We recently published our first-ever Southern Christian Writers Conference e-book with the release of Christmas Blessings: Real Life Stories to Warm Your Heart.
Stories for the e-book were selected from authors who submitted their stories to the SCWC contest; winners who had their stories published were Christy Bell, LaDonna Brendle, Miranda Herring, Chris Manion, Sylvia Manion, and Warren Whitmire.
We had so many wonderful submissions, though, that we thought we'd share some of the other stories we received. Here are four of the stories today, with other stories presented to you on the blog before the year is done.
"The Christmas Baby"
by Alice Murray
Christmas is about the miraculous birth of a baby a couple of thousand years ago—the baby Jesus. In the Christmas story, a young couple, Mary and Joseph, unexpectedly learned they would be parenting Jesus, a baby whom they did not conceive together.
While sheep and cows may have witnessed the formation of this new family in a Bethlehem stable, a “stork” bore witness to a modern Christmas miracle involving a baby. I was the “stork” in that Christmas story—the adoption attorney present for a young couple unexpectedly receiving a placement of a newborn as a result of divine intervention.
In my Christmas story it was Christmas Eve, but all was not calm.
Despite our office being closed that day, I was tasked with taking a birth mother’s consent and getting a baby discharged from the hospital in a city about an hour away. This placement was a last-minute situation with absolutely no advance notice. Fortunately, our office was able to quickly line up an adoptive couple. Finding an available couple was itself a miracle since half the world was out of town visiting relatives or too busy shopping to answer their phones that day.
Dutifully, albeit begrudgingly, I hopped in my car and headed off to the hospital. Why I did not have anything else to do today, I sarcastically thought. I considered saying “Bah, humbug!” but felt it might be a tad unprofessional. As I turned into the hospital parking lot, I could not help but notice the festively decorated and crowded mall parking lot across the street filled with cheerful groups of people out with their families and friends enjoying their Christmas Eve. But, poor pitiful me, I was relegated to executing about 50 pages of adoption paperwork in a hospital. Oh, Christmas joy!
Entering the hospital room, I found the newborn baby wrapped, not in swaddling clothes, but in the ubiquitous blanket every newborn baby in this country wears in a hospital. Seeing this adorable bundle of joy and the beaming faces of the new parents made my bad attitude evaporate. Even Scrooge would have had to smile at the creation of this brand-new family.
The best Christmas present ever had been bestowed upon the young couple. They would not have cared if they received no other Christmas gifts than this tiny addition to their family. And at this point I didn’t care about the lengthy Christmas Eve to do list I had been forced to table. I was privileged to be present for a blessed event and to play a part in it.
Happy as this scene was, it failed to reveal the miracle behind it. The miracle was hidden in an event led to this day. Earlier in December the adoptive mother, a pre-school teacher, was out on the school playground with her young charges. As she stood keeping a close eye on them, a little girl came up to her teacher and started a conversation. Given the season of the year, unsurprisingly, the topic of Christmas arose.
“What do you want for Christmas?” the little girl asked her teacher. Giving a painfully honest answer, the woman replied that what she and her husband wanted more than anything else for Christmas was a baby; but, she noted, she did not think they would get one. The little girl immediately responded that if her teacher wanted a baby, then she should ask God for one. This young child then dropped to her knees right there on the sandy ground, bowed her head, clasped her hands, and spoke a simple prayer asking God to give her teacher a baby for Christmas. What a sweet gesture, but did the teacher truly expect her student’s prayer to be answered? A few days after the interaction with her student on the playground, the teacher and her husband received an unexpected but exciting call from our office. Would they be interested in the opportunity to receive a last minute adoptive placement, one set for Christmas Eve? Their response was a resounding “Yes!” The young student’s prayer for her teacher was being answered.
Do not credit this stork or her office with making this Christmas miracle occur. We were not aware of the student’s request for God to give her teacher a baby for Christmas until after the adoptive placement had been made.
By working on Christmas Eve, this “stork” witnessed a modern Christmas miracle. While the modern miracle took place in a hospital rather than in a stable, both Christmas miracles involved a newborn baby and resulted in bringing joy to the world. Divine intervention must be credited for both happy Christmas stories. God knows how to give the best presents for Christmas, and sometimes they come in small packages--the size of a newborn.
"A Christmas Homecoming"
by Grace Booth
In 2003, our family faced Christmas with both dread and joy. Our son-in-law was serving as Chaplain in Iraq and we knew our daughter and granddaughter would feel the huge void. Each night our four-year-old granddaughter prayed for her daddy to come home to be with them for Christmas. Each night, our daughter listened to her prayer and the pain deepened. After weeks of hearing this plea, our daughter said, "Look, Honey, we just have to stop praying for Daddy to come home. He's serving the soldiers in Iraq and needs to be with them at Christmas." Little Amanda continued to pray despite her mom's counsel.
Just weeks before the big day, we received the news: "Our son-in-law was coming
Several times the Army had drawn a lottery of names to be chosen for one
soldier to be sent home for the holidays. Twice, his name came up! Both times he
told them to give the gift to someone who needed it more than he did. Finally, he
accepted! He was coming home! News got out and our church family went to work
to participate in this grand homecoming. Elders from our church pitched in and provided
a place for our daughter and son-in-law to stay overnight in New Orleans where his
plane would arrive.
At the appointed time, our daughter and granddaughter rode with us to the airport
to greet him. Excitement ruled as we wept and cheered when we saw the uniformed
soldier walking down the long corridor towards us. Our daughter and son-in-law
embraced and our granddaughter caught her dad by the legs and held on. It was a
moment in time that would not be forgotten and a Christmas that held a reminder
that God was able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask or
A little child's prayer of faith and persistence had been answered in a dramatic
way. When I look at the video of our granddaughter clinging to her dad's legs at the airport, tears well up and I remember to thank God for His faithfulness.
"Gifts of the Season"
by Kristy Ensor
I have many wonderful memories of Christmases past, but there are three occasions that really stand out in my mind.
The first memory is from childhood. The stockings were hung and the milk and cookies were left out for Santa in usual fashion. So my brother, Bryan, and I eagerly went to bed early that night with great anticipation. We wondered what Jolly Old St. Nick would leave us under the tree. The next morning we woke up bright and early and ran downstairs to the living room. What’s odd is that I cannot tell you a single gift I received that year, but what I can tell you is that I felt like my brother won the lottery. That particular Christmas, Santa brought him a really cool Tyco Nite Glow Race Set! My eyes lit up, and I believe I had more fun playing with it than he did. When we returned to school after winter break, all of us kids were buzzing around with excitement asking one another about what gifts we received for Christmas. Well… I don’t know why, but I told everyone in a braggadocios kind of way that Santa brought me a Tyco Nite Glow Race Set! I’d somehow claimed it as my own. Most of my friends had received girlie gifts like Barbie dolls and accessories, and they looked at me like I had two heads since I’d mentioned a racetrack! Apparently girls don’t play with those, but I sure did! I don’t know what it was about that race set, but it brought me much happiness. Maybe it was my inner tomboy coming out, but whatever it was, it left me with a fun little memory.
The second fond memory is also from childhood. Santa left my brother and me a note about what good children we’d been that year. He wrote that he’d left us a special present out in our garage. We quickly ran out there to find a bright orange go-kart. Here’s what REALLY made the gift special. The elves had hand painted both of our names on the side. There it was in lovely white lettering - “Kristy & Bryan.” That go-kart was a beauty!
Another great memory is from a recent Christmas. I’ve been volunteering at Place of Hope in for several years. In case you’re not familiar, Place of Hope is a Christ-centered alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Columbia, Tennessee. My friend Becky and I are on rotation to lead a discipleship class there every few weeks. Becky shares her gift of music and leads a time of praise and worship while I share my testimony along with a devotion and prayer. One year, our church had bought some miniature poinsettias to decorate the sanctuary and had some left over. So our sweet pastor’s wife, Shannon, suggested that I take them to the residents at Place of Hope when I went the next time. So when Becky and I went there to minister one December night, we handed out the pretty little poinsettias. I’ll never forget what happened next. One of the male residents came up to us with watery eyes. He began to share his story, and with tears streaming down his face, he said that poinsettia we gave him was the first gift he’d ever received. He’d never even gotten a birthday present, and just guessing, he was probably in his mid-twenties. He was very appreciative and it was obvious that he cherished this gift. He even asked Becky and I to sign the side of the little golden colored container in which the lovely red poinsettia was planted. That simple poinsettia brought so much joy!
While those gifts were all special, nothing compares to the gift of our Savior. Let’s usher in this holiday season remembering the greatest gift – Jesus. Merry Christmas everyone!
"My Christmas Blessing"
by Lisa Williams
It was a cold, blistery day and only a few days until Christmas and I was feeling overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle of holiday activities. How was I ever going to finish everything I needed to do before Christmas Day? I had to clean the house, buy the groceries, start the baking and finish Christmas shopping too
In this busyness our church had signed up to sing every Sunday in December at the nursing home. I wasn’t exactly chipper about that and thought to myself, “Half of them can’t hear and the other half just sleep in their chairs while we sing, so why are we there?” I scolded myself for thinking such a terrible thing and dutifully pasted on a smile before heading out to the church parking lot to get in my car and go meet everyone else at the nursing home.
Pulling into the parking lot I thought, “Maybe, just maybe, we could get finished in time for me to hit the mall and finish getting the last few presents needed to go under my Christmas tree.” The cold wind whipped my coat around my legs as I hurried into the recreation room. I helped pass out the worn blue hymnals thinking, “Let’s get this show on the road, people!”
As we started to sing, I noticed the Christmas tree lights seem to be extra bright and the star at the top was even brighter. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I almost dropped my hymnal. The bright star represented Jesus and the little lights represented us. These little lights were smaller but great in number and needed to get their ability to shine from the larger light. A verse swept through my mind: Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16) Our good deeds are for the purpose of glorifying God not out own image!
I thought about how He is Christ which means “the anointed one and his anointing” and we are Christians which means “little anointed ones." He wants His anointing to be in us and light up the world! That light-the one from Him- is where our good deeds are to originate from; not from religious duty. That is the kind of light that glorifies Him. He is the light of the world! People might see us doing stuff, but they can’t see the light without us allowing Him to shine through us. It isn’t about doing more but about being more light! I also realized that in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus talks about the beatitudes which are the attributes he wants us to have or be like: merciful, meek, peacemakers, pure of heart, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, to name just a few.
The more I sang the more I noticed the happier my heart became and the more I felt like Christmas. Baking Christmas cookies had never made me feel like this! I began to understand that Christmas isn’t about trying to make it seem like Christmas by doing all the things we think we must do like decorating and gift wrapping, but it is allowing His light and love to flow out of us and touch people. That is what happened the first Christmas. He was born and a great light came into this dark world. Wise men were even guided by it.
I learned that day that “being” Christmas is so much different than “doing” Christmas. My heart filled with joy and I felt so relaxed and less stressed. His yoke really is easy. We make Christianity hard by trying to do it in our own power and being miserable.
May we all, this Christmas season, become the “little lights” of His anointing and vessels that illuminate the darkness. Our good works won’t be out of duty but rather out of Him shining through us; people won’t praise what we’ve done but instead He will get the glory forever and ever. Amen.