The older woman awoke to her usually quiet home. Marie had never been married and had enjoyed her seventy plus years of independence. Why this Christmas Day was different from others was anyone guess. However, the frugal woman decided to treat herself to a special Christmas Day dinner. She slipped into a green dress and pinned on a small Christmas broach. She pulled on her coat and slid into her car.
My goodness, she thought, there aren’t many cars on the street today. Everyone must be where they’re supposed to be. Turning onto the main street of town, Marie sighed as she noticed the grocery store was closed. The gas stations were open. The drugstore was closed, and electronic sign flashed, “Merry Christmas.” Marie continued driving to her favorite restaurant. As she slowly approached, she noticed the empty parking lot. She pulled closer to read the sign taped to the door. It read: “Closed in observance of Christmas Day.” It was a bittersweet feeling. Marie, a Christian, was pleased they were observing this special day. However, there would be no special meal for her. Much to her chagrin, Marie returned home.
As a spinster, how she hated that designation, she had eaten many meals alone. This year the aloneness was more prominent than other years. I must really be getting old, she thought. I didn’t want to eat alone this year. Finally, she opened the cupboard doors and pulled down jars of peanut butter and jelly. She fixed herself a sandwich, poured a glass of milk and sat at the kitchen table - alone. That was her Christmas Day dinner.
Sunday morning Marie was greeted by the pastor’s wife, Nan. “Good morning, Marie. Did you have a nice Christmas?”
“It was okay,” was the guarded answer.
“Did you go to your sister’s?”
“No.” It was a curt answer. A few awkward moments of silence hung between the two. Marie added, “I ate at home.” Although usually quite reserve, Marie blurted out, “I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner.” The woman, whose eyes usually twinkled with merriment and who was usually upbeat, was clearly disheartened. In that embarrassing moment, Nan resolved to never permit a single person to eat alone on Christmas Day.
As next Christmas Day approached, Nan announced to her husband that she had invited Marie to join the family for Christmas dinner. “That’s wonderful,” was his response. A few minutes before dinner was to be served, Marie rang the doorbell. Pastor Dave greeted her. “Merry Christmas, Marie. We’re glad you came.”
“Thank you,” she replied. Looking carefully at her pastor, she suddenly realized his white hair, salt and pepper mustache and wire-framed glasses, reminded her of the jolly old elf himself. Pastor Dave needed a round belly and the red suit to complete the costume.
Gathering around the table, the family and Marie held hands as Pastor Dave prayed, “Gracious God, for this day we give you thanks. Thank you for this wonderful gift of life you’ve given us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Bless this food and our fellowship. Thank you for allowing Marie to be part of our family today. Amen.” The family squeezed hands and the meal began. Laughter was heard throughout the day. Marie enjoyed the meal, but she mostly enjoyed being with others.
Pastor Dave and Nan really enjoyed having guests for dinner. As they listened to Christmas carols later that night, they heard a choir sing “Good King Wenceslas.” The last few words spoke mountains to them. They read the lyrics over and over.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing
The next year, Nan and Pastor Dave invited Marie and a couple of other people to join them for Christmas Day dinner. Each year afterwards the invitation list increased until the pastor and his family needed to move the dinner to the church’s fellowship hall.
Thanks to Marie and her meager peanut butter and jelly sandwich, others have discovered what Christmas is about – a day for sharing joy and day for enjoying the abundant life the Christ child brought to this earth.
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