Twinkling lights on the Christmas tree reflected off the red, green and blue ornaments, while candles waited to be lit. Outside a few snowflakes drifted down as the gray Sunday afternoon sky darkened. Night comes early in mid-December.
Although it was less than two weeks before Christmas, I found it difficult to be in a festive mood. I went through the motions of putting up a few decorations around the house, but my heart wasn’t in it this year.
Our family was going through one of the most difficult years of our lives with major health issues, a serious work-related problem for my husband, and difficulties with our teenage son. Some decisions we needed to make in the months ahead could alter the direction of our lives for years to come.
Yes, Christmas was coming. I knew I should be focusing on the birth of Christ. As a Christian, I should be remembering God’s goodness and His blessings, but my focus was often on the overwhelming problems we were experiencing. I often felt numb.
“Mom, I wish we could spend Christmas with Grandpa and Grandma in Minnesota. I miss them, and all of my aunts and uncles and cousins,” said Rachel, 15, as she sat on the floor, wrapping a small package for one of her friends.
A wave of homesickness swept through me. Because of the distance, we had spent far too many Christmases away from our family.
“I know you’d like to spend Christmas in Minnesota, Rachel. So would I.” I looked up from the notes I was writing on my printed Christmas letters. “But Minnesota is 1,200 miles from Calgary. You remember how hard it was to drive in that snowstorm two years ago. And then the temperature dropped to -30 degrees on the way back.”
“I remember. Tim and I almost froze our feet when the heater didn’t work well.”
We had concluded driving home for Christmas was too risky. Buying airline tickets for four people was totally out of the question financially–ever. No one was coming over for Christmas either; I just didn’t have the energy to invite anyone. We would be spending Christmas alone.
My thoughts were jolted back to the present when the doorbell rang. It was now dark outside.
“Rachel, will you please get the door?”
By the time she got up off the floor, the doorbell had stopped ringing.
As she opened the door, her voice registered surprise. “Mom, there’s a box with presents on the doorstep … and nobody is out here!”
I walked to the door and helped her bring in the box. Who could have left it?
The box contained numerous packages wrapped in bright Christmas paper. Each had a typewritten tag: Open Dec. 15, Open Dec.16. There were a total of 12 — the “12 Days of Christmas.” The first day, Dec. 14, was attached to a turkey wrapped in the plastic in which it had come from the store –so we wouldn’t miss the fact that it needed to be put into the freezer immediately and put it under the tree by mistake!
Today’s tag read: Our LOVE is given anonymously, So enjoy fun with your family, But don’t tell anyone please.
Now we were really mystified. Thankful, I put the turkey in the freezer and the rest of the gifts under the tree.
After that, we would gather each day as a family, open one more tag, read the clever little note inside, and then try to guess what the package held. It became a game to us. Even our son joined us on occasion. As the days slipped by, we discovered potatoes, sweet potatoes, a package of marshmallows, cranberries, packages of gelatin, pickles, olives, cans of green beans, corn, mints, ginger ale and nuts. Together the packages made a complete Christmas dinner for four people. We opened the 12th package on December 25.
As we opened each anonymous package, we realized someone was thinking of us, loving us, wishing us a wonderful Christmas. Someone who wished to remain anonymous.
As it turned out, a family from work gave us an invitation for Christmas dinner a few days before Christmas. We ended up celebrating New Year’s Day with the goodies which our benefactor had lovingly given us. We were blessed and so thankful to be loved!
In the following years, the Lord helped us unravel the knot of difficulties one by one–many were inter-related. The life-altering decision never had to be made; health issues were diagnosed and treated, a solution was found for the serious work-related problem, and our son outgrew his rebellious teen years. Now, four years later, our nightmare year seems like a distant memory. We’ve gone through a time of healing as a family.
You’re probably wondering if we ever found out who gave us the anonymous Christmas gift. We never did. At first I wanted to know, but later it became unimportant. Now I realize knowing would spoil things. That gift was given out of love with no strings attached, with nothing we could do to deserve it or to pay the person back. It came when we needed a reminder that we were loved. I still have the little tags folded in a page of my journal. What a wonderful memory!
To me, that 12-day gift is like God’s Gift at Christmas; with no strings attached, not something we could earn or deserve. Love freely given with no thought of return—that’s what Christmas is all about.
© Janet Seever 2001 [email protected]
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Living in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband and two adult children, Janet Seever writes for Word Alive magazine. She has had a variety of articles and short stories published in magazines and on Internet, including a number on HeartTouchers. You can find more of Janet’s writing at: