That year, Christmas went from barren to bountiful

Snow was falling heavily, but not as heavily as the message that fell from my father's lips: "The auto agency is closing, and I'm out of a sales job."

The agency had been on difficult financial footing all autumn, but Mother did not let Father know the depth of her shock.

"We'll be all right," she said. "You'll get another job soon."

It was a few days before Christmas, and the severance check was needed for food and rent. There would be no money for gifts, no Christmas tree to cheer the children. I was almost 6 and my two brothers were younger. It seemed as though it would be a sad Christmas Day.

"Oh, no, it won't," my mother said. "What is the real meaning of Christmas? It is to celebrate the Christ. Didn't he say, 'I am come that you may have life and have it abundantly'? We already have that abundance in a happy, healthy family."

Mother spent the days cleaning the house and telling us about the Bethlehem Star, the birth of the baby Jesus, and the arrival of the shepherds. Jesus didn't have a Christmas tree. He was born in a barn with no toys, just animals and hay.

We children thought that having all those animals was much nicer than a bunch of toys. It was a pleasant preparation as we learned some of the hymns that Mother sang. Father went out every morning to look for work.

The day before Christmas was a bright sunny day, like many Colorado winter days. In the afternoon, the doorbell rang. It was our next-door neighbors.

"We went to the mountains yesterday to get our Christmas tree," the woman said, "and we brought one for you - if you haven't got one yet." In came her husband carrying a tall silver spruce tree.

Mother was speechless. She stood aside as the wife followed her husband inside. She was holding a large cardboard box, "We straightened our attic this morning," she said, "and found we had extra ornaments and these toys that our grown-up children no longer want. Could you possibly take them for your children?"

Of course my mother could possibly take them! Bowing and shaking hands, the neighbors departed, leaving the box.

What a box of gifts! A beautiful china doll, toy train, jack-in-the-box, coloring books, crayons, and other things to delight a child.

Just before dinnertime, Father came in with a wide smile and full shopping bags. "I got a job traveling for a candy company," he said. "They gave me an advance check and all this candy to try out on the family."

It was a bountiful, happy Christmas. We trimmed the tree, played with the wonderful toys, sampled the candy. But we also remembered the real Christmas - the baby Jesus and all those animals. And we still do, today.

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