One of my great insecurities when I became a mother was that I would never be able to reproduce for my own children those perfect Christmas celebrations that my parents provided for us, where the birth of Jesus Christ was something we rejoiced over, and the day was spent in the comforting embrace of family.
Ironically, the memories that penetrated the deepest were neither elaborate nor expensive, but were formed by the simplest traditions that we grew to anticipate–like the excitement of waiting for my brother to return from tramping through the woods in search of our tree. Or the unforgettable Christmas concerts we students performed for the whole community in our one-room-schoolhouse. Or shopping trips to town, where I could find a ten-cent bottle of perfume for my sister Carol and a five-cent balsam wood airplane kit for my brother at “Stedman’s Five and Dime” on Main Street. Then, of course, traveling a mile down the country road to Gramma Shelestowky’s for a huge turkey dinner with extended family on Christmas afternoon… Ahhhh, those memories…
In our family of eight, Christmas Eve fell into a comfortable routine: I, along with my two younger sisters, were sent to bed early while classic Christmas carols flowed from the radio, so that we’d be out of the way when my older sisters worked along with my mother to get the presents out of hiding, stuff the turkey, and get the house cleaned and ready. I was really too old to be put to bed so early, and restlessly spent those nights trying urgently to fall asleep so I wouldn’t accidentally hear them, and inadvertently find out what I was getting.
Every Christmas for years, my two little sisters and I all received the same gift– usually a modest little doll, all the same version but with slight differences to characterize their individuality (or to prevent us from arguing over which one belonged to whom.) This pattern was a predictable routine, until one Christmas when I was about ten years old. That year, I had fallen in love with a “Lucky Green Doll,” and frankly, I could hardly contain my desire to find one under the tree on Christmas morning.
This pretty little doll, with a ponytail, bobby socks, and a forest-green cotton dress covered with a neat white apron could not be purchased in a regular store. It could only be acquired with the proper accumulation of Lucky Green Stamps that Mom garnered after each shopping trip at Loblaw’s Grocery Store. With feeding a family of six children, the green stamps she acquired regularly were prolific.
I had already named my doll, and like a parent anticipating the imminent adoption of her child, I eagerly looked forward to Christmas morning, and finding my Lucky Green Doll. I’m sure I gave my parents very little peace about my expectation.
Having dreamed of this moment for a very long time, that morning arrived with the anticipation and high excitement that only Christmas morning can generate, multiplied six times, once for each sibling. That year, we did not get copies of the same doll. Dale got a stuffed ragamuffin dog called Tramp that she was thrilled with, and that should have been my clue. But alas, after all the gifts had been opened, there was no Lucky Green doll.
The huge deflation of such intense ten-year-old anticipation is impossible to describe. I was utterly shocked and devastated. My Dad must have seen the crest-fallen sadness on my face, because he pulled me close to him and told me that he knew how much I had wanted the Lucky Green doll. The problem, he said, was that although Mom had ordered it for me, it had been such a hugely popular item for Christmas that the stock had run out. But, he assured me, it had been ordered, and it was only a matter of waiting until it arrived.
It’s amazing to me how some memories so far removed can be so acute. The memories I have of running to meet my Dad each day thereafter as he arrived home from work, watching him walk up the sidewalk in his characteristic gait with his lunchbox in his hand, but no doll, day after day, are vivid and remarkably clear. Day after day, the disappointment was relived. Yet through it all, I never stopped believing that I would find him one day with my doll. I had my Dad’s word to sustain me. I new that the reality of his promise would come. I only had to wait for it.
Then one day, it happened. I ran to meet him when I heard Dad’s car in the driveway. The subtle smile on his face is etched in my memory, as sure enough, he held a white box under his arm. There it was: the fulfillment of what he had promised.
In retrospect, it’s interesting that as such a young child so keenly focused on the long awaited doll, I would even have noticed the look on Dad’s face. But I’ll never forget it. The thing he had promised, which he knew meant so much to me, was fulfilled, and it brought pleasure to Dad to see my happiness.
The essence of that memory has only grown in me as years went on. As a grown woman, wrestling to understand the true meaning of ‘faith,’ the story taught me volumes more than I could have learned by any other means. Faith is not merely the power of positive thinking, as so much of evangelical Christianity would try to convince us that it is. And the power of faith does not rest ultimately in man’s words or declarations, neither is it controlled by the wishes and desires of man. That’s humanism, not Christianity.
True faith is “Theocentric,” or “GOD-centered.” It begins and ends with God. His Word and His Word alone forms the foundation of our belief. Noah Webster defined faith as, “an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with unreserved surrender to the will of His guidance.”
Even better, the writer of Hebrews said in chapter 11, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…
…And these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them…
…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured…”
My faith (that is, my confidence and trust in God’s character and declarations –His Word– and my unreserved surrender to the will of His guidance) is as essential as the very air I breathe that sustains me. My faith, without the promise of my Father to give it substance, is empty. But with the promise of my Father’s Word, it’s as good as done.
Romans 10:17 says that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I learned the reality of that truth that from my Dad. And from a pretty little doll with a ponytail and an apron.
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