A Word of Encouragement with Elizabeth Rice Handford

Christmas 1945, all the newspapers said, was the most wonderful Christmas ever! If you’d been living then, you’d have thought so, too. Our dear country had been fighting ruthless enemies for four unending years. Then, in December, the Japanese surrendered. President Harry Truman promised our exhausted soldiers that they would all be home in time for Christmas. The nightmare was ended. No more sirens or searchlights scanning the skies for enemy aircraft. No more telegrams from the war office saying “We regret to inform you—.” Yes, it was the most wonderful Christmas ever, and the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” portrays that joy beautifully..

But Daddy and I missed that “Most wonderful Christmas ever.” We were stranded in the Los Angeles airport for several days, struggling to get a flight home. Our flight reservations, made weeks before, were cancelled by the airlines. Los Angeles was the home port for thousands of soldiers stationed in the Pacific. They needed–and certainly deserved–whatever flights were available.

I hadn’t been home for three months. I was traveling with Daddy, doing his secretarial work days, and playing the piano for his union revival campaigns nights. It might have seemed a glamorous life, but actually it was very hard work without much respite. I was 18 years old, lonely and tired, missing my family dreadfully. And now we couldn’t get home for Christmas.

At the airport we stood in line after line, checking for any available flight that might eventually connect with a flight to Chicago. Finally, the day before Christmas, Daddy got me on a flight through Salt Lake City. It was the first time I’d ever flown, and I was scared and excited. The plane was a sturdy DC 3. I remember the long circling climb we made out of Salt Lake City, to gain enough altitude to get over the Rockies. Chicago’s Midway Airport was bewilderingly crowded. Then I saw Mother’s face welcoming me. Dear, patient Mother, who unselfishly gave herself to all of the extra responsibilities of the family so that Daddy could be free to preach the Gospel. My sisters, were, oh, so sweet and fun to hug again. But we wouldn’t celebrate Chirstmas, not on your life, not until Daddy got home too.

The day after Christmas, a girl friend asked, “What did you get for Christmas?”

“Don’t know yet. Not celebrating Christmas until Daddy gets home.”

“How odd,” she said. But it wasn’t odd at all. We would celebrate when the family was all together. Daddy arrived a couple of days later. Then it became “the most wonderful Christmas ever.”

Christmas, 2022, things were very different for me. Many of my family members are now in Heaven: Mother, Father, two sisters, four brothers-in-law, two beloved grandchildren, a daughter-in-law. My precious husband, there for seven long years. Two of my remaining sisters linger on the threshold of Heaven. Not much cause for joy, you’d think. You may feel the same sense of deep loss. Perhaps Christmas was sad for you, too. But here’s why I can say it was a wonderful Christmas:

God showed how much He loved us
by sending His only Son into the world
so that we might have eternal life through Him.
This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us
and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:9,10 nlt

Without Jesus, Christmas would have been terrible, no matter the gifts or the family. With Him, if I’d had nothing else, it would still have been “the most wonderful Christmas ever.” I trust it was for you, too. Why? Because God loved the whole world so much He gave us Jesus, and He is a treasure that makes every day more wonderful than the last.