I start to dream just a tad more during the Christmas holiday season. For me it starts the day after Thanksgiving. To me, that day has never been Black Friday. It’s always been more of a Christmas Fantasy Friday. Although I love all the lights and tinsel (especially the lights), I don’t want to get caught up in it. I have to always remember the One who is the divine dream giver. He has a purpose and a plan for me and for you.
So, while I’m firmly aware of Who is the author of my dreams, I find myself leafing through pages of ladies magazines, looking for holiday food and Christmas decorating ideas. Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal is terrific for gathering ideas. I also surf the web for delish Christmas recipes. I started on my own low cal/carb style of eating (not a diet) and lost a substantial amount of weight over the last five years. And I’ve kept it off. So, I will indulge (somewhat) in holiday desserts and other high cal treats, but won’t overdo it. It takes some intentionality, but that’s my new buzz word: intentionality! That’s why I’m so thrilled at how easy it is to find truly healthy Christmas recipes that look and taste marvelous.
I also love Christmas decorating shows on the various cable networks. I love to watch instructions on how to make Christmas crafts. Love the old classical and the new innovative ways to deck the halls. I’m afraid I’ve become an HGTV and a DIY Network addict. I’ll have to go to 12-Step meetings in January. “Hello, my name is Nike, and I’m addicted to home improvement cable channels.”
It seems this year there is much less of a war against Christmas. Oh, there are still Scrooges and Grinches out there, and they take great pleasure at bringing all Christmas celebrants down a notch or two. Don’t let them. Pity them and pray for them. And then get on with Christmas cheer. Celebrate ground retaken.
I’m happy to revel in the Christmas spirit, you see because over two thousand years ago in the city of Bethlehem an angel burst forth with great joy announcing the Good News, “Peace on earth. Good will toward men.” [Luke 2:14] Jesus was born. He has decked the halls of my heart ever since the day I first invited Him in.
Thanksgiving Day is gone, though thanksgiving continues as a way of life for me. So, now I’m thankful that Christmas is coming. For me the day after Thanksgiving is the “official start of the Christmas season” which doesn’t end on December 26th. No, I also celebrate the 12-Days of Christmas and end the season on December 6th with Epiphany.
In my house, the day after Thanksgiving is the day for taking out my large plastic “Christmas bins.”
This year I did some research and I found out surveys show that people who celebrate Christmas early tend to be happy people. All I know on a personal level is that I feel great when I jump into the Christmas season with both feet.
Isaiah 9:6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]
My feeling is that “Christmasy people” enjoy the “Light” the season brings. Even the non religious feel the light piercing the darkness and they like it. I don’t decry the overabundance of lights on houses as commercialism. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph don’t upset me. I know Santa Claus isn’t the baby Jesus. I also know the real St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who gave gifts to the poor. I don’t mistake my Santa figurines as “the reason for the season.” Not for one second. But Santa does make me smile. Still, I know if there had never been a Jesus, there would not have been a Santa Claus.
I love to see smiles breaking out on the faces of children when they sit on Santa’s lap. Too often our children are fretful, feeling the anxiety and weight of the world in this angry time. Laughing when they see Frosty or Rudolph is a welcome break. It’s the Light breaking through the darkness. It’s children being allowed to be children, even for a short time. It’s the joy of the season breaking out. It can’t be contained. Darkness can’t hold it back.
I’m a firm believer that you can’t decorate on an empty stomach.
It is up to the church to tell the story of the baby Jesus. If we tell the age-old glorious story, they will listen. We must tell them.
The Birth of Jesus ~ ~ Luke 2 ~ New Living Translation [NLT]
2 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
The Shepherds and Angels
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
I ‘drug’ my old and once quite expensive fake Christmas tree from Brooklyn to northeastern coastal Florida. Nearly twenty years ago, my husband and I went to one of those upscale Christmas stores AFTER the season and bought one of their larger and fuller display trees. At that time and with the end of season sale it was still over $200.
Joseph is gone, and though I’m still 39 (yeah, right), I’m no spring chicken. Last year, when I hauled the tree out of my shed and put it up in my tiny two-bedroom house in Florida, I swore I’d never do that again! It was too heavy for me to drag in and then at the end of the season drage out. Putting it up and taking it down was too much work. It’s one of those that must be assemebled branch-by-branch. Yet, this year I got it out again and managed to get it up with a ton of whining and murmuring. As some of you might know, I’ve had a rep for having perfected whining to an art form. However, totally through the grace of God, I’ve been able to knock a lot of that nonsense off.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing ~ Philippians 2:14 [NSB]
When I say it’s work to put the tree up, that’s what I mean. The trunk has to be assembled. long the trunk letters Have been printed (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and they are color coded. The branches also have those letters printed on them in the corresponding color. Twenty years ago, those letters were easy to read, not so much now.
In Brooklyn, we’d assembled a layer of boughs, then layer lights in a cirsle around the tree at that level. We’d continue…a layer of boughs topped by a layer of lights until we reached the top. By the time we were done, we might have three hundred lights on the tree. Of course, there were two or more of us decorating. Now there’s just me. I love decorating. I love everything about Christmas. Decorations are a symbolic tribute to the babe who was born in a manger over 2000 years ago. The many lights abounding in every home, business, and thoroughfare mere representation of the Light that entered the world.
I hope to make another transition in 2018 and enter a new season in my life. I plan to move to an apartment where yard work will be handled by management. I’d like to have a swimming pool for exercise and to keep limber. And so I have caught myself muttering, I’m not going to take that tree. It’s going to Goodwill. Sounds a lot like what I was saying last year. Will the tree go with me? Only time will tell.
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. ~ Isaiah 9: 6-7 [KJV]
Yet, this morning I woke up dreaming about my dad’s memorial service, eighteen years ago, when I couldn’t stop crying. I don’t usually do either of those things: dream in my sleep that I can recall, or often cry.
That morning, the tears seemed to come up from my toes. I dremt an exact recall of how my BFF childhood girlfriend Christine Sloat White comforted me on the way out of the sanctuary. Christine died way too early of ovarian cancer, and as was her own personal style, carried herself with extreme dignity, right tot he end thinking of others.
Christine Sloat White, Titusville, Fl
I only have one digital photo of my dad. So, I dragged out the two boxes of photos I have in my house in NYC, thinking I’d try to take a digital shot of an old snapshot. However, I couldn’t find any. Most of my photos (copious amounts of them) were shipped to Florida, as I’m in transition for a retirement move south. Likewise I only have one digital shot of Christine stored in my computer.
As I got out of bed this morning, I flashed to my father’s hospital bedside after the stroke that left him speechless in 1997. My dad had spent a lifetime angry at God over the very early death of his own father, which thrust his mother, sister, and himself into years of hardship. Using the GI Bill, he turned to education and philosophy for answers and obtained a college degree. Much later in life he added two masters degrees. He spoke three languages. None of this made him less angry with God. He spent the overwhelming portion of his adult life as a highly vocal agnostic. Honesty was his strong suit, and he freely admitted thinking about death made him very uneasy.
I visited my dad in the Catholic hospital in upstate New York, following his stroke. He couldn’t speak, but he had full use of his hands. A retired English high school teacher, speech teacher, debate coach, and high school senior play director, he had no trouble using words. He described on paper how he had been drawn to a particular statue of a baby, actually what appeared to be a Middle Eastern mother, father, and infant. He’d ask the nurses or aides to push his wheelchair into the waiting room where the wooden statue was displayed. He’d sit there gazing at it, he said, in a total peace he had never felt before. He wrote on his notepad, “Why do you think that is?”
I asked my dad, “Do you know who is depicted in that statue?” He didn’t know. So, I told him it was the Holy Family. The baby he was so drawn to, the one where gazing upon the infant carved in wood gave him such peace, was in fact, the baby Jesus. He was nonplussed. A shy smile crossed his face.
He also told me in writing how a particular nun who worked in the hospital would come to see him every day and something happened. She lit up the room. He couldn’t wait to see her. I later sought this nun out in her office to thank her for such kindness to my father. I was overwhelmed. I explained to her he’d been an agnostic most of his life and somehow he’d seen light in her. I told her how he had been drawn to the statue of the baby Jesus, and how I believed he’d had a profound experience of the Savior. For the first time in his life, he had experienced the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.
That little visit didn’t go well. She was shocked and horrified. I came to believe, she saw a man who was going to hell if he didn’t get baptized, make his First Communion and get confirmed. Born again Christians might say she had a religious spirit. That’s a spirit of man-made religious stuff that’s not in the Bible. I’m not being antiCatholic. Christians have in the past, and some still do, make up all kinds of stuff that’s not in the Bible, such as you can’t dance or drink alcohol.
My Bible says Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. I’ll bet there was plenty of dancing at that wedding. Jews always dance at weddings. I lived next to a religious Jewish family in Brooklyn for over 13 years. It would be quite usual on Friday evenings and on Saturday for friends to come over to celebrate the Sabbath. I’d often hear them laughing, singing, and feet-stompin’ dancing. And let’s not forget Jesus changed water into wine. That was after the guests at the wedding at Cana had consumed all the wine the host provided. The Bible says wine enough to fill six, large, stone purification water jars. These jars usually held 20 – 30 gallons. That’s a lot of wine. Some Christians insist the ‘wine’ they drank was really grape juice. I take my Bible literally. If it says wine, it means wine. It also says, the headwaiter told the bridegroom this last wine was the best. I’ve never been at any kind of social occasion where anyone has said, “This last grape juice was the best.” However, there have been endless hours spent talking about the merits of one particular wine vs. another.
But I digress. I believe, this precious nun was dismayed because she saw in my dad, a man going to hell. I was so grateful to her for being a representative of Jesus, walking into his room. I was grateful to the nurses and aides who pushed my dad’s wheelchair into the waiting room where he could spend time with the Holy Spirit who obviously did a work in him. I saw a man who had had an encounter with the living God who loved him, offered him peace, and extended an invitation to one day go to heaven.