My Dad loved fruitcake. Not just any fruitcake. Somewhere in the memory bank of his mind, Dad remembered a fruitcake that was exquisite; just the right ratio of candied fruit, nuts, cake – all aged and fermented to perfection. For years people gave us fruitcake they were convinced would be a match to Dad’s memory. And we bought fruitcake; carefully trying each one to see if it was good enough.
Then, in the fall of 1975, Dad announced he would make his own fruitcake. Lois and I were newlyweds and worked with my parents every day in the family bookstore, so we had front-row seats to watch the progress as Dad tried to re-create the perfect fruitcake. In early September he began collecting ingredients – as this was pre-internet, everything was done through catalogs and direct mail. By the middle of October Dad was ready.
By the end of a very long day there were eight “loaves” – in reality, rings of fruitcake. Dad had discovered what he thought was the secret to “curing” the cakes: wrapping them in cotton cloth soaked in a mixture of cooking oil and rum. Each cloth wrapped cake was then sealed with plastic wrap, placed in plastic bags, and stored in Tupperware containers purchased especially for this project.
Dad planned to let the cakes ferment and cure for eight weeks but at week seven his patience ran out. He opened a cake with great fanfare and groaned. It was dry, crumbly, and smelled sour. It was a flop. What a disappointment.
Like my Dad, you might be disappointed this Christmas. Maybe you won’t get the gift you are expecting; maybe the friends you hoped to be with will cancel. It’s possible this will be the first Christmas without someone who has been there in the past. Maybe the memories of a very happy Christmas will once again be un-matched. Maybe Christmas will be dry, crumbly, and sour.
Take heart. Look up. Listen to our Heavenly Father.
The essence of Christmas is simple: God generously and sacrificially gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we, too, can give of ourselves to serve others.
If you find yourself disappointed this Christmas – give generously and sacrificially to someone else. The rewards are deeply satisfying.
And keep looking for the perfect fruitcake.