The Christmas Angels
Two Christmas stories
It was December 23, 1993. For a single mom who was going to college and supporting my children completely alone, Christmas was looking bleak. I looked around my little home, realization dawning like a slow, twisting pain. We were poor.
Our tiny house had two bedrooms, both off the living room. They were so small that my baby daughter’s crib barely fit into one room, and my son’s twin bed and dresser were squeezed into the other. There was no way they could share a room, so I made my bed every night on the living room floor.
The three of us shared the only closet in the house. We were snug, always only a few feet from each other, day and night. With no doors on the children’s rooms, I could see and hear them at all times. It made them feel secure, and it made me feel close to them—a blessing I wouldn’t have had in other circumstances.
It was early evening, about eight o’clock. The snow was falling softly, silently, and my children were both asleep. I was wrapped in a blanket, sitting at the window, watching the powdery flakes flutter in the dimming light, when my front door vibrated with a pounding fist.
Alarmed, I wondered who would stop by unannounced on such a snowy winter night. I opened the door to find a group of strangers grinning from ear to ear, their arms laden with boxes and bags.
Confused, but finding their joyous spirit contagious, I grinned right back at them.
“Are you Susan?” The man stepped forward as he held out a box for me.
Nodding stupidly, unable to find my voice, I was sure they thought I was mentally deficient.
“These are for you.” The woman thrust another box at me with a huge, beaming smile. The porch light and the snow falling behind her cast a glow over her dark hair, lending her an angelic appearance.
I looked down into her box. It was filled to the top with delicious treats, a fat turkey, and all the makings of a traditional Christmas dinner. My eyes filled with tears as the realization of why they were there washed over me.
Finally coming to my senses, I found my voice and invited them in. Following the husband were two children, staggering with the weight of their packages. The family introduced themselves and told me their packages were all gifts for my little family. This wonderful, beautiful family, who were total strangers to me, somehow knew exactly what we needed. They brought wrapped gifts for each of us, a full buffet for me to make on Christmas Day, and many “extras” that I could never afford. Visions of a beautiful, “normal” Christmas literally danced in my head. Somehow my secret wish for Christmas was materializing right in front of me. The desperate prayers of a single mom had been heard, and I knew right then that God had sent his angels my way.
My mysterious angels then handed me a white envelope, gave me another round of grins, and took turns hugging me. They wished me a Merry Christmas and disappeared into the night as suddenly as they had appeared.
Amazed and deeply touched, I looked around me at the boxes and gifts strewn at my feet and felt the ache of depression suddenly being transformed into a childlike joy. I began to cry. I cried hard, sobbing tears of the deepest gratitude. A great sense of peace filled me. The knowledge of God’s love reaching into my tiny corner of the world enveloped me like a warm quilt. My heart was full. I fell to my knees amid all the boxes and offered a heartfelt prayer of thanks.
Getting to my feet, I wrapped myself in my blankets and sat once again to gaze out the window at the gently falling snow. Suddenly, I remembered the envelope. Like a child, I ripped it open and gasped at what I saw. A shower of bills flitted to the floor. Gathering them up, I began to count the five, ten, and twenty-dollar bills. As my vision blurred with tears, I counted the money, then recounted it to make sure I had it right. Sobbing again, I said it out loud: “One hundred dollars.”
I looked at my children sleeping soundly, and through my tears I smiled my first happy, free-of-worry smile in a long, long time. My smile turned into a grin as I thought about tomorrow: Christmas Eve. One visit from complete strangers had magically turned a painful day into a special one that we would always remember ... with happiness.
It is now several years since our Christmas angels visited. I have remarried, and our household is happy and richly blessed. Every year since that Christmas in 1993, we have chosen a family less blessed than we are. We bring them carefully selected gifts, food, and treats, and as much money as we can spare. It’s our way of passing on what was given to us. It’s the “ripple effect” in motion. We hope that the cycle continues and that, someday, the families we share with will be able to pass it on, too.—Susan Fahncke1
Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it—the smells, the sights, and the sounds. Feelings run deep inside me when I begin to think about Christmas. I always experienced a magical feeling. After all, it is Christ’s birthday! Could it be I’ve read too many Christmas books and seen too many Christmas movies? I admit that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a favorite and I believe life is wonderful most of the time.
My husband had indulged my excitement and had contributed greatly to my loving Christmas. This past year my bubble was burst and I experienced a sadness that was almost too difficult to bear. I no longer thought life was wonderful. My husband had gone home to be with the Lord, and I was alone at Christmas. Memories haunted me, and everywhere I looked I was reminded of our life together. Our traditions, which were special to me, were now all topsy-turvy. How could I ever get through my favorite time of the year without him? Only God knew. I determined, with God’s help, I could do this.
I was not going to let my grief rob my family of Christmas. It was still Christ’s birthday! After all, because Christ was born and died on the cross for my husband and me, I had the assurance my wonderful husband was spending eternity with Him.
The easy part was determining what I was going to do to celebrate Christmas. Putting my plan into practice was much more difficult. Christmas did not have to be celebrated in the same manner. Some traditions needed to change, but some I knew had to stay or the meaning of Christmas would be lost.
I cherished the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Our family had always gone to the 11:00 p.m. service, lit the candles, and sung “Silent Night” together. My husband and I had done this from the time we had started dating 37 years ago. I wanted to go to church; it was truly my favorite time, I loved hearing how Jesus was born (Luke 2). The angels, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and the wise men seeking Him were all so important. I wanted to seek Jesus as well. But nothing could have prepared me for that evening.
Neither of my children could go to the service with me, so off I went. As I arrived at the church, my heart just sank. Everyone was there with someone—moms, dads, children, aunts, and uncles. Family is so important at a time like that. I mustered up the courage God must have given and managed to walk to the front door. Thankfully, at that moment, I saw a family I knew, and I managed to ask if I could sit with them. “Sure,” they replied. It was all I could do to sit in the pew without crying buckets. Tears began filling my eyes, and down my face they rolled. It was almost getting uncontrollable. “God, please help me,” I prayed. “I want to be here. I need to hear why we have Christmas once again.”
I had no sooner whispered my prayer when the most marvelous thing happened. The little girl sitting right next to me—my Christmas angel—put her hand in mine and squeezed. It was as if God had given me the love I so desperately needed. In that one moment, I realized the angels that sang on that night many years ago at the Savior’s birth still come and minister to us today. God let me know, in that tiny squeeze, He was there for me and that He loved me!—Kathy Schultz2