Author Unknown (As printed in "No Greater Joy" December Issue)
A Classic Christmas Story
I remember a day one winter that stands out like a boulder in my life. The weather was bitter cold, our salary had not been regularly paid, and it didn't meet our needs when it was. My husband was away much of the time traveling from one district to another. Our boys were well, but my little Ruth was ill. None of us had decent clothing. I patched and re-patched, with my spirits sinking to their lowest ebb. The water gave out in the well, and the wind blew through the cracks in the floor. The people in the parish were kind and generous too; but the settlement was new, and each family was struggling for itself. Little by little, at the time I needed it most, my faith began to waver.
Early in life I was taught to take God at His word, and I thought I had already learned my lesson well. I had lived upon His promises in dark times. I knew like David in the Bible knew "my Fortress and Deliverer." Now a daily prayer for forgiveness was all that I could offer.
My husbands overcoat was hardly thick enough for October and he was often obliged to ride miles to attend some meeting or funeral. Many times our breakfast was Indian cake and a cup of tea without sugar. Christmas was coming; the children always expecting presents. I remember the ice was thick and smooth and the boys were each craving a pair of skates. Ruth wanted the impossible. A beautiful fancy doll. She insisted on praying for it! I knew it seemed impossible, but oh! I wanted so very much to give the children the presents they longed for. It seemed God had deserted us, but I did not tell my husband all this. He worked so earnestly! I thought he must be as hopeful as ever. I kept the sitting room as cheerful as possible with an open fire. I served our scanty meals as appealing as I could.
The morning before Christmas James was called in to see a sick man. I put a piece of bread for his lunch and wrapped my plaid shawl around his neck. I tried to whisper a promise as I often had, but the words died away upon my lips. I let him go without it.
The day was dark and hopeless. I coaxed the childen to bed early, for I couldn't bear to hear their talk. When Ruth went to bed, I listened to her prayer. She asked for the last time most explicitly for her doll, and for the skates for her brothers.
Her bright face looked so lovely as she whispered to me, "You know I think they'll be here early tomorrow morning Mama." I thought then that I would move heaven and earth to save her from the disappointment. I sat down alone that night and gave way to the most bitter tears.
Before long James returned, chilled and exhausted. He took off his boots; the thin stockings slipped off with them and his feet were red with cold.
"I wouldn't treat a dog this way, let alone a faithful servant!" I said bitterly. Then I glanced up and saw the hard lines in his face and the look of despair, it flashed across to me---James had let go too.
I brought him a cup of tea, feeling sick and dizzy at the very thought. He took my hand and we sat for an hour without a word. I wanted to die and meet God and tell Him His promise wasn't true. My soul was so full of dispair.
Then there came a sound of bells, a quick stop and a loud knock at the door. There stood Deacon White.
"A box came by express just before dark," he said. "I brought it round as soon as I could get away. Reckon it might be for Christmas. 'At any rate,' I said, 'they shall have it tonight.' Here is a turkey my wife asked me to fetch along, and these other things I believe belong to you."
There was a basket of potatoes and a bag of flour. Talking all the time, he carried in a box, and then with a hearty goodnight he rode away.
We opened the box. We immediately pulled out a thick red blanket. Underneath the blanket was a lot of clothing. As we knelt by the opened box, our hearts broke with repentance for all the dark bitterness we had held onto. At that moment it was as if Jesus stood before us. Sweet promises of joy filled my soul. I became lost in praise and gratitude, I forgot everything else.
There were so many treasures in the box. An overcoat for James, a dress for me, fabric, and shoes. As I tenderly pulled out the gloves for James a slip of paper fell to the floor. Written on the paper, "I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand saying unto thee, 'Fear not, I will help thee."
The box was wonderful! By this time, I could hardly see for all the tears flowing. Then at the center of the box was another box. Inside this box was a perfect china doll. I burst into tears again. It was too much. At the bottom of the box was two pairs of skates, books to read, yards of ribbon, needles, thread and an envelope with a ten dollar gold piece.
You should have seen the children the next morning! The boys were estatic at the sight of their skates. Ruth picked up her doll, and hugged it tightly without a word. Then she went into her room and knelt by her bed. When she returned, she whispered to me, "I knew it would be there Mama, but I wanted to thank God just the same, you know."
Hard times have come again and again, but we have trusted in God knowing that "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."