My Most Memorable Christmas Eve

It was a Sunday afternoon before Christmas in the early 1970s. I was resting comfortably in the parsonage in Abingdon, Virginia, when the telephone rang. It was the owner of the local funeral home, a member of the church I was serving.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Kenneth, but I need some help. A man is here whose wife died and they have no church affiliation. He is from this area but has been away for several years. Would you be willing to come down and help him plan a funeral service?”

I readily agreed and made my way to the funeral home. I wasn’t prepared for what followed. There awaited a young father and two children, Patricia, age 5, and two-year-old Eddie. They were the same ages as our daughters, Sheri and Sandra.

The father was grief-stricken. His wife, whom he had married in Korea during the war, had died from cancer. He needed help in telling the children that their mother had died. How do you help young children understand that their mother is gone? Here it is a few days before Christmas and Patricia and Eddie have lost the one who gave them birth and cared for them. I don’t remember what I said. I just remember hugging them!

We had the funeral a couple of days later. Only a dozen or so people were present. After the service, I asked the father what they were would be doing Christmas Eve. He had no plans but to be with his relative. I asked if he would like Patricia and Eddie to spend Christmas Eve with us. Eddie decided he wanted to stay with his Dad, but Patricia was eager to be with Sheri and Sandra.

Linda rushed out and bought more presents to place under the tree as we anticipated having a special guest for Christmas, a little five-year-old who had just lost her mother.

The Christmas Eve celebration began with a service at the church. It was a simple portrayal of the Nativity as described in Luke and Matthew. I narrated the story from the pulpit while the shepherds, magi, Mary and Joseph, and angels made their way to the altar.

Linda sat on the front row with Sheri, Sandra, and Patricia. I heard Sheri whispering to Patricia throughout the drama. I suddenly realized what was happening. She and Sandra were interpreting the drama to Patricia. It dawned on me that she was experiencing the Christmas story for the first time, and she was hearing it from two little girls.

Following the service, we gathered at the parsonage for dinner. About the time dessert was served, Patricia got up from the table and ran to a bedroom crying. After a short time, I followed her into the dark room.

I cradled her in my arms as she sobbed. “You miss your Momma, don’t you? I’m so sorry. It’s okay to cry.”

Suddenly, the door opened and into the darkness came Sheri and Sandra. Sheri was carrying one of her favorite possessions, a jeweled box given to her by her grandmother. She reached it toward Patricia and said, “This is for you.”

Patricia’s tears stopped as she reached for her gift. She slowly returned to her dessert, holding onto her special present.

That Christmas, more than forty-five years ago, remains my most memorable and transformative Christmas. Amid the darkness of grief and loss, three little girls BECAME the Christmas story.

May we, too, become the Christmas Story amid the darkness of our grieving and suffering world.

15 thoughts on “My Most Memorable Christmas Eve

  1. Three little wise girls, Ken, two to give, one to receive. Your memory touches deep in my heart. Thank you. You and yours have a good Christmas and a much better year in 2021. Carlen

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  2. Ken: This mirrors so many thoughts as we are separated from our grandchildren this Christmas, ages 7 & 8 who lost their mother in the summer of 2019 after a 6 year journey with breast cancer. Thank you as always for your words of hope.
    Warren

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  3. Thank you so much for this message.I lost my husband on August 1, 2020, and it’s a real struggle this year. Two of our sons can’t make it here and one came up from the St Louis area to help me get ready, but he has to get back. The last one will be here with his kids and grandson for Christmas Eve. Your post brought back memories of special Christmases in the past. It seems like the most memorable start out really sad, but it only takes one little incident to turn the day to joy!

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    • Blessing and peace to you. Yes, Christmas is hard without our spouses. I lost my wife of 58 years in October 2019. We hold onto the promise that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

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  4. I so love this devotion. I can see how this would certainly would have been a most blessed Christmas Eve for you and yours. Though I know this season is mixed with joy and grief, how wonderful it is to have known and still know such abounding love!!

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  5. What a beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing. I am praying for you in a special way during these holidays. We have the greatest comfort of all from our Lord.

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  6. Thank you. I am writing through tears, so my words might need spell check. I have known Sheri through friendship for years. It isn’t hard toknow how generous she is. I am 63. My father was in the medical corps at Normandy and other European battles of WW2. He was awarded a Bronze Star. He was a Knights Templar Mason. He gave blood extensively and promoted the causes of that organization at his work at the IRS. He was a small but willing warrior for causes he felt deeply about. He was a ‘giver’. He married my mom in 1950. To They had three of us kiddos. He built a house and planted beautiful camellias around it. Cancer found him. He died in 1960 at age 40. I’ve found photos of my brothers and me a few months after he passed. I was a tiny little 3 year old. My brothers were 9 and 6. They look stunned. My mom’s family took the three of us for several months while Mom went through the carefully detailed instructions Daddyhad left for her about taxes, insurance, bills. Several times his notes began with ‘after the funeral…’. My mom’s family is still a close loving herd. Your message just reminded me of a time three small children were cared for so tenderly during a tragedy. God has richly blessed you with wisdom. Thank you for caring and sharing. Gayle Cox Sneed

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    • Thank you, Gayle, for sharing your story. You moved me to tears! I am so glad that the story I shared was meaningful to you. I can only imagine the pain a little child experiences in losing a beloved parent. You father was obviously a loving, generous, and courageous man whose legacy continues to live in you and your brothers. May you know deeply the peace that comes from being loved by God and your family and friends.

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  7. “the light shown in the darkness and that darkness can not be victorious”–your children were indeed light bearers that Christmas; a beautiful story. It reminds me of a poem attached to a movie:

    “My world was filled with darkness,
    But now because of you,
    In that dark, dark sky,
    There is a path of blue.”

    Liked by 1 person

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