Be Prepared … This is Not Your Ordinary Celebration of Christmas

The topic for this week is: Christmas: How We Celebrate.
‘Tis the season of Christmas

For my husband and I, Christmas has shifted tremendously for us since we married 16 years ago.  These days, Christmas is a rejoicing of our hearts.  We read from the Bible of Christ’s birth, of Who He is … Immanuel – עִמָּנוּאֵל – God with us.  Our hearts are the manger.  Our hearts have grown to house the Holy Spirit.  Our hearts are filled with love.  We desire to spend our Christmas in that spirit.  We have a quiet day.  We ponder this birth, the foretelling of the future through the birth of Christ, the Omnipotent One is with us, and the beauty of our eternal life with Him.  Our hearts rejoice in remembering.  We are still and quiet and awaiting the LORD.

I am married to a wonderful man.  We have no children, thus no grandchildren.  We married when we were both 45.  This is Ken’s first marriage, thus no children from his side. This is my second marriage and I had no children from my first marriage.  Then I was divorced for 13 years and missed the childbearing years altogether… at least according to my body.  (I don’t believe I am a ‘Sarah’ either.)  That said, Christmas is oddly different without children, but not a bad odd for us, just different.  I have been around children all of my career life and know the excitement and delight through these little wonderful munchkins!  But they are not here in my home.
Christmas is unique for us though.  And we are not sad about that.  Our Christmas is quiet.  Our Christmas is family of two with extended sisters and their families miles and miles away.  So we spend alot of time on the telephone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Prior to Christmas, I bake and love to bake.  I put together cookie and fudge tins for a few of our neighbors, enjoying the giving.  When we were first married, we had three parents alive and celebrated Christmas with them.  My mother is our only parent alive at 95 1/2 so we spend part of our day with her as she is near in a nursing home.  We take some of the homemade goodies to the staff that have to work on Christmas Day.  I appreciate them so very much and want them to know it, not just on Christmas but throughout the year.  We will eat with Mom Christmas Day.  We ate with her last year, but the food wasn’t so good (from there) so I will probably take our meal from home this year and share it with her around a table in a private room we can find  … somewhere in the facility.  She enjoys the family and company and we will call my sisters and her one grandson while there.
We have changed our habits over the years and have made gift giving to one another practical, something we need.  What more we might have spent, we like to give to people we know in need or a charity.  That just depends.  This year, we have spent that extra on food for our local food bank.  That has felt right this year with the economic struggles of the food bank and their outreach is just where we want our money to go.  Our card sending habits have shifted as well.  We respond either as others send them, or after Christmas with a personal letter or at other times of the year rather than in the hubbub of Christmas.  Our gift giving to others is just about nil.  We send love to our families.
We decorate our home extremely simply, to the bare minimum, but what we put up is unique and special.  In the pictures below: the wooden creche, made by a pastor of ours for his shepherd leaders when we had small home groups.  It is all from one piece of wood.  There is a star carved in the left corner.  The beaded Christmas tree was made for my mother by a dear friend of hers probably 30 years ago.  It is all beaded with tiny green beads and tiny ornaments.  It is absolutely beautiful.  We have a pillow from Kenneth’s mother (actually both on chair were hers).  The poinsettia is the vivid color of  the Blood of Christ.  Below it, on the table, is a creche made from olive wood from Israel and the donkey carrying Mary with Joseph beside her is of wood and was from my family when I was a girl.  All mean so much to us.  And that is all we have up and need.

One thing that has been very special to me is the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.  We remember the fallen soldiers.  Arlington Cemetery is especially meaningful for me as my Daddy is buried there.  This coming Saturday, 12/12, the annual wreath laying ceremony will  occur where 5,000 wreaths will be laid on graves of fallen soldiers and another 10,000 wreaths across the nation.  Worcester Wreath Company in Maine has donated all wreaths until this very year (are now taking donations to help fulfill their mission, as it is growing).  They have been doing this since 1992.  (I will write more on this in another post.)  But it is a way for me, in particular, to remember the many who have protected me and kept the freedoms of this country.  I find information on the internet about this and treasure the weekend in my heart.  If we lived close, I would be there.

We are not sorry we don’t and cannot do Christmas the way so many others do.  I don’t miss the shopping craziness, nor having spent too much when it was all said and done.  I don’t miss sending out 30, 40, or 50 cards at $0.44 cents each.  I don’t miss feeling all of the ‘have tos’.  I do miss the joys of having family right near and I do miss the joy of a child seeing the lights on a tree or the snow on the ground or that child’s sweet and tender voice talking to Baby Jesus in the creche.  Yes, I do miss some things about a ‘usual’ Christmas.Christina Rossetti wrote this poem in 1872.  It was put to music years ago.  It is a Christmas hymn rarely sung yet is so powerful for me that I must include it in my celebration of Christmas:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
I do give Him my heart.  He dwells there.  He is close.  I rejoice that God sent His One and Only Son to this earth to save ones such as me and my dear Kenneth.  We know why we celebrate.  Our how is just different.  

LORD, Christmas Day is one day of 365 every year.  Your Son’s birth is celebrated in the Christian world.  The joy of giving gifts is celebrated by many who don’t even mention Jesus in their gatherings.  Father, I pray for those who don’t know You, who don’t remember You, who have turned their back upon You, who don’t care.  Father, may Your light stream into their hearts this Christmas.  You have told us that You bring all things together for good according to Your purposes.  Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.  May the fruit of Your giving abound this Christmas to those of us who do know You and celebrate Christ’s first coming and His second coming.  May it also abound to those who need You.  Oh, God, please bring the peace that passes all understanding to their hearts, their hurting hearts, their broken hearts, their darkened hearts, their stone-cold hearts.  Open those stony gates and let the true Light shine in.  God, I am so grateful that You love me and live with me, and with Kenneth.  May we never forget.  Amen.