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5 Inspiring Stories of Holiday Angels

Whether it’s the miraculous return of a wedding ring or a mysterious gift giver, these heartwarming tales highlight the true meaning of Christmas.

An illustration of a regal angel; Illustration by © PHIL, I2IART.COM

Time for a New Tradition by Kathy Hutto from Lagrange, Georgia

Presents were waiting for the kids and me at home after Christmas Eve service, but I’d already gotten the best present I could wish for: a full-time teaching job. Maybe we’ve finally made it through the hard times, I thought as we piled out of the car. Since my divorce, I’d only found part-time tutoring work, and my budget was stretched to breaking.

My son and daughter ran ahead to the front door. “Mom, there’s something on the porch,” one of them called out. “A jar!” We took it inside and opened it. My jaw dropped when I fished out a hundred-dollar bill, shiny pennies sprinkled around it.

“Well, it’s a Christmas jar,” I said. I’d read about the tradition.

“You spend a whole year filling the jar with loose change or small bills. At Christmastime, you give the jar to someone who needs it, but you give it in secret. This angel was a real saver!”

I tucked the big bill back into the jar and thought things over. I had a job now. Our family’s needs had been answered. So we passed our blessing on—and started our own Christmas jar for someone else. We’ll never tell who.

Angel at Our Table by Rebecca Marks from Rosemount, Minnesota

Breast cancer had sent my mother-in-law into surgery just before the holidays, so we were especially grateful to have her with us for Christmas Eve dinner. She was in such good spirits, I could almost forget what she was going through. But when it came time to leave, I was careful with my hug. “Which side was the operation on?” I asked. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“The left,” she said, turning a bit. As I embraced her, an odd thought popped into my head: Yours is on the right. I could barely muster a smile as I waved goodbye. I’d been putting off getting a mammogram. I was 41 and in good health. I had no pain or lumps. It seemed unlikely there was anything to worry about, but that’s all I did for a week after Christmas.

Finally, I gave in and got that mammogram. There was a mass in my right breast; the biopsy revealed a malignancy. We’d caught it early, before it had a chance to spread. I’m cancer-free today, mostly because of a hug—and a nudge—on Christmas Eve.

A Joyful Gift by Terrie Huntley from Pueblo County, Colorado

I dreaded my first Christmas without my 16-year-old daughter, Lindsay, who’d died of leukemia on Thanksgiving. Without her I had nothing to celebrate, but I knew I had to drag myself to the mall. Lindsay had always been my shopping buddy, with an eye for the perfect gifts.

I got dressed for my lonely trip. Find something to be grateful for, I told myself. Rebecca, my daughter’s young nurse, came immediately to mind. They became instant friends in the hospital.

Rebecca brought in books and drawing paper. She lent Lindsay her iPad as a distraction. Sometimes Rebecca seemed more like an angel than a nurse. I opened the door to leave the house. As long as there are people like Rebecca in the world, I thought, there is something to celebrate.

When I stepped outside, I noticed that someone had left a Christmas ornament by the door. I looked around, but there was no one to thank. The next day I came out to find a plate of freshly baked cookies. The day after that, a Christmas wreath. Lindsay would want me to celebrate God’s joyful gifts, I thought, hanging the wreath on the front door. Whoever the mysterious gift-giver was, she had given Christmas back to me. It felt a little bit like my personal gift to Lindsay, and it got me through the holidays. Even if I didn’t get to the bottom of the mystery.

It was two Christmases later that my mother told me about a friend of hers whose daughter-in-law had a curious holiday habit. “The daughter-in-law leaves little gifts, mostly for her patients,” Mom explained. “Rebecca’s a nurse.”

And an angel. Just as she was for Lindsay, so she was for me.

Captain St. Nick to the Rescue by Kaylin Kaupish, Editor

Two weeks before Christmas, tugboat crewman Jay Bradford and his friend, Captain Nick Barsa, were fishing off Long Beach, New Jersey. The fish were not biting. Nothing they reeled in could be classified as a good catch. At the end of the day, Jay was pulling up the anchor when his wedding ring slipped off. Plink! It landed in the water and sank out of sight.

Jay was a newlywed. He’d just married his college sweetheart, Meagan, in June. She’d had the ring made specially for him out of a material that would not get scratched on the job. Now he had to text her that the ring was lost.

Nick wasn’t so sure about that. He called a diver who specialized in salvaging. Captain Nick could anchor on a dime and was determined to find his friend’s ring. “People thought I was crazy to try and go back for it,” Nick told New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press. “The odds were against us. It’s a big ocean out there.”

When the three men went out to search, the ring had been lost for four days. The winds were harsh and the sea was rough. Nick used his boat’s GPS to find the right location and dropped anchor. The diver donned his scuba suit and jumped in. After only 10 minutes, the diver shot to the surface with a treasure in hand.

On their first Christmas as husband and wife, the newlyweds would both be wearing their rings. “I nicknamed Nick ‘Captain St. Nicholas,’’ Meagan said. “Because these two performed a Christmas miracle.”

Mom’s Christmas Dolls by Karen Barchent from Findlay, Ohio

First I’d lost my daughter, Allison, in September. Then my mother a few months later. I steeled myself as I stepped inside her apartment. They’re together in heaven, I thought, only wishing I knew that for sure.

An army of siblings, children and grandkids showed up to help clean out Mom’s house. I couldn’t have done it alone. Mom had been a crafty lady. Over the years she’d made hundreds of afghans and sweaters, Christmas stockings and baby booties. She’d held onto the keepsakes after the kids had grown out of them. We had stacks of plastic totes to sort through. My sister-in-law remembered the Christmas Mom made all the grandchildren their own Raggedy Ann or Andy doll. “The kids had to write their names on them so they wouldn’t get them mixed up. I don’t think Mom held onto those though.”

My sister-in-law opened a tote full of yarn. “Such beautiful colors,” she said. Then she gasped. “Karen, look here!” She unearthed a love-worn Raggedy Ann. “I guess she held on to one after all,” my sister-in-law said.

“I wonder why this one’s here snuggled up in Mom’s yarn,” I said. I flipped up the doll’s pinafore to see which one of the kids she’d belonged to. Carefully printed on her tummy in red marker was a name: ALLISON. I held the doll close, knowing for sure that Mom was holding Allison close too.

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