it’s not just Santa Claus who’s watching over us to see if we’re naughty or nice.

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.

I want to thank Kevin for that unique story. While most of my listeners’ stories touched the heart or the funny bone, his was the only one that touched the digestive system.

This story reminds us that no matter how bad off we think we are, there are others in greater need. And nothing reflects the spirit of Christmas more than someone who gives to others even when they have very little themselves. Dorothy from North Carolina wrote:

“It's been a few years ago now that through an unusual set of circumstances I met a dear Christian lady named Hilda N-----. Hilda had endured many hardships in life…Now, in her later years… she lived in abject poverty with…crippling arthritis. It was Christmas and I had a gift for Hilda. Mark and I were dating at the time and I asked him to go with me to Hilda's humble home… But it wasn't my gift that I've remembered all these years...it was HER gift, given liberally out of her poverty, that I will never forget.

She and I had exchanged gifts, her gift to me a small ceramic bell with a cross at the top from the dollar store. And then came the moment I cherish yet today. She looked at Mark apologetically and reached down into the cushion of the chair…fumbling until she finally retrieved a small, zippered change purse. Her gnarled, misshapen fingers (terribly twisted from the arthritis) moving slowly and with painful effort, she managed to open the purse… Finally, she turned to Mark and, pulling out a folded, crumpled $1.00 bill, she held it out to him.

Her soft, quiet voice and loving manner gave eloquence to the gesture. ‘I didn't know YOU were coming so I didn't have a gift for you. Here’, she handed him the dollar bill, ‘Merry Christmas.’

Tears sprang to my eyes as I knew what a sacrifice was represented in the giving of the dollar bill. Her heart of love and her desire to share the little she had gave her gift more meaning than a purse full of gold.”

Thank you, Dorothy, and Hilda, for reminding us that Christmas isn’t about what we get, it’s about what we give.