This Christmas, my mother gave my brother and I complete sets of something that my great-great-grandfather (my maternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather), Jarvis A. Wood, wrote every Christmas for the last several years of his life.
They’re little booklets in ivory covers, about half the size of a mass market paperback and perhaps forty pages thick. The words “Special Delivery” are embossed on the front, along with hashmarks in later years to mark the volume number.
The first one, which I’m looking at right now, is printed in red and green — mostly green, with lovely use of spot color. Inside the front cover there’s a little sketch of a tag, inscribed “Tag! You’re it!” It’s also signed, by hand, “Uncle J.” Turn the page, and there’s the title page in front of you. A photograph of the author is glued to the left hand page.
If you’ll allow me the liberty, I’d like to share some of his writing with you. I find myself struck by his eloquence, and his turn of phrase. He was a minister, and worked in advertising, so perhaps his skill with the word is not entirely surprising. The year is 1912; it’s Christmas. Turn the page again.
I have chartered this booklet to carry my Holiday Greetings to my friends. I hope, as you shake hands with it, you will feel it has reached one right place at least, and that you will be glad my Special Delivery passed your way.
As to Christmas itself, I might borrow the sage remark of Dr. Hales Double—”So much has been said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.” Nevertheless, I have for years desired to bring to its altar a little myrrh from my own garden, and say in black and white that I thank God for good old Christmas, the season in which our nature most nearly approaches His—and proves it by imitating His thought of others.
“I have a friendly feeling for my friends.”
— J. A. W.
I have a friendly feeling for my friends. This world has been made a pleasant place for me by many people, of whom you are one. That is why my Special Delivery calls at your door. Please accept, then, if you will, my sincere wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
With the spirit of Christmas all about me, and the joy of friendship in my heart, I have been recalling the names and forms of a host of friends. These have fallen into groups determined largely by circumstance, as I understand them, or by their present relations with me. Should you have difficulty in finding your particular group, please understand that I am glad to count you as my friend at large.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to min’?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ auld lang syne?”
Some of my friends are good old friends—comrades when life was new. Our every meeting now has for its matchless background the fragrant memories of other days—”Do you remember this?” and “Do you remember that?” Great feast of pleasant memories! A privilege rare do I esteem it now to send such old friends more of the love that had its birth in the wonderful land of “used-to-be.”
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Some of my friends are new friends. If the ranks of our friendship be not recruited, old age will find us lonely, indeed. I am glad to-day to welcome some newcomers to my circle and to accept a seat at theirs. As we wish the best for each other, let us look for the best in each other and do our best for each other, in the years that are to be.
“I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.”
Some of my friends are aged friends—journeying gently down the slope of life with faces and hearts turned toward the sunset land. Their most precious possession is the memory of those “they have loved long since and lost awhile.” I am sure “the cares of the road will seem nothing when these travelers get to the end of the way.” May the eventide be light for them and the end of their journey peace.
“I love little children, and it is not a slight thing when they, who are fresh from God, love us.”
Some of my friends are very young friends—little children with morning faces and morning hearts—fresh from God. Small wonder is it that the Son of God welcomed them to His arms and proclaimed them as the model for His followers. Great, indeed, is the privilege to have their love and confidence, and to watch the unfolding of these white souls. God bless you, little children. God bless you, every one.
“In life’s small things be resolute and great
To keep thy muscle trained; knowest thou when Fate
Thy measure takes, or when she’ll say to thee,
‘I find thee worthy, do this thing for me’?”
Some of my friends are youthful—standing today on the threshold of active life, with the shadows all behind them. May patience be theirs for the commonplace duty; courage for the unusual trial, and character for every need. To travel hopefully is, we are told, better than to arrive. May the alluring prizes of life never blind them to the beauties of the country through which they are passing or the needs of their fellow-travelers on the way.
“Then cease your worry:
Just work and trust,
For there’s nothing more you can do;
The Power that rules the stars and flowers
Will carry you safely through.”
Some of my friends are distant—and lonely, also. Time and space have kept us long and far apart. ‘Tis the way of the world, good friends, as we very well understand; yet glad am I that my Special Delivery can carry my Holiday Greeting over the years and over the miles to your warm heart.
“Love suffereth long and is kind;
love envieth not; is not easily
provoked; thinketh no evil;
beareth all things;
believeth all things;
endureth all things.
Love never faileth. Now abideth
faith, hope, love, these three,
but the greatest of these is love.”
Some of my friends are nearby friends—so near in our daily life that my failings must often call for blindness and kindness on their part. This is a strong test of friendship. To the dear, good people who know the worst and yet think they best—whose love never faileth—my loving gratitude is here expressed.
“Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance, self-control, diligence, strength of will, content and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know.”
Some of my friends are business friends—people who in the stress and strain of business life have won my sincere respect. To the men and women, of whatever age or station, who are endeavoring to make a life as well as make a living, and who, in doing so, have influenced my own life for good, I send grateful greetings today.
“For what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justyl, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Some of my friends are Christian friends—people bound by mutual interest in the church, the institution that keeps Christianity alive in the world. There is no question as to the kind of Christmas these will have. My wish for them is already underwritten by their thought of others and their service of Him who first made it Christmas because He so loved the world.
“Life is full of froth and bubble;
Two things stand like stone:
Kindness for another’s trouble,
Courage for your own.”
Some of my friends are sick friends—suffering for a little while or serving long sentences as prisoners of pain. Their courage defies my description. Whatever the condition of their bodily house, may the immortal tenant, that loevs and trusts and courageously endures, enjoy great peace and blessing at this glad Christmas time.
“Say, have you ever stopped to think
About the greatness of a smile?
Well, if you haven’t, suppose you do;
Then practice it awhile.”
Some of my friends are happy friends—sometimes happy for this, sometimes for that, but happy all the time because they are making others happy. As brave Stevenson said, “Their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted.” Long may you live, friends; long may you laugh; long may you love. Long may you bless a world as hungry for love as it is for bread.
“I know not; and I glory that I do
Not know; that for Eternity’s great ends
God counted me as worthy of such trust,
That I need not be told.”
— Helen Hunt Jackson.
Some of my friends are sorrowful. Today they are painfully aware that sorrow and death observe no holidays. The great joy and brightness of Christmastide seem rather to deepen the shadow of their loneliness and grief. My sympathy goes out to all these of the heavy heart. May they find the answer to their great “Why?” in the firm belief that our Father knows and cares.
“Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on.
‘Twas not given for thee alone; Pass it on.
Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another’s tears,
Till in heaven the deed appears,
Pass it on.”
Some of my good friends are silent. They have fallen out of the correspondence class. Their thoughts may now and then flow in my direction, but their ink bottle is tightly sealed. Who knows but that my Special Delivery may give them that “I-must-write” feeling! Should they be tempted to break the silence, I hereby agree to be responsible for everything that is broken.
“Smile upon the other pilgrims
Whom you pass and meet;
Frowns are thorns and smiles are blossoms
Oft to weary feet.
Do not make the way seem harder
By a sullen face;
Smile a little, smile a little,
Brighten up the place.”
If perchance any casual reader should feel unclassified because unacquainted, I ask such to accept this Special Greeting from my Special Delivery. We are told that Ancient Rome made the same word answer for “stranger” and “enemy”—the treatment, not noted for its mildness, being the same. In honor of the season, I suggest that we call all strangers friends and govern ourselves accordingly.
Here endeth the journey of the Special Delivery, chartered by Jarvis A. Wood of Oyster Bay, N.Y., and Camden, N.J., to carry his Holiday Greetings to his friends.