On this, the 25th day of Advent, we share a story from Norman Vincent Peale about a Christmas miracle he witnessed many years ago.
One Christmas Eve over 35 years ago I was in Syracuse. People of the church were distributing big, bulging love-motivated Christmas baskets to poor families in the neighborhood.
All but one basket had been delivered and I offered to take the last one. It led me into a strange adventure. The home proved to be little more than a shack at the rear of some rundown tenements. An obviously overworked young wife admitted me.
I could see she had been scrubbing the family clothes in a steaming old-fashioned washtub. On a shabby couch sprawled the young husband, obviously deep in his cups. The wife followed my glance. "He is a wonderful man," she spoke defensively. "If it wasn't for that one weakness he would go places. And he will...he will."
Her voice ended in a choke. On the wall, surprisingly, were two excellent paintings which appeared quite out of place in the surroundings. They pictured a dignified and obviously outstanding couple. "They were his parents," she explained, "who were good New England people. He wouldn't part with those pictures even if we starved. I guess they represent his hold on life, on hope maybe."
I gave the basket to the young wife, wished her a Merry Christmas, and determined to help that family in a more creative way than just a Christmas basket. Next day, Christmas, I dropped in to see these people again and had a pleasant visit. The following Sunday they showed up at church and kept on coming every week.
I stopped by the day they moved into a simple but nice home. I must admit I choked up a bit when I saw Fred carrying those two portraits into the new house. It was July when they made this move, but it did not seem at all incongruous when Fred said happily, "Merry Christmas!"
Why not? It was on Christmas that life began to be merry for this nice family.
This story is from a sermon Dr. Peale composed in December 1970.