Emma has nothing to give her children for Christmas. Practically bankrupt both financially and emotionally, she can’t look forward to the upcoming season. Her husband brought so much joy into their home, but with the anniversary of his death looming just weeks ahead, she can’t bring herself to anticipate a celebration. Her children have shouldered many of the responsibilities around the house and have carried their share of the burden, and Emma feels guilty they aren’t able to just be children.
When the first Santa letter arrives, she’s immediately suspicious. It didn’t come through regular mail, but was instead placed on the porch, and she doesn’t like the idea that someone crept so close to their house without her knowing it. When she opens the letter, she feels even more uncomfortable. Whoever sent it had been watching them—must have been, in order to know so much about them.
The letter explains that from then until Christmas, their family will be given a box every day with instructions for a Christmas-related activity. The sender congratulates the family on the way they’ve endured the last year and fought to remain close, but suggests that they are also fighting to hold on to their sadness. He wants them to feel joy this holiday season, and so he will send them ways to increase their joy. The letter is signed, Santa.
Emma’s young daughter McKenna is ecstatic. She had a dream that her father would be coming to celebrate Christmas with them, and she’s just sure this letter is part of her father’s return. Emma doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t want to squelch McKenna’s faith, but she knows her husband isn’t coming back.
As the family takes part in this ultimate Secret Santa project, they find themselves reliving the good times, going out to serve others, and even finding a way to forgive the drunk driver that took their father’s life. With each letter they receive, they are reminded that faith and hope only die if we let them, and life can hold immense joy, even though it may also bring crushing sorrow.
While this book is a Christmas story, I could enjoy it any time of the year. The message is not seasonal—we need hope all year round.
(This book was published in 2008 by Sweetwater Books.)