THE REAL MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS

Unlike most of you, I have never carried a child in my womb, nor have I, except for a college biology film, ever witnessed the birth of a child.  I have no firsthand knowledge of this wondrous miracle, but I am fascinated by the facts.

At inception, the female egg is about the size of a grain of sand.  I believe that fertilization of the egg is the beginning of human life, and in that tiny, almost microscopic, mass lives the potential for greatness, for achievement, genius, tenderness, success, leadership, kindness, brilliance and the whole gamut of emotions.  Think of tiny fingers that will one day play Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #3, feet that will run The Boston Marathon, a mind that will conquer cancer, a voice that will sway the multitude, and arms that will hold a loved one.

Friends speak of a difficult pregnancy and a hard prolonged labor, but they never say, “I wish I hadn’t done it.”  For when that child finally makes his debut appearance, howling in protest at his forced departure from a comfy, warm, safe abode, he may be red and wrinkled and uglier than lye soap, but that’s not what his mother sees.  He may not be a Gerber Baby, but his mother sees nothing but a miracle of life, a miracle of beauty when she first holds him close to her heart.

At this season, we are thinking, as we should be, about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We are not sure when He was born.  Bible scholars, judging from historical events of the time, place His birth between 1 BC and 6 BC.  However, we are sure that He was not born on December 25, for shepherds would not have had their sheep in the fields in wintertime.  It is believed that He was born in September or October, meaning that He could have been conceived in December.

It is not important to pinpoint His exact date of birth.  The importance is in knowing that He came.  That is the miracle of Christmas.

We have a convoluted notion concerning the birth of Jesus.  Our beautiful Christmas cards portray Mary and Joseph in a neat open-air stable, a sweet, docile, haloed baby in a pristine manger filled with fresh, sweet hay, with well-groomed, well-behaved cattle in observance.

In reality, Jesus birth parallels the birth of that newborn in a hospital delivery room. There was blood and gore and pain and hard labor and sweat and tears.  This all took place in a non-sterile, dark cave, where the lowing, sweating cattle were stabled, and the acrid aroma of cow manure filled the air.  There was nothing romantic about His birth.

We have a hard time dealing with the humanity of Christ.  But the truth is, at His Father’s bidding, He left the glories of heaven becoming an embryo in the womb of a teenage, Galilean girl.  The Son of God submitted Himself to total oblivion for nine long months.  He relinquished His supernatural power and willingly allowed Himself to be hemmed in by time and space.

He was born a man-child, and as a man-child, he behaved as any newborn behaves.  He screamed when he was hungry.  He cried when He was wet.  Oh yes!  He did wet and mess His diapers.  Joseph, with babe in arms, walked the manure strewn floor, hoping disparately to calm the crying child, so everyone could get a little sleep.  At His birth, only Mary and Joseph knew He was God’s Son.  To all others, He was just another baby born into a poor family.  Only at the heralding of the angels did others become aware that this babe was special.

It is hard to understand that Jesus became as we are—human flesh and blood, but He did.  He did it for us.

Philippians 2:7-8 tells us, “…He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!  Having become human, He stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process.  He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”      

II Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

The song says:

From a loving heavenly Father,

To a world that knew Him not

Came the man of sorrows, Christ the Lord.

In my wanderings He found me,

Bought my soul with His own blood,

Gave to me a peace the world could not afford.

 

Redeeming love, a love that knows no limit.

Redeeming love, a love that shall not die.

My soul shall sing throughout the endless ages,

With choirs extolling His great love on high.

This is the real miracle of Christmas!  His birth, His life lived on this earth as a man, His ministry, His crucifixion, and resurrection all result in His limitless, redeeming love for you and me.

You can experience His redeeming love. You can know the real miracle of Christmas.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

Christmas Past

CHRISTMAS PAST – RECYCLED

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL WHO READ THIS BLOG.  This has been a week of twenty-six hour days.  I have a wonderful idea for a new blog, but no time to develop it, so I will recycle a blog from Christmas gone by.  I do hope you will enjoy again the reminiscence from my childhood more than three-quarters of a century ago.

Please know that I pray for you the wonder of Christmas in Jesus Christ.  May His promised peace be a reality in your life.

CHRISTMAS PAST

I ADORE CHRISTMAS—EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!

I am awed by the blinding light of hope that descended upon this darkened world with the advent of Christ—the light that still shines in every dark corner. I love baby Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the gold, frankincense and myrrh.  I’m reminded that all the beauty and brightness of Christmas finds its source in this glorious light.

Honestly, I am annoyed by people who complain about Christmas, and long for it to be over and done with.  Yes, it is tiring and sometimes stressful, but it’s a sort of happy tiredness.  There is a sense of satisfaction at what you accomplished today.  You just might be able to get it all done after all.

Today, I am thinking back seventy-five or eighty years to my first remembrances of
Christmas.  We lived poor, but my Mama always made Christmas special.  There was no money for fancy, expensive gifts, and we didn’t need them.  It is amazing what a child can and will love.

When I was almost four, Santa brought me a little wooden doll’s bed.  I can still see it.  I must have had a dolly too, but I was thrilled with my little brown bed carrying it from room to room.  I don’t remember other gifts that year.  The bed was enough.  And, that was the momentous year, when my ten-year-old brother decided to set me straight about Santa Claus.

“There is no Santa!” he declared.

I didn’t believe him.  I still don’t believe him.  The little girl in me loves Santa.  For me, he takes nothing from the real significance of Christmas.  I have no trouble with beautiful things that have become tradition.

Mama always bought Christmas goodies—apples, oranges, hard candy and orange slices, nuts still in the shell, and old-fashioned chocolate drops.  They were the best.  They looked like little delectable mountains—strawberry, vanilla, and maple centers enrobed in dark chocolate.  Yummmm!!!

I don’t ever recall having a Christmas stocking.  My mother always divided the treats equally between family members putting them into little brown paper bags, one for each of us.  Those goodies were mine.  I could eat them all making myself sick ruining my dinner, or I could squirrel them away and make them last until New Years.

In my hometown, there was always a treasure hunt on Christmas Eve.  All the merchants on Main St. offered a giveaway.  If you held the right number, the gift was yours.  So, in the cold, early evening of December 24, Mama, June and I walked the few blocks to town looking in every shop hoping against hope that we held the magic number.  I don’t think we ever won anything, but just being there with the bright lights, beautiful window displays, and the bustle and clamor of other hopefuls was intoxicating.

More than one Christmas Eve I came home with an earache.  My little ears were sensitive to the cold December air.  Mama would awake to my cry in the middle of the night bringing a little cloth bag of salt, which she had heated on the back of the stove.  With a kiss, she placed the warm bag on my ear.  The heat and weight of it relieved the pain.  Or was it the kiss that worked the magic?

Christmas dinner was phenomenal.  Two fat hens roasted in the oven stuffed with Mama’s luscious cornbread dressing laced with an abundance of sage.  All week the house smelled of sugar cookies and mincemeat pie baking in the oven.

Mama made a delicious raisin, spice cake, but she always said, “It just doesn’t seem like Christmas until my coconut cake is finished.”

Mama’s three layer coconut cake frosted with airy White Mountain frosting and oodles of coconut was the epitome of Christmas in our house.  A slice of that cake and a helping of strawberry Jello filled with apples, bananas and pecans was the best bite of the day.

After I was an adult, I decided to improve on Mama’s coconut wonder.  I used lemon instead of yellow cake, and I spread lemon filling between the layers.  It was good, but it wasn’t the same, and Mama didn’t mind saying so.

The gifts were opened, the wrappings disposed of.  Of course, Mama always saved ribbons and the larger pieces of paper—wrinkles and all.

I can still hear her say, “Careful, careful.  Don’t tear it.”

She could press out the wrinkles and use the paper again next year.  That’s how you save money.

Our kitchen and dining area were combined in one fairly large room.  Today the open concept is greatly desired.  For us it was a simple necessity.

In those early years, we were all at home.  Nine of us sat around the table, bowed our heads and thanked God for His blessing, and devoured the wonderful meal Mama made.

We all knew well the import of Christmas.  We knew about God’s wondrous gift to this world.  Most of us had accepted that gift as our very own.

Not a one of us owned a checkbook or a bank account, but we were, oh, so rich because of God’s generosity.  Jesus made the difference!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6.

JESUS WANTS TO BE YOUR VERY BEST GIFT THIS CHRISTMAS.

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

THE TREES OF CHRISTMAS

I’m sitting here with a broad, silly grin on my face, because I have just finished decorating my Christmas tree.  I don’t know why that makes me so happy.  It just does!

I must admit that it becomes a little more difficult each year, and I was not quite sure I would be able to do it this time.  Because of my daily dosage of blood thinner, my doctor has warned me away from ladders, but you can’t trim a tree without a bit of climbing.  So I fudged a little, because my German angel couldn’t get to the top by himself.

The tree is gorgeous!  It is a bright, shining conglomeration of colors and shapes.  Alas!  It has no theme.  I have never cottoned to themed Christmas trees nor those decorated in only one color.  I just want to use all the stuff that I have collected over the years.  I am still using some of my Mom’s decorations.  They are old and faded and tarnished, but they are filled with sweet, sweet memories.  I say it again, “This tree makes me happy!”

In 1975, I was a brand new missionary in the country of Belgium.  Everything was good and exciting when I arrived in August, but as Christmas drew nearer and nearer, I just wanted to lie down and die.  I had never, in my thirty-nine years, been away from my family at Christmastime.  However, instead of giving in to despair, I determined to make Christmas as much like home as possible.  To that end, my roommate and I bought a large tree and put it in front of the French doors in our third-floor apartment.  Its beauty brought a bit of cheer to my aching heart.

We were cleaning house on December 23, when Ginny decided to vacuum behind the tree.  (You’d have to meet Ginny.)  All of a sudden, I heard a loud crash and a moan of despair.  My friend had knocked the tree over with the vacuum.  There on the floor lay the denuded tree among dried pine needles and broken ornaments.  There was no way to salvage it so, after I recovered from my urge to kill, we dragged it into the elevator and dumped it in the basement.  Through a series of unlikely, frustrating, even amusing events (another story to be told) we were able to replace the tree, and Christmas came and went without further calamity.

No one is quite sure how or when the Christmas tree originated, but we do know that, even in the middle ages, various cultures brought greenery into their homes in the winter time.  It symbolized life in those cold, dark days.

It is said that Queen Victoria’s beloved Albert introduced the tree into the English culture.

The story, yet unproven, that I love best and want to believe, is that of Martin Luther.

On a Christmas Eve, in the 1500’s, Martin Luther made his way home from vespers.  Walking through the snow-covered woods, he was struck by the beauty of the snow glistened trees.  Their branches, dusted with the soft white powder, shimmered in the moonlight and the twinkling stars overhead seemed to decorate the tips of the evergreens.

At home, he set up a small fir tree and decorated it with tiny candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth.  He told his children it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.

I love the beauty of Christmas—the brilliant lights, the vivid colors, the tantalizing aroma of baked goods, the seraphic faces and shining eyes of expectant children, and the pile of gifts under the tree. But this beauty all wrapped up together is only a faint reflection of the beauty of Christ, who is Christmas.

I am continually blessed at this season when I realize that men and women, who deny Christ’s existence, who have totally rejected Him, who hate everything He stands for, continue to celebrate His birth.  O, they deny it, but by simply giving place to Christmas, they are confirming that HE IS!

So—for me—the Christmas tree is a symbol of life and light and hope that Jesus brought to this sad world at His advent.

Now, it occurs to me that another tree really plays the leading role in the story of Christmas, for the gift of Christ’s birth is incomplete without the magnificence of His sacrifice at Calvary.

1 Peter 2:24 says, “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (the cross), that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…”  

 So, trim your trees, sing “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” but while you celebrate Jesus” birth, celebrate, also, His death.  Let Him make Christmas complete in your life.

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

           

For Unto Us…

 

Christmas, 1975, was difficult for me.  I was a rookie missionary in Belgium away from my family for the first time.  When I thought about Christmas alone, I wanted to lie down and die, but I didn’t.  I made the best of things.

My Christmas experiences, that first year in Belgium, have furnished me with sweet, funny, and ridiculous stories, with which I have entertained people for over forty years.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I received a telephone call from one of our Belgian pastors, who knew of my ministry to children.

“Sister Faye,” he said, “We would like to invite you to our church on Saturday afternoon before Christmas.  We have asked a group of Gypsy children to be our guests.  Our own children will present a Christmas program, and, afterward, we will give gifts to all the Gypsy kids.”

Of course, I accepted the invitation—I was anxious to go.

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When I arrived at the little storefront church, I was amazed at what I saw.  The platform was piled high with wonderful gifts—baby dolls and toy trucks, basketballs and roller skates—almost anything a child could desire.  There were also great bags of sweets—candies and cookies and other pastry.

The pastor had explained to me that he had gone to merchants and explained the need.  He had also shared the needs with patisseries and sweet shops.  Everyone had been generous with his donations.

The Gypsy kids came.  They came with their Moms and Dads, their Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles and Cousins.  They filled every crook and cranny in that little sanctuary.

The church kids presented a great program.  Then pastor walked to the platform.  He explained very meticulously how this thing was going to work.

He said, in French, “We have a gift and sweets for all the children.   There is enough for everyone.  So, we will come one row at a time.  When row one is finished, then row two will come, and so on.  Do you understand?”

“ Oui, oui,”  they shouted with one accord.

“D’accord,” said the pastor.  “Row one may come.”

At his word, the whole Gypsy congregation, kids, moms and dads, and every other relative rushed the platform nearly mowing down the pastor.

“Non, non!  Attendez, attendez,” he cried.  “Vous n’avez pas compris.”  (You did not understand.)   “Go back to your seats.”

Back to their seats they went, and we started all over.

“Now,” said the pastor, “Let’s try again.  Row one must come first.”

Again, the whole audience broke and ran for the platform.  After several tries, the pastor just gave up.  His Gypsy guests helped themselves to the gifts and the sweets, and walked out the door without a “Thank you” or backward glance.

The pastor was bewildered—divested.  He had worked so hard.  I was truly sorry for him, and I was truly sorry for those beautiful black eyed kids.  I think I understood.  They were marginalized, unaccepted by society, living in squalor, with hardly enough to keep body and soul together.  All of life they had been left out, living on the edge.

Suddenly there was all this beautiful, shiny, new stuff meant for them.  So, breaking all the rules, they claimed it.  Someone had finally included them.

Most of us have felt left out, unnoticed, unappreciated at one time or another.  We ask, “Why not me?  Why do the good things always happen to someone else?  Why don’t I win the lottery?”

Great News!  You have not been left out.  You have been personally included in the greatest “give-away” of all time.

“For unto US, you and me, a child is born, unto US, you and me, a Son is given…and His name shall be called WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE.”

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This child, who is born to us, is wonderful in every way—in His birth, His teaching, His deeds, His death, and His resurrection.  Wonderful to us!

Do you lack wisdom?  He is our counselor.  We never go wrong when we follow His counsel.

His is our Mighty God—our Hero God—able to do exceedingly more than we can ever imagine.

Being alone as I am, I sometimes feel the need for a protector.  This child, who was born to me, has become my Everlasting Father—my absolute, eternal protector.  He will never cease to protect, never desert or grow weary.

He is the Prince of Peace.  In the middle of this nutty, out of control world, He keeps me in perfect peace.

This Christmas I am seized by the wonder of Christ.  I am gripped by the fact that He is mine—that he was born for me.  His love, His forgiveness His life, and all that includes, is God’s gift to me.  I have not been left out.

Just like those needy Gypsy children, you may claim God’s bright, shiny, wonderful gifts for yourself.  YOU HAVE NOT BEEN LEFT OUT!

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

MY CHRISTMAS PEARLS

 Pearls are not the status symbol they used to be.  Today you can buy a three strand pearl necklace for $1,000.00 at Tiffany’s

For most of human history, pearls were the ultimate luxury item worn only by royalty.  The Roman General, Vitellus, is said to have bankrolled his military campaign with his mother’s pearl earrings.  Around the world, pearls were a sign of opulence and power.

Until the advent of cultured pearls at the turn of the twentieth century, pearls were extremely rare.  Just one in 10,000 oysters produced a natural pearl.  Pearl diving was dangerous and only added to the gem’s allure.

In the early twentieth century, a fine pearl necklace could be swapped for a Manhattan mansion.  Today it can be swapped for the price of one month’s rent.

By the 1950’s, the average middle-class housewife could have a strand of cultured pearls to call her own.  They were highly fashionable—a sign of elegance, innocence, and femininity.

When I was seventeen, I decided that I had to have a strand of pearls all my own.  Don’t ask me why.  Those creamy, satiny, glowing orbs fascinated me, and there was such a need in my teen-age heart for something beautiful.  So, I had the audacity to ask for pearls for Christmas.  I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted pearls, and not the dime store kind.  I wanted real pearls from the jewelry store.

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I knew my request was unreasonable.  I knew we didn’t have money for such frivolous things, but I asked anyway.  I look back now and realize that my Mom did not scold me for my unreasonable request.  Rather, she looked past all that and into the heart of her girl, who was on the verge of adulthood.  She saw a need—a longing.

On Christmas morning, I opened the lovely box, and a there they were, a modest strand—no more than 5mm in size, and certainly not costing thousands of dollars.  I was thrilled at the sight of those creamy, glowing jewels with the pretty filigree clasp.  I caressed them, ran them through my fingers, and fastened them around my neck.

To this day, I do not know what sacrifice my Mother made in order to give me the desire of my heart.  I do not know what the pearls cost.  They must have been paid for on a lay-away plan or on monthly installments.  Mama was clever knowing how to eke a lot out of a little.  That was her Christmas Sacrifice.

For years, I wore those pearls to church on Sundays and for other special occasions, and then, gradually, I laid them aside and did not wear them at all.

In February 2013, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time.  What would I wear with my beautiful ivory gown?  I went looking for my pearls, the ones Mama gave me sixty years ago.  They were perfect.  As I waited, with my brother, to walk down the aisle that day, I could imagine my Mother, looking over heaven’s balcony rejoicing because I was no longer alone.

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I remembered her Christmas sacrifice for me, and I said, “Look, Mama, I’m wearing your pearls.

Today, I am remembering another Christmas sacrifice—the one God made when He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, the first and most wonderful Christmas gift, to this world.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Think of the sacrifice Jesus made, when He traded the glories of heaven for nine months of oblivion in the womb of a teen-age Galilean girl, when He laid aside his omnipresence and surrendered Himself to the limits of time and space, and when He put off His kingly robes and gave Himself to the mockery and cruelty of men.  Think of how He subjected Himself to the weight of our sin dying in our place.  Now that is the ultimate Christmas sacrifice!

I love Christmas.  I’ve told you that.  I love the hustle and bustle, the buying and wrapping and baking, and the parties and programs.  I keep reminding myself that this is Jesus’ birthday.  I don’t want to forget the reason for our celebrations.  But, honestly, sometimes He gets lost in the shuffle.  So, some years ago, I made a decision to consciously and sacrificially give a birthday gift to Jesus every year.

This is different from my local giving.  I give an offering to some mission’s project.  This year I sent my offering to “The Reindeer People of Russia,” a nomadic people in the frozen north, who are finally hearing the gospel.  They are receiving for the first time God’s wondrous Christmas gift.

Don’t let the trappings of Christmas bury this gift of all gifts.  Look around you.  Find someone in need, and give a sacrificial gift, in the name of Jesus.

Remember, regardless of where you live and what is going on in your life—THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

A CHRISTMAS HOPE FULFILLED

I just finished decorating my Christmas tree.  The lights are shining, carols are playing softly, the poinsettias pillows are on the sofa, and the wreath is on the door.

Ornaments, scratched and marred, from my childhood, hang proudly with the hodgepodge of other things I have collected over the years.   I have never cottoned to theme trees with burlap bows and big red balls, and such.  I just like my stuff.

There’s the little gold angel, with my name on it, given to me my first year as a missionary in Belgium, and the Teddy Bear, dressed as Santa, made by my niece ages ago.  The last ornament my mother bought for her last Christmas on this earth is displayed prominently on the front of the tree. So many memories!

Decorating is more difficult than it used to be.  I’m no longer allowed to climb ladders, but it is Christmas, so you do what you have to do.

This will be my eighty-first Christmas.  Can I remember the best one?  Oh, Yes!

Christmas, 1945, I was almost ten, and WW II, the “War to end all Wars” was finally over.  My heart still swells at the memory of the joy and relief that filled our home.

My three big brothers served in the Navy.  Jack was on a tanker, the USS Kankakee, in the Pacific.  Henry was on a battleship, also in the Pacific, and Lincoln the youngest was a Yeoman stationed at the Naval Base in San Pedro, California.

We were proud of my brothers, but we were also concerned listening to every newscast, waiting anxiously for their little V-Mail letters.  The letters were always censored leaving only bits and pieces of the original text.

The war was especially hard on Mothers.  Mama had sent her first three babies off to fight the enemy, and she was determined that they would come back safely.  So—she prayed.  She hoped, and she prayed without ceasing.  She prayed that her boys would return whole and healthy as she had sent them away.

Thank God!  They did return.  Jack came back to the States on a naval hospital ship, in a full body cast, but he would recover.  Henry was back on American soil, and Lincoln was just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  We were grateful!

Then it was Christmas.  My Mom had cleaned the house from stem to stern and cooked everything her boys could possibly want hoping that they would all be home.

She bustled around putting last-minute touches to the Christmas meal trying her best to be cheerful, but I could see the sorrow in her eyes and feel the sadness in her heart, for there would still be an empty place at our table.  Henry was Stateside, but he had not yet been mustered out of the navy.

The eight of us sat around the big table, and just as my Daddy bowed his head to ask the blessing, I heard the screen door open.

There he was!  My big brother Henry was home for Christmas.  I can never forget my Mother’s joy as she laughed and cried, and danced and shouted, and nearly squeezed the life out of her firstborn.

Hope fulfilled!  What a joyous thing!

Mama clung tenaciously to her hope throughout the war.  When I think about it, I realize that her hope was not in the well-built craft, in which my brothers plied the Pacific.  Nor was her hope in the capable commanding officer or the impeccable training the boys received.  She did not hope that the enemy would perform poorly, and she did not trust the United States Government to keep her boys safe.

She had but one source of hope.

With King David, Psalm 71:5, Mama said, “You are my hope, O Lord God…” and again in Psalm 5:3, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord…and I shall look up.”

Mama looked up into the face of her HOPE morning, noon and night her trust never failing.

We make the mistake of placing our hope in people and things.  Invariably, people disappoint, and things lack the ability to fulfill our dreams.

In Proverbs 13:12, King Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

I don’t know what you are hoping for this Christmas, but I must remind you—He is our hope.

That little baby, who rested in the feeding trough, and grew up to be our risen Savior, Jesus, He is our HOPE.

Psalm 146:5, “Happy is he…whose hope is in the Lord his God.”

My prayer for you is that you will enjoy a wonderfully blessed Christmas with Jesus at the center of your celebration.

Thank you all for reading my blog this year.  The gift of your time has blessed and encouraged me.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and GOD BLESS!  Remember—

The sun will come out tomorrow

 

 

CHRISTMAS PAST

I ADORE CHRISTMAS—EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!

I am awed by the blinding light of hope that descended upon this darkened world with the advent of Christ—the light that still shines in every dark corner. I love baby Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I’m reminded that all the beauty and brightness of Christmas finds its source in this glorious light.

Honestly, I am annoyed by people who complain about Christmas, and long for it to be over and done with.  Yes, it is tiring and sometimes stressful, but it’s a sort of happy tiredness.  There is a sense of satisfaction at what you accomplished today.  You just might be able to get it all done after all.

Today, I am thinking back seventy-five or eighty years to my first remembrances of Christmas.  We lived poor, but my Mama always made Christmas special.  There was no money for fancy, expensive gifts, and we didn’t need them.  It is amazing what a child can and will love.

When I was almost four, Santa brought me a little wooden doll’s bed.  I can still see it.  I must have had a dolly too, but I was thrilled with my little brown bed carrying it from room to room.  I don’t remember other gifts that year.  The bed was enough.  And, that was the momentous year, when my ten-year-old brother decided to set me straight about Santa Claus.

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“There is no Santa!” he declared.

I didn’t believe him.  I still don’t believe him.  The little girl in me loves Santa.  For me, he takes nothing from the real significance of Christmas.  I have no trouble with beautiful things that have become tradition.

Mama always bought Christmas goodies—apples, oranges, hard candy and orange slices, nuts still in the shell, and old fashioned chocolate drops.  They were the best.  They looked like little delectable mountains—strawberry, vanilla, and maple centers robed in dark chocolate.  Yummmm!!!

I don’t ever recall having a Christmas stocking.  My mother always divided the treats equally between family members putting them into little brown paper bags, one for each of us.  Those goodies were mine.  I could eat them all making myself sick ruining my dinner, or I could squirrel them away and make them last until New Years.

In my hometown, there was always a treasure hunt on Christmas Eve.  All the merchants, on Main St., offered a giveaway.  If you held the right number, the gift was yours.  So, in the cold, early evening of December 24, Mama, June and I walked the few blocks to town looking in every shop hoping against hope that we held the magic number.  I don’t think we ever won anything, but just being there with the bright lights, beautiful window displays, and the bustle and clamor of other hopefuls was intoxicating.

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More than one Christmas Eve I came home with an earache.  My little ears were sensitive to the cold December air.  Mama would awake to my cry in the middle of the night bringing a little cloth bag of salt, which she had heated on the back of the stove.  With a kiss, she placed the warm bag on my ear.  The heat and weight of it relieved the pain.  Or was it the kiss that worked the magic?

Christmas dinner was phenomenal.  Two fat hens roasted in the oven stuffed with Mama’s luscious cornbread dressing laced with an abundance of sage.  All week the house had smelled of sugar cookies and mincemeat pie baking in the oven.

Mama made a delicious raisin, spice cake, but she always said, “It just doesn’t seem like Christmas until my coconut cake is finished.”

Mama’s three layer coconut cake frosted with airy White Mountain frosting and oodles of coconut was the epitome of Christmas in our house.  A slice of that cake and a helping of strawberry Jello filled with apples, bananas and pecans was the best bite of the day.

After I was an adult, I decided to improve on Mama’s coconut wonder.  I used lemon instead of yellow cake, and I spread lemon filling between the layers.  It was good, but it wasn’t the same, and Mama didn’t mind saying so.

The gifts had been opened, the wrappings disposed of.  Of course, Mama always saved ribbons and the larger pieces of paper—wrinkles and all.

I can still hear her say, “Careful, careful.  Don’t tear it.”

She could press out the wrinkles and use the paper again next year.  That’s how you save money.

Our kitchen and dining area were combined in one fairly large room.  Today the open concept is greatly desired.  For us it was a simple necessity.

In those early years, we were all at home.  Nine of us sat around the table, bowed our heads and thanked God for His blessing, and devoured the wonderful meal Mama made.

We all knew well the import of Christmas.  We knew about God’s wondrous gift to this world.  Most of us had accepted that gift as our very own.

Not a one of us owned a checkbook or a bank account, but we were, oh, so rich because of God’s generosity.  Jesus made the difference!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6.

JESUS WANTS TO BE YOUR VERY BEST GIFT THIS CHRISTMAS.

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW