Question: Gold, Common Sense and Myrrh is a collection of ten short stories that all take place on Christmas Eve. How did that come about?
Dwayne: One year I was working on preparing for a class and a writing deadline in the days before Christmas, wanting to get things done so that I wouldn’t have to work over the holidays. My kids, who were five and seven at the time, knew that I was upstairs in my office, and Rhonda had told them not to bother me.
My son snuck up into my home office one afternoon and asked: “Daddy, why don’t you write something for us?” That year I wrote Woodcutter’s Tale and we read the story on Christmas Eve. The kids never forgot and the next year, as soon as we turned the calendar to December, they were asking if there would be another Christmas Eve story. There was no turning back after that, and it became part of our family tradition. We read Dad’s story on Christmas Eve, and then the biblical account on Christmas morning.
Question: In the introduction of the book you mention that living in a different country forced you to celebrate Christmas without all of your normal traditions. What was that like?
Dwayne: It was the first year we celebrated Christmas in Brazil. Rhonda and I were in language school and lived about two hours away from any of our missionary colleagues. Our three-foot plastic Christmas tree resembled a scene out of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and even though the malls had some decorations, we couldn’t quite get over Santa’s bikini-clad helpers. The sweltering heat of the Brazilian summer, combined with the odd smell of manioc flour fried in olive oil, garlic, onions, and bacon, didn’t fit our “normal.” It was the first time we didn’t have our family with us, and one of the times that we were faced with a deep sense of loneliness.
We found ourselves asking; “What are we doing here?” Answering that question helped us, because it caused us to focus on the why of Christmas, and not just the what. We were there in Brazil learning the language in order to be able to communicate the story of Christ, his coming to earth, and purpose to bring us back into right relationship with God. We found that once the trappings were stripped away, what we were left with was the story; and that was good enough for us to make it through.
Question: The stories take place in ten different countries. What was the thought behind that?
Dwayne: I think that it came about more by accident than a plan. The first story was written as a historic enactment. The second was written during the year we were leaving Brazil, and I wanted to highlight those things that my kids had grown up with. The third year we found ourselves in Mexico and it seemed natural to use the story to teach the kids something about the new culture around them.
As the years went along, it became a part of the fun of the story for the kids to guess where Dad’s story would be from. I’d give then hints and even promised a prize for whoever first guessed the location of the story.
The stories became a source of deepening my faith and personal understanding of the greatness of the gift of Christ, especially as I discovered more and more that when you strip away the stuff of Christmas, it’s His story that stands out. I found myself learning about the variety of traditions and the reason for some of the things that we do in our celebration, and found ways to include them in a story. The normal things that we do – like manger scenes and crystal stars – all have a deep meaning when you understand where and why they became a part of Christmas traditions around the world.
Question: Which stories are your family’s favorites?
Dwayne: That’s interesting! My daughter is a cross between Doctor Livingston and Doctor Doolittle, so her favorite has always been Puppies for Christmas; there’s just something about the thought of a Daschund running loose in a chaotic airport on Christmas Eve that she loves. My son is an adventure seeker, so he remembers stories like Danger Pay and The Refugee; anything where there’s a bit of action and the chance of someone getting shot appeals to him. For Rhonda and me, our special ties to Brazil and Mexico make The Miracle in Rio and A Piñata for Rosita our favorites.
Question: So … where’s this year’s story going to be from?
Dwayne: That’s a big secret! You’ll have to be at our home on Christmas Eve to find out.