This past summer, my wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary … which means we’ve had about 27 ½ years of wedded bliss. Over these years we’ve discovered that we’ve had to blend our varied ideas and approaches about a great many things. My wife, for example, has had to acquiesce in her insistence upon neatness and has become accustomed to some of my sloppy ways. And me? I’ve learned how to say “Yes, dear” with more frequency.
But after all these years, we are still working on melding some of our ideas about Christmas. After all, my wife didn’t grow up believing that her spouse would work twelve hours on Christmas Eve and would, on most occasions, roll into the garage at two a.m. on Christmas mornings after preaching four times in seven hours. She didn’t understand that she would spend most Christmas Eves alone and she certainly didn’t sign up for a Christmas Orange.
Let me explain.
Early in our B.C. years (Before Children), we made a valiant effort to preserve our respective Christmas traditions. We cooked, baked, shopped, decorated and traveled with the best of them, often over treacherous roads. Later, with children, we ranged even further to satisfy the demands and curiosities of grandparents and in-laws, often carting home an entire Toys-R-Us warehouse. But eventually, we settled into an abbreviated, post-Christmas lull – too tired and worn out to even remember what we were celebrating in the first place. The Christmas when our (then) teenage children announced that they wanted to “sleep-in” on Christmas morning was the year that Christmas truly began for me and the missus.
And yet, throughout all of these years, the Christmas Orange has remained. Both of our families have long preserved the memory and practice of placing an orange in the toe of the Christmas stockings. It is a memory, really, of a simple Christmas – one born of meager times, when gifts were few and a piece of Florida fruit was about as much as one could hope for.
My wife and I both like the Christmas Orange. We actually eat them! And over the years I’ve learned that, while I am at church preaching one of my many Christmas Eve sermons, my wife is at home stuffing those oranges into the socks. It is actually a remarkable bond, both of us preserving some piece of a simple Christmas – me, with shepherds, angels and carols, and my wife with her oranges, candy canes, and the wooden crèche displayed on the fireplace mantle.
As we’ve grown old together, we don’t ask for gifts anymore. We have everything we need. God’s love. Our love. Church family. Our family. And a Christmas Orange. Who could ask for anything more?
Todd Outcalt serves Brownsburg Calvary and often shares the pen with his wife, Becky. In 2014 they contributed to three books about breast cancer. Two of Todd’s latest books are Where in the World We Meet (poems) and The Other Jesus.