This is a story that I read somewhere many years ago. I share it now so that my wonderful family will understand their Christmas presents.
May they, and all of you, be blessed with the peace and love brought to us by that tiny babe born under a shining star, and then laid in a manger.
The Christmas Envelope
It was getting on in the month of November.
A long married, well to do couple were heading out to a wrestling tournament where their youngest son, a high school senior, was to compete. This couple, Walter and Emily, had two older children... a daughter, now out of college and married, and another son in his last year of law school.
Walter and Emily had spent many a Saturday afternoon sitting on cold, hard benches watching one sporting event or another as their children grew up. As this day unfolded it crossed both their minds that "bleacher bum" was to end with their last child's graduation.
Strangely, it made them both a little bit melancholy.
They entered the gym and sat with old friends. As usual the men began talking of weighty matters like sports and the women of home and family.
The topic of Christmas shopping came up with the women.
Emily mentioned to her friend that this year she really wanted to give her husband something truly special. She didn't know why, but she wanted Walt to know how much he meant to her, and for once to get him something he truly loved.
"That man is so frustrating!" she complained, "He has everything he wants and I've looked all over town to find just the right thing. Nothing's right!"
Just then their sons' team began jogging into the gym accompanied by loud cheers and whistles, so conversation stopped.
The boys looked great in its bright school colors and insignias. Each athlete wore warm-up jackets with a fierce "Panther" embroidered on the back, long pants covering their wrestling singlets, and special wrestling shoes in team colors. The coaches all had shirts, ties and jackets tastefully embroidered with the team logo. The team manager came in pushing a huge cart full of equipment including all kinds of safety gear. As the "Panthers" got settled on their side of the gym the other team came in.
There was just a smattering of clapping and whistles for the opponents.
The other school was quite a distance away, in fact located in the inner city. Not many fans had made the long trip.
The wrestlers weren't dressed as a team, instead wearing t-shirts, sweats and jeans to cover their wrestling singlets. The coaches were in street clothes. The ref was talking to them while pointing at one of their boys shoes.
The match began and ended quickly. It was a rout.
The inner city kids fought a good fight but were hopelessly outmatched. Once a match was stopped while the opponents stopped to borrow a small sized headgear for one of their players, the one he was wearing was slipping. All the boys were good sports, each making sure to shake the hand of the winner.
As the crowd exited the gym Emily happened to overhear her husband say to his friend, "What a shame those kids don't have the gear they need. They've got heart that's for sure."
Emily was suddenly inspired!
Weeks passed and Christmas came. All the kids were coming home for their traditional Christmas Eve dinner and opening of gifts. The dinner was lovely as usual and then the family settled around the tree. Gifts were passed around and opened, everyone getting something on their wish list.
Emily opened a big box from her husband to find a gorgeous painting. She had admired it months before when the two of them were out together. She couldn't believe he remembered it! She was thrilled.
The kids began to clear away the wrapping debris when the youngest son said, "Mom, what'd you get for Dad?"
Emily went to the back of the tree and brought out an envelope hidden in the branches.
She handed it to Walter with a kiss and a "Merry Christmas darling, I hope it fits."
He opened it and found a card which said,
"In your honor the inner city wrestling team has been outfitted with jackets, warm-ups, shoes, and safety gear. The coaches have tastefully monogramed team blazers. All are in the school colors with a fierce mascot embroidered on the back."
Emily looked at Walter's face as he read the note. She could see by his expression and then by the big hug that she had finally found something he really wanted!
That's not the end of the story though. You see, soon the wonderful holiday season was over and then late in the fall of the next year, Walter died in a car accident.
The entire family was devastated but relying on faith and love to make it through each sad day.
Christmas was coming once again.
Emily had no heart for it but the children were coming home and she knew Walter wouldn't want them to be sad. He loved Christmas.
So the lovely dinner was prepared and afterwards they all gathered around the tree. Everyone was trying to be cheerful.
Presents were opened and the wrappings cleared away. As the family settled around the lights of the tree, all got quiet. Then the youngest son said, "Mom, I have a gift for Dad. Would you open it?"
Emily looked up in surprise as he went to the back of the tree and brought out an envelope. She opened it and read, "To Dad, in your honor this winter I've been clearing the snow from the walks of an elderly couple that live by the school. Merry Christmas! Love from your son.
Emily's eyes filled as she hugged their son.
Then, she could scarcely believe it when their daughter and oldest son got up and reached behind the tree too. They brought their envelopes to their mom. "These are for Dad." Acts of love and service were described inside.
Tears began to fall and she asked if someone would look on the top branch at the back. There was another envelope. It said, "To my darling Walter, Merry Christmas, From Emily."
So Walter may have moved on. But his legacy continues in his family. It's a legacy of love and service and exactly what Christ would want for Christmas.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Matthew 25: 40
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."