Reflections About Christmas 
Written by Robert Kirwan

Christmas is one of my favourite seasons of the year. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to share with you some of my favourite Christmas stories. The following editorials are intended to provide you with some reflective food for thought during the Christmas season.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

If you have any comments, please send them to me at

bulletLook For The Gold Slippers This Christmas
bulletThe Perfect Gift
bulletDo You Still Hear The Bells?
bulletYes, Virginia. There Is A Santa Claus
bulletWho Says Santa Claus Isn't Real?
bulletThe Doll and A White Rose
bulletA Baby's Touch

Look For The Gold Slippers This Christmas

If you are like most people in this area, it usually takes some special moment to put you into the Christmas Spirit. It could be the first snowfall; putting up your Christmas lights; shopping for presents; the first carolers; or sending out your Christmas cards. You know what I mean. We donít have that distinctive Christmas feeling all year long, but most of us tend to get into the "Christmas Spirit" at this time of year. What did it for you? Or are you one of those for whom the Christmas Bell has not yet rung?

You may be surprised at what eventually sends you into the Christmas mood. Often it sneaks up on you and could be something as "insignificant" as what occurs in the following story that I found on the internet. The story was written by a lady out shopping just before Christmas, but it could be any one of us.

"It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadnít yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store. Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered.

My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didnít buy them anything. Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.

In front of me were two small children - a boy of about five and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He carefully clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girlís clothing resembled her brotherís. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the storeís stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily. When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure.

The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be $6.09," she said. The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pocket for some change. Finally he came up with $3.12.

"I guess we will have to put them back," he bravely said. "We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow."

With that statement a soft sob broke from the little girl. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes," she cried. "Well, weíll go home and work some more. Donít cry. Weíll come back," he said.

Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair or arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you lady."

"What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked.

The boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus."

The girl spoke, "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Wonít mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?"

My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. "Yes," I answered. "I am sure she will."

Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving.

If you havenít yet found the Spirit of Christmas inside you this year, be on the lookout for that special moment when it will hit you. For no matter what you situation in life, you will definitely discover the spirit somewhere, sometime and with someone. Keep looking for your "gold slippers" and enjoy this Christmas like no other.


The Perfect Gift

Christmas is my favourite time of the year! It is also the time of the year I hate the most! I love getting together with family and friends and enjoying their company over meals, parties and other festivities. But I hate the commercial aspects of Christmas. Everybody rushes around the stores trying to buy something to Ďgiveí to people on their list. In many cases the only objective is to make sure that you can put some gift under the tree because they are getting you one.

The ĎPerfect Giftí is so elusive today. However, I came across a beautiful story the other day which really touched me deeply. I think you will agree that the story has a powerful message.

Norma Smithís husband, Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it. You know, 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 couldnít think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, Norma decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. She reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Their 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.

The youngsters from the inner city, dressed in sneakers so ragged that the shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to Kevinís team mates in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, both Norma and Mike were alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without head gear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestlerís ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously couldnít afford. Well, Kevinís team ended up walloping them. They took every weight class. As each of the boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in this tatters with false bravado - a kind of street pride that couldnít acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside Norma, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won. They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."

Mike loved kids-all kids. He understood kids in competitive situations, having coached little league baseball, football and lacrosse. Thatís when the idea came to Norma for his present.

That afternoon, Norma 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, Norma placed an envelope on the tree. The note inside told Mike what she had done and that this was her gift to him. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in each of the succeeding years. For each Christmas, Norma followed the tradition. One year she sent a group of mentally challenged 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 so on...

The envelope became the highlight of their Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and their 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 year that Mike lost his battle to cancer, Norma was so wrapped up in grief that when Christmas finally rolled around, she barely got the tree up. Yet Christmas Eve found her placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of their 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 Normaís and Mikeís grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation, watching their fathers take down their envelopes.

Mikeís spirit, like the spirit of Christmas, will always be with the family.

May all of my readers be fortunate enough to find the Spirit of Christmas this year, and may it always be with your family!


Do You Still Hear The Bells?
Listen closely on Christmas Morning

The older I get the more I find myself understanding the really great mysteries of life. Itís funny how as children we all marvel at these mysteries and throughly enjoy the beauty. Take Santa Claus for example. For some strange reason, many people stop believing in this wonderful person as they grow out of childhood. Then, for some equally strange reason, many of us re-discover Santa as we re-discover the truly important things in life. Itís too bad we get so caught up in the fast-pace of adult life that our vision gets blurred and we miss out on that childhood wonderment that we enjoyed so much as young boys and girls. I leave you with a little story written by Chris Van Allsburg, which I am sure will become a classic for hundreds of years to come. Enjoy The Polar Express.

"On Christmas Eve many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound - a sound a friend had told me Iíd never hear - the ringing bells of Santaís sleigh.

"There is no Santa," my friend had insisted, but I knew he was wrong.

Late that night I did hear sounds, though not of ringing bells. From outside came the sounds of hissing steam and squeaking metal. I looked through my window and saw a train standing perfectly still in front of my house.

I put on my bathrobe and slippers, then tiptoed downstairs and out the door where the conductor invited me to take a ride on the Polar Express to the North Pole. The train was filled with other children and we sang and ate as the train travelled faster and faster northward until we arrived at a huge city standing alone at the top of the world.

"Itís the North Pole," exclaimed the conductor. "The elves are gathered at the centre of the city waiting for Santa to give the first gift of Christmas."

"Who receives the first gift?", we all asked.

"He will choose one of you," said the conductor.

The train came to a stop in the centre of the city where hundreds of elves were gathered. We all got out and in front of us stood Santaís sleigh, with the excited reindeer prancing and pacing about, ringing the silver bells that hung from their harnesses. It was a magical sound, like nothing I had ever heard. The elves moved apart and Santa Claus appeared. The elves cheered wildly. He marched over to us and, pointing at me said, "Letís take this fellow here." He jumped into his sleigh. The conductor handed me up. I sat on Santaís knee and he asked, "Now, what would you like for Christmas?"

I knew that I could have any gift I could imagine. But the thing I wanted most for Christmas was not in Santaís giant bag. What I wanted more than anything was one silver bell from Santaís sleigh. When I asked, Santa smiled. Then he gave me a hug and told an elf to cut a bell from a reindeerís harness. The elf tossed it up to Santa. He stood, holding the bell high above him, and called out, "The first gift of Christmas!"

Santa handed me the bell and I put it in my bathrobe pocket and got down off the sleigh. Then Santa roared off into the sky to deliver gifts around the world. As soon as we were back inside the Polar Express the other children asked to see the bell. I put my hand in my pocket, but the only thing I felt was a hole. The bell was gone. It broke my heart to lose the bell. When the train reached my house, I sadly left the other children. The conductor shouted, "Merry Christmas", and the Polar Express let out a loud blast from its whistle and sped away.

The next morning my little sister, Sarah and I opened our presents. When it looked as if everything had been unwrapped, Sarah found one last small box behind the tree. It had my name on it. Inside was the silver bell! There was a note: "Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Fix that hole in your pocket." signed, Mr. C.

I shook the bell. It made the most beautiful sound my sister and I had ever heard. But my mother said, "Oh, thatís too bad."

"Yes," said my father, "itís broken."

When Iíd shaken the bell, my parents had not heard a sound.

At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though Iíve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe."

This Christmas look into the eyes of a young child soaking in the beautiful sights and sounds of the season. Think of how much all your friends and family love you and how much you love them. And as you are lying snug in your bed on Christmas Eve, listen carefully, and see if you too can hear, once again, the sweet sound of the sleigh bells.

Wishing All Who Truly Believe A Very Merry Christmas!


"Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus..."

Every year at this time, parents are faced with the question they dread the most. "Is there a Santa Claus?" There are always children at school who donít believe in the jolly old St. Nick. These children take great joy in trying to spread doubt among the younger boys and girls. So, this year, when you are faced with the question, sit your child down and read to them one of the greatest classics ever written. You will recognize it as the famous "Virginiaís Letter". Back in 1897, a young girl named Virginia OíHanlon, of New York City wrote the following letter to the New York Sun, one of the most prestigious newspapers in New York.

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says "If you see it in ĎThe Suní itís so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Signed: Virginia OíHanlon

The newspaper assigned Francis P. Church, a veteran newspaperman who had been with The Sun for twenty years, to answer this seemingly unanswerable question. His reply is one of the most famous new paper editorials of all time.

Dear Virginia:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be menís or childrenís, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith, then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but thatís no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the babyís rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, and romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

So this Christmas season, let us all remember that "the most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see". We donít have to see Santa Claus to believe in him and to witness first hand the glory of the Christmas Spirit. Letís keep Santa Claus alive and in doing so we can all enjoy the blessings this great season has to offer.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Who Says Santa Claus Isnít Real?

Christmas is the time of year when we celebrate the birth day of Jesus. The Church is lit with candles for the Christmas service - the Christ Mass. Carol singers go from house to house. People kiss under the mistletoe and shake hands as a sign of friendship. We hang up evergreens in our houses and decorate trees with glittering ornaments and lights. We have a special Christmas dinner and gather together with family and friends. And most exciting of all, especially for the children, we give presents, just as the shepherds and kings gave presents to the new-born child in Bethlehem, 2000 years ago.

Dutch children do not have to wait until Christmas Day for all of their presents. On December 6, which is St. Nicholas Day, they are visited by a kind old gentleman with a long white beard. He is dressed like a bishop in a long red cape with a mitre on his head and a crook in his hand. He comes from Spain in a sailing ship where he is greeted in Amsterdam by crowds of children dressed up in their national costumes.

St. Nicholas rides on a white horse to visit each house where he asks the parents if their children have been good. One of his attendants writes down the answer in a book. That night, the children fill their wooden clogs or shoes with carrots for his horse. They put them beside the big kitchen stove, or on the window sill. Next morning, good children find the carrots gone and their shoes filled with sweets and little presents. Very naughty children find only a bunch of sticks for beating them with.

The first St. Nicholas was a bishop who lived over a thousand years ago. He once saved the lives of some children, and he was a very good man, so he became the patron saint of all children.

When the Dutch settlers went to America three hundred years ago, they spread the tradition of their St. Nicholas, or Santal Klaus as they called him. That is how we get the name Santa Claus. In America, his white horse disappeared and he now rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

So, next time someone tells you that Santa Claus doesnít exist, you can set that person straight. Santa Claus was very real and his spirit lives on around the world today at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas.


The Doll and a White Rose

I hurried into the local department store to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. I looked at all the people and grumbled to myself. I would be in here forever and I just had so much to do. Christmas was beginning to become such a drag. I wished that I could just sleep through Christmas. But I hurried the best I could through all the people to the toy department. Once again I kind of mumbled to myself at the prices of all these toys. And wondered if the grandkids would even play with them.

I found myself in the doll aisle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little boy about 5 holding a lovely doll. He kept touching her hair and he held her so gently. I could not seem to help myself. I just kept looking over at the little boy and wondered who the doll was for. I watched him turn to a woman and he called his aunt by name and said,

"Are you sure I don't have enough money?" She replied a bit impatiently, "You know that you don't have enough money for it. The aunt told the little boy not to go anywhere that she had to go get some other things and would be back in a few minutes. And then she left the aisle. The boy continued to hold the doll. After a bit I asked the boy who the doll was for.

He said, "it is the doll my sister wanted so badly for Christmas. She just knew that Santa would bring it."

I told him that maybe Santa was going to bring it.

He said "No, Santa can't go where my sister is" "I have to give the doll to my Momma to take to her"

I asked him where his sister was. He looked at me with the saddest eyes and said "She has gone to be with Jesus. My Daddy says that Momma is going to have to go be with her."

My heart nearly stopped beating. Then the boy looked at me again and said, "I told my Daddy to tell Momma not to go yet. I told him to tell her to wait till I got back from the store"

Then he asked me if I wanted to see his picture. I told him I would love to. He pulled out some pictures he had taken at the front of the store and said, "I want my Momma to take this with her so she don't ever forget me. I love my Momma so much and I wish she did not have to leave me. But Daddy says she will need to be with my sister."

I saw that the little boy had lowered his head and had grown so very quiet. While he was not looking I reached into my purse and pulled out a hand full of bills. I asked the little boy, "Shall we count that money one more time?"

He grew excited and said , "Yes, I just know it has to be enough" So I slipped my money in with his and we began to count it. And of course it was plenty for the doll. He softly said, "Thank you Jesus for giving me enough money."

The boy continued, "I just asked Jesus to give me enough money to buy this doll so Momma can take it with her to give to my sister. And he heard my prayer. I wanted to ask him for enough to buy my Momma a white rose, but I didn't ask him, but he gave me enough to buy the doll and a rose for my Momma. She loves white roses so very very much"

In a few minutes the aunt came back and I wheeled my cart away. I could not keep from thinking about the little boy as I finished my shopping in a totally different spirit than when I had started. And I kept remembering a story I had seen in the newspaper several days earlier about a drunk driver hitting a car and killing a little girl and the Mother was in serious condition. The family was deciding on rather to remove the life support. Now surely this little boy did not belong with that story.

Two days later I read in the paper where the family had disconnected the life support and the young woman had died. I could not forget the little boy and just kept wondering if the two were somehow connected. Later that day, I could not help myself and I went out and bought some white roses and took them to the funeral home where the young woman was. And there she was holding a lovely white rose, the beautiful doll, and the picture of the little boy in the store.

I left there in tears, my life changed forever. The love that little boy had for his little sister and his mother was over whelming. And in a split second a drunk driver had ripped the life of that little boy to pieces.


A Baby's Touch

During the busyness of this holiday season, my one year old daughter caught a cold that wouldn't seem to let go of her. She had it especially rough at night when she had coughing fits. Being a first time, nervous mom, I brought her to bed with me after a particularly bad cough.

As we were drifting to sleep, she wiggled around and her hand fell across my face, brushed my cheek and rested there. I felt as if an electric current was running through my body. Simultaneously, a picture came to mind of a most beautifully wrapped gift -- gold foil with delightful maroon ribbons. I realized that God had just sent a wonderful message and gift to me about the things I should be focusing on this Christmas.

Amidst all the buying, decorating, and entertaining, I was shown through the simple touch of my child the most precious gift of all.

My baby's touch, this year in 1998, must not be so unlike the touch of another precious child 2000 years ago.

Did his mother feel the same way when his hand brushed against her cheek? His life was to touch the world and affect all of us. Hopefully, with my gentle guidance and love, my baby's touch will affect others as she grows.


More Holiday Fun For The Family

In addition to the stories above, I am providing you with some additional Christmas related information that may help you enjoy this wonderful season.

May you and your family truly enjoy all that Christmas has to offer.










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