The Rev. Karen Lynn Woo*
Ignoring the cold, winter wind which bit through her wool coat, Tabitha smiled as she left the grocery store with all the fixings for Friday’s Christmas dinner and thought about the Christmas she had planned for her husband Samuel and their three children: Phillip, Ruth, and Elijah. Christmas was her favorite time of the year. The smell of wood burning fireplaces and chestnuts roasting in local street vendor carts filled the air, and everywhere she went the music of Christmas reminded her that more than 2000 years ago Jesus, Immanuel – God is with us – came to earth out of love for God’s children to save humankind from their sins. Just thinking about it warmed her heart. Though a year had passed since her mom had gone to live with her dad in God’s mansion, Tabitha still missed her terribly but somehow knowing her mom’s passing was not “goodbye” but rather “until we meet again” made the temporary separation ok. Tabitha and her family didn’t have a lot . . . in fact, like many families in their community they lived paycheck to paycheck . . . but they had each other and the Lord and somehow that was more than enough. The bills got paid, the family got fed, and sometimes there was even enough left over to share with others who were in need. “You can’t love God and not love His children,” Pastor David had said to the congregation on Sunday. “Our triune God is all about relationships. He wants us to have a personal relationship with Him AND a personal relationship with each other.”
“Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas . . .” Tabitha sang along with the voice on the radio as she drove the 6 blocks to the little house she and her family called home.
“That’s odd,” she thought as she turned into the driveway and hit the automatic garage door opener. “Why is the front door open? Oh well, maybe I didn’t pull it closed tight when I left. It’s not like that hasn’t happened before.”
She pulled the car into the garage and popped opened the trunk. Exiting the vehicle, she picked up two bags of groceries and entered the house through the garage door. As she set the bags down on the kitchen counter the phone rang. It was her sister asking about her plans for Christmas. 20 minutes later she heard the familiar voice of her husband calling out to her from the front door.
“Honey, I’m home.”
“Samuel’s home. I’ll call you back,” Tabitha said to her sister.
Hanging up the phone, Tabitha went to greet her husband. “Why was the front door open?” Samuel asked as he closed the door. “And where is your car?”
“I don’t know why the front door was open,” Tabitha responded giving her husband a gentle peck on the cheek, “and my car is in the garage”.
“No, it’s not,” Samuel replied looking into his wife’s face as he gave her a gentle hug. The garage door is open and your car is not there.
“Oh my gosh!” Tabitha exclaimed as she ran to the garage. Sure enough, her car was missing. “Oh my gosh Samuel!” she cried bursting into tears, “The phone rang as I was coming in through the garage door and I was so distracted by my conversation with my sister I completely forgot I left the trunk wide open for the whole neighborhood to see. When I came into the house, whoever was in here must have slipped back out the front door, seen the car open and found the spare keys in my purse. Oh my gosh. It’s all gone . . . my wallet, the car, the Christmas presents . . .What are we going to do?”
“I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have a bank account or credit cards to worry about,” Samuel said calmly. “You go deal with the groceries you brought into the house. I’ll call the police and we’ll go from there.”
Later that night the doorbell rang. It was Pastor David. He’d heard about the stolen vehicle and wondered if the church could be of assistance.
“You can pray for us,” Tabitha said. “We have no insurance and without a car I don’t know how I’ll be able to work since, as you know, I cater for a living. And,” she said as tears formed in her eyes, “I don’t know what we’ll tell the children. All their Christmas presents were in the car when it was stolen. I was so looking forward to Christmas and now I wish it was over.”
“We’ll be ok, Pastor,” Samuel said as he put his arm around his wife and held her tight. “We have each other and we have Jesus. It’ll be all right.”
“You have great faith,” Pastor David told him, “just like your name sake. Well, if you do think of anything the church can do for you, you just let me know.”
“We will,” Samuel responded as the pastor got up to depart, “and thank you for coming. It helps just to know someone cares enough to stop by and see how we’re doing and what we might need.”
After the pastor left Samuel said to Tabitha, “I think we’d better get the children ready for bed and then sit them down together and tell them what happened so they know what to expect and what not to expect on Friday.” Tabitha nodded, her eyes brimming once more with tears.
Having had their baths and now dressed in their pajamas, the children entered their parents’ bedroom and climbed up on the bed. “Are we in trouble?” asked Elijah. “We didn’t do anything bad on purpose . . . honest,” he said.
“No,” said Samuel picking up his youngest son and putting him on his lap. “You aren’t in trouble but mom and I have something we need to talk to all of you about. You’ve probably noticed there aren’t any presents under the tree. Well there aren’t going to be any presents under the tree this year.”
“Because we’ve been bad?” asked Ruth.
“No,” said Tabitha reaching out and pulling Ruth close. “It’s not because you’ve been bad. You know we don’t give presents because you’re good or withhold them because you’re bad. We put presents under the tree because a long, long time ago when Jesus was born the wise men from the East brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor Him. The gifts we put under the tree remind us to honor one another and Jesus. Dad and I had gifts for you but they were in the mommy’s car when it was stolen earlier today.
“Your car was stolen?” said Ruth.
Tabitha nodded and told the children what happened.
“But our gifts don’t have to come from a store, right?” said Phillip. “I mean, can’t we make gifts for each other and put them under the tree?”
Samuel smiled. “That’s the spirit!” he said rubbing the head of his oldest child. “You know, we’ve bought presents for so long I almost forgot we ALWAYS made our presents when I was growing up. Yes, that is what we will do. Mom and I will help you make presents for each other and we will also make presents for one another and for each one of you. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!” He said with a smile.
On Christmas morning boxes of all shapes and sizes were found under the tree. Elijah, Ruth, and Phillip all received newly made pajamas from Samuel and Tabitha. The boys and Samuel each received a box of their favorite homemade cookies from Ruth. Elijah, with the help of Samuel, made a jig saw puzzle for his family’s enjoyment. Phillip, with the help of Elijah and Ruth, entertained Samuel and Tabitha with a skit and a song . . . both of which Philip wrote just for that occasion. “This IS the best Christmas morning ever!” said Elijah as the last gift was opened. Just then the doorbell rang. “I wonder who that could be,” said Samuel as he got up to answer the door.
Standing at the door was a couple he and Tabitha had befriended two Christmases before when the woman’s dad was very ill. The couple lived 3 hours away but her dad, before he passed away, had been their neighbor.
“Come in,” Samuel said. “We just finished opening presents. Will you stay and have breakfast with us?”
“We would love to,” said Hannah. “As a matter of fact, when we heard what happened to you earlier this week Mark and I decided rather than buying each other Christmas presents we would buy them for you . . . and that includes the fixings for breakfast,” she continued pointing at one of the sacks that were sitting at her feet at the front door.
“Well then, come on in,” replied Samuel picking up the sack and leading the way into the livingroom where the rest of the family was still seated. “Look who’s here!” he said smiling. “And they brought fixings for BREAKFAST!”
“And gifts!” said Mark and Hannah as they passed out presents to the children.
When the children had finished opening their gifts Mark and Hannah turned to Samuel and Tabitha. “You were both so kind to us and my dad when dad was in his last days,” said Hannah. “I don’t know what we would have done without you.”
“We really needed a friend back then who could keep an eye on dad when we weren’t able to be here,” said Mark, “and the two of you were there for us 24/7. Now, we understand you need a friend and we want to be that friend for you.”
“Mark and I usually buy little presents for each other and one big present for the two of us at Christmas. Sometimes it’s something for the house . . . at other times it might be a vacation to a place we both want to go. This year we decided to forego the big present and give the money to the two of you instead. This is for you,” said Hannah handing Tabitha the card she held in her hand.
Tabitha opened the card and read the words of love handwritten within it. Then she unfolded the check that was in the card. “We can’t accept this,” she said trying to hand the check back to Hannah. “It is way too much.”
“No it’s not,” replied Hannah closing her hands over Tabitha’s. “It’s just enough for you to purchase a used vehicle so that you can both continue to work and to minister to those whom the Lord sets in your path. Without a car, you wouldn’t have been able to minister to my dad in his time of need and I don’t know what Mark and I would have done if that had been the case. Mark and I are agreed on this. We want to help you purchase your next car.”
“Thank you so much!” exclaimed Tabitha hugging the two of them. As she did so she heard in the background a voice singing on the radio, “. . . and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now.