Posted by: Pastor Terry Hagedorn | December 22, 2009


It’s just a small white envelope stuck among the
branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no
identification, no inscription. It has peeked through
the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas
–oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the
commercial aspects of it — the overspending, the
frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie
for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma —
the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t
think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass
the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth. I
reached for something special just for Mike. The
inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin,
who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior
level at the school he attended.

Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match
against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that
shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them
together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in
their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new
wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed
to see that the other team was wrestling without
headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect
a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team
obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight
class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat,
he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado,
a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, ‘I wish
just one of them could have won,’ he said. ‘They have
a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart
right out of them.’ Mike loved kids — all kids — and he
knew them, having coached little league football, baseball,
and lacrosse.

That’s when the idea for his present came. That
afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and
bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes
and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.
On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree,
the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that
this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest
thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding
years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition
–one year sending a group of mentally handicapped
youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a
pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the
ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The
envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was
always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and
our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand
with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the
envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more
practical presents, but the envelope never lost its
allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost
Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled
around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely
got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an
envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined
by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst
to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for
their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will
expand even further with our grandchildren standing
around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation
watching as their fathers take down the envelope.
Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always
be with us.

May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the
season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and

–author unknown–


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