Tag Archives: Christmas

A Christmas Story: The White Envelope

This Christmas Story was first published in Women’s Day magazine in 1982 and was written by Nancy W. Gavin. The original title was “For The Man Who Hated Christmas.”
WHITEENV

“It was 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; 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 red and black uniforms and sparking 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 opposing team obviously could not afford.

“Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated next to me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have lots 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 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 so 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.

“The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was wrapped in grief. 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 for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. It looks like this family tradition will continue.”

 

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Advent 2012 – Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

This post is part of the December Synchroblog “Tell Me A Story” in which we are invited to tell an Advent story from our own life.  I will provide a list of the other contributors at the end of this post as they become available. I hope you will check them all out!

“The hard work of Advent reflection and waiting is mingled with the gift of time and space to dream new dreams, to bathe in pools of hope, and to stretch the canvas of our imagination wide enough for God to paint God’s own visions for our lives. Advent is a season for our imagination to run wild as we contemplate a God who becomes human. We are given a wider glimpse of God when we allow Advent to be an invitation to dream beyond our comfort zones of what we think can happen in our lives and what God can do. In Advent we receive four weeks to dwell on what God’s vision might be for us and for those we touch. Four weeks to dwell on how the courage of expanding our imagination might feed into the growing kingdom of God. Four weeks to gather our wits about us for another year; preparing our bodies, minds and spirits to receive the Christ child and take him out into the world for others to see and praise, worship and obey; the Christ with whom we dream big and imagine wildly.” 

Taken from the Preface of Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent  By Enuma Okoro

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Years ago I had a dream that I was a student at an elite dance academy.  In the dream I was “a dancer” and I loved to dance and I loved the dance class. But I wasn’t just a dancer or someone who loved to dance, I was a very good dancer and I knew it and took great pride in the fact.

There was an important upcoming production that all the students were auditioning for and I was quite certain that I would get a part but I didn’t and I was very disappointed.

Next thing I know I am rehearsing with the dancers who were going to be in the show because one of them got sick, had to drop out and I was chosen to take her place. I was very excited and felt that I was just where I should be. The instructor was giving us direction and correcting us as we were rehearsing and then suddenly the rehearsal was over. As we were all walking out, the instructor asked me to stay behind for a moment. After the other dancers left she told me that I wouldn’t be able to be in the show because I just wasn’t good enough. I was crushed and devastated. I began to cry. I realized that I was not only disappointed about not being in the production but I was also very disappointed that the instructor did not think I was good.  How could this be happening to a good dancer like me?  If my good dancing didn’t make the instructor like me what in the world could I do to earn her approval and affection?

Then the scene suddenly changed, the way it does in dreams, and I was in a huge industrial kitchen.  I had no idea what I was doing there or why I was wearing a chef’s coat. I looked around and found a man preparing some food at one of the nearby steel counters. I walked over to him and asked him what was going on. He told me the Executive Chef was looking for a new Sous Chef and wanted to talk to me. I was completely dumbfounded! I knew I wasn’t much of a cook and certainly not capable of being a chef.  Why in the world would he want to talk to me? Where did I even get the chef’s coat I was wearing?  How did I get here? What in the world was going on?

Then suddenly a tall man all decked out in chef’s attire walked towards me with a huge smile on his face.

“Congratulations, Liz,” he said, “you got the job.”

“What job?” I asked.

He went on to explain that I had been awarded the Sous Chef position.

“But I’m not a good cook,” I exclaimed.

He just looked at me with that smile on his face and said, “I know … It’s because I love you.”

And then I woke up.

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Sometimes dreams do come true.

So go ahead this Advent season and dream big and imagine wildly!

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Here are the links to all the December Synchroblog posts:

Carol Kuniholm writing at Words Half Heard

Jeremy Myers tells us about Santa Clausette

Liz Dyer celebrates Dreams Do Come True

Leah Sophia digs in with Planting Hope

Glen Hager reveals a story of Christmas Surgery

Kathy Escobar wrestles with holiday expectations

Wendy McCaig  ponders storytelling in  Once Upon A Time

Epiphany: Blessing of the home.

Tomorrow is officially Epiphany (although some will celebrate on Sunday). Do you celebrate Epiphany? If so, how? If not, you may want to consider starting the tradition “Blessing of the home”. There is more than one way to perform the tradition.  Here is one way that I like:

Have some incense burning, a sprig from a bush, some water, and divide a cake into as many pieces as you have participants. Hide a coin or dry bean in one piece and distribute them at random. Whoever gets the special piece of cake with the bean/coin in it is crowned (paper crown or party hat), robed (bathrobe), saluted (noisemakers left over from New Year’s), and toasted (hot apple cider or whatever…)! The new royalty now writes with chalk over the front door of your home the following:

20+ C + M + B + 12

The numbers represent the new year. The four crosses are the four seasons. C-M-B are the initials of the legendary names of the magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Or another explanation that I actually like better is that C-M-B stands for the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling place”.

Now, say a simple blessing such as:

Dear God,
we thank you for this past year
and for the year to come.

Be with us as we fill our home with kindness,
hospitality, and caring for others.

Help us to dream the dream of a better world
and to work towards that dream daily.

Hold us close to each other.
Keep us close in spirit with those who have died or who are far away.

May all who come to our home this year
rejoice to find Christ living among us;
and may we seek and serve,
in everyone we meet,
Jesus who is Lord for ever and ever.

Bless us as we burn this incense.
Bless us as we use this chalk to mark our door.
Bless us as we sprinkle our home with this water.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Now, everyone moves from room to room sprinkling the home with water, a sign of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan.

If you have a group that likes to sing try singing some Epiphany songs such as “We Three Kings” or “O Come All Ye Faithful”.

When done with all the rooms, say the Lord’s Prayer, and finish with exchanging the sign of peace.

Christmas Story: Hear The Angels Sing

I love Christmas stories and have collected some favorites over the years.  I found one today to add to my list of favs on The Livesay Haiti Blog (great blog of a family that lives and serves in Haiti).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Hear the Angels Sing

By Rick Porter

Hear the Angels Sing ( Dickinson County News, December 12, 2006)

Perhaps it’s just the Ebenezer Scrooge in me, but I’m not much of a caroler. When pressed into participation I sing, but rarely with the gusto of those around me. And too often I sing in a rote way, not giving full attention to the words. There is however, one line of one verse of one carol that always captures my attention.

A story is told of a man seasonally employed to bring the presence of Santa to Christmas gatherings for businesses and schools. He was on his way to a gig, an office party, but had been asked to stop by the nursing home to make a quick visit to the residents. This was pro bono work, but if Santa won’t do it who will?

He quickly made his rounds with a “ho, ho, ho” to each room. Just before departing, he peeked into a darkened cubicle where an elderly man lay apparently asleep, curled on his bony side. Santa prepared to leave in a flash. But the man made a feeble beckoning gesture visible in the dim light of a tiny Christmas tree. The volunteer Santa approached. The man whispered something so faintly as to be inaudible. Santa moved his jolly old ear very close to the man’s dry mouth. “Forms are bending low,” the man said. Santa did not connect the phrase, assumed confusion, gave a patronizing pat, and hurried off to his paying job.

As he arrived at the office party, holiday music was filling the room. The words of an old carol floated from the ceiling speakers:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

The song was “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” written as a poem in 1849 and put to music 10 years later. The essence of the song is that angels did not just appear and sing at the birth of Christ. They show up and serenade regularly and often.

Just when we are so burdened as to not hear, at the most difficult of times, when life’s loads crush and our forms bend, they minister most. Immanuel, meaning “God-with-us,” attends us as His invisible person, the Holy Spirit, and He is attended by angels. The heart of God is to meet us at life’s darkest intersections with comfort, encouragement, a touch of heaven, and a breath of hope. The old man in the nursing home wasn’t just complaining to Santa about his lot in life. He was acknowledging that in Santa’s visit, no matter how hurried, there was an angelic grace.

Whether or not you sing the carols this year, be encouraged to live the carols. For you, this season may not be one of happiness, good memories, or togetherness. You may be grieving, regretful, or lonely. Life’s road seems crushing and your form is bending low. That does not disqualify you from the true Christmas message. While others scurry in apparent happiness, the invitation to the crushed and the bent still stands:

Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Favorite Holiday Movies

When the holidays roll around there are certain movies that I want to watch. The list changes from time to time. For the last several years one of my favorites is the movie “Love Actually”. It’s one of those movies that tickle all the emotions…laughter, sadness, joy. If you aren’t familiar with it you really should give it a try. It follows the lives of eight very different couples who are dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London. The writing, editing and acting are superb.

Another movie that has become a holiday favorite of mine in the last few years is the movie “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. Two women with guy problems swap homes for the holidays and each meet someone they fall in love with. It’s funny and touching and has a great monologue by Kate Winslet near the end of the movie.

What are your favorite holiday movies?