Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ava Pennington | Spread the Christmas Joy

Angels and Fairy Godmothers
The Christmas season is magical when you’re eight years old. Bright lights, colorful decorations, dazzling trees, gaily-wrapped gifts, and mouth-watering treats combine to create an enchanting time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

The second most important day in December—next to Christmas itself, of course—was the day the bright lights of Christmas migrated from the streets and stores to our living room. The day boxes of decorations were brought up from the basement and we put up the Christmas tree.

First, Dad assembled the tree, branch by branch. Longer boughs on the bottom, shorter limbs on top. Each branch inserted into its corresponding color-coded slot. Next, the multi-colored Christmas lights were untangled and hung on the tree. Then Mom brought out the ornaments. Twelve to a box, a blown-glass ornament resting in a tissue paper nest in each compartment.

I was not permitted to help with this process. The branches were too unwieldy, the light bulbs too dangerous, and the glass ornaments too fragile to be handled by little fingers. Even so, I watched the preparations with a reverential gaze, knowing a decorated tree in our living room meant Christmas was only a few weeks away.

But everything changed on my eighth Christmas. Our family celebrated the holiday at my aunt and uncle’s home. I tore the wrappings off many gifts that year, but one stands out. Nestled in tissue paper in a small box was an angel.

She was the most beautiful Christmas angel I had seen in my young life. Standing less than four inches tall, she wore a fur-trimmed red gown and had a tiny halo resting on her soft white hair—a Christmas gift from my godmother.

Aunt Ramona didn’t have children of her own back then, and my sister and I were the blessed recipients of her bountiful love. She was responsible for a multitude of firsts in our life. Ice-skating, horseback riding, camping, even the first time we attended Sunday School—it all happened because of her.

A cross between Auntie Mame, Mary Poppins, and Cinderella’s fairy godmother, she approached life as one grand adventure. We never did ordinary things with her—at least they didn’t seem ordinary. We traveled by subway into “The City” (Manhattan), watched the skaters at Rockefeller Center, and ate in grown-up, fancy restaurants. She took us to Washington D.C. where we walked among larger-than-life monuments as history jumped off the pages of our schoolbooks and into our young lives.

Aunt Ramona didn’t just teach us we were loved, she showed us in countless ways. And she was entertaining even when we didn’t go anywhere. Sleepovers at her home meant staying up late, playing silly games, and learning even sillier songs. She was the most fun grown-up I’ve ever known, with a contagious joie de vivre.

Now it was Aunt Ramona who gave me my first Christmas ornament, years before Hallmark became inextricably linked with the tradition of exchanging annual ornaments. Christmas would never be the same.

Although I wasn’t allowed to handle the fragile blown-glass ornaments Mom so carefully unwrapped and hung on the tree each year, this angel was different. She was my very own. I eagerly awaited her emergence from the box of Christmas decorations as if she were made of silk and china instead of polyester and plastic.

When I held this little angel in my hands, my dreams soared. I felt like I could do anything, be anyone, and go anywhere. The sky was the limit. I would carefully grasp the metal hook, stretch to my full height, and position her on the tree in a place of honor, my reach extending a bit higher with each passing year.

It’s been almost fifty years since I first held that tiny red and white angel. She came with me when I got married and stayed with us through several relocations, even traveling a thousand miles from New York to Florida.

No matter where I am, this little angel never fails to release a flood of memories each time she is lifted out of her packaging and lovingly positioned in a prominent place on our Christmas tree.

I’m grateful, not just for the ornament, but also for memories that grow more precious with each passing year. Memories of adventures with my own fairy godmother…the one who gave me an angel.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven”
(Matthew 18:10 ESV).

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Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries International. She is a passionate speaker, engaging audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit

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