74: Our Christmas Miracle

74: Our Christmas Miracle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Our Christmas Miracle

The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.

~G. K. Chesterton

It was a perfect, peaceful Christmas Eve. A light snow was falling all around our century-old home in Orillia, Ontario. Friends and family had gathered for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner before heading to church. Our Christmas tree was sparkling with tiny lights, a warm fire burned in the living room hearth and candles danced their special magic in candelabra and stands throughout our home.

We got to talking about the best Christmas present we had ever received. For me it was my GPS, which had changed the way I drove, removing the frustration of wrong turns and misdirection. One of the grandchildren cooed endlessly about a particular teddy bear, the one with the squeaky nose. Another described a big dump truck in detail, complete with sound effects.

Daughter Sarah put the finishing touches on her Christmas tradition — ham and chicken dishes along with scalloped potatoes, beans with almonds and her special turnip and carrot medley. Ashley brought her famous berry salad, Maggie supplied the well-aged wine and Aaron brought one of his extraordinary chocolate pecan pies.

We gathered around the table that had been beautifully set by my wife Jennifer and held hands while I thanked God for our family and friends, for living in a peaceful country, for God’s loving, protecting hand upon us and for Jesus, the gift of the first Christmas.

After the amazing meal we demolished an English trifle for dessert. Then, we were off to church. The grandchildren blew out the candles on the table while the adults snuffed other candles and ensured the fire in the fireplace was safe to leave. Our gang gathered in their vehicles and drove off to St. Mark’s church for the Christmas Eve service.

Peace and love surrounded me in the church, surrounded by family and friends, well fed, the choir singing “Silent Night” in the light of the battery operated candles we use these days. I wished we could still use real candles, since I had never seen a problem with them.

As we left the church, I looked forward to a relaxing night. Taking off my shoes and loosening my belt would be my first acts upon my return home. I was wrong.

When we opened the door to the house my smile instantly faded. I felt a surge of fear and anxiety. The house was filled with smoke!

I ran to check the fireplace, but it was quiet. My wife checked the kitchen. The stove was off and nothing was in the oven. I opened a couple of windows, despite the cold wind. We walked around the house but could not find a source. Still, the smoke was very strong.

Then our daughter Maggie called out from the dining room. There was no fire, but about three square feet of wallpaper had burned black and crisp. Underneath, a small tabletop was badly scorched, the brass dish on it partially melted. The floor around the table was black, not with soot, but with scorching. There had been a real fire!

Reconstructing the scene afterwards, we realized we had missed snuffing out one candle in a five-foot candelabrum. The candle must have fallen onto the dried hydrangea arrangement sitting on the table, and started a fire that was so hot it had melted that brass dish, and burned that section of wallpaper. Our old house was full of drafts providing lots of air to fuel the fire. Why was there only a small section of destruction? What had stopped it?

We each had a theory, expressed in excruciating detail. In the end, we each came to the same, wonderful conclusion. The only reason we didn’t turn the corner of our street to find the fire department fighting to save our house from total destruction was because the hand of God had reached out and, in that brief moment, overrode the rules of physics.

We let out a collective sigh of relief — and heartfelt thanks. Later, after the company had left, Jennifer and I sat down and held hands. The Christmas tree and all the presents under it stood to our left.

On the right sat the burnt reminder of our Christmas Eve miracle. In that moment we knew for sure that the best Christmas present we ever had was given to us that night by the One who gave the very first Christmas present.

~Ross Greenwood

Orillia, Ontario

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