Sit with me by the fire while the wind whines around the corner of the house. Have a cup of Christmas. Choose between hot cocoa, Russian tea, pumpkin spice coffee, caramel latte, or just plain coffee steaming hot. Enjoy the Christmas tree glowing with colored lights and sparkling ornaments. Feel the anticipation of Christmas as you see the stockings hanging empty ready to be filled on Christmas Eve. Take a look at the Nativity scene on a side table with shepherds, wise men, and the Holy Family casting shadows from the lamplight. Oh, and here, have a cookie please–sugar cookies in Christmas shapes, thumbprint cookies with a dab of mayhaw jelly in the clevities, chocolate covered pretzels, and spiced snowballs.
Now–sit comfortably with me, toasting your toes, and let us contemplate Christmas together.
The sight of those limp stockings reminds me of how heart-stopping exciting it was as a child to begin to unpack my knobby, crooked, fat sock that the night before had seemed so useless. Yes, it was a sock. Everyone in the family, large and small, hung their own socks, not fine needlepoint stockings, on nails used only for that purpose. The rest of the year those nails were seldom, if ever, used. When I was very little I can remember my mother gently replacing mine and my sister’s small socks with longer ones from our older brothers. It was amazing what interesting things came out of those socks–simple little tops, handheld dolls, puzzles, crayons, along with oranges, some of Mamma’s fudge wrapped in wax paper, coconuts for the older children, and nuts, of course!
As exciting as those socks were, I daresay packing stockings for our children when they were young, was even more exciting. I loved the time on Christmas Eve when they were (hopefully!) fast asleep and we could begin packing those stockings with little trucks and cars, whistles, new socks, games and puzzles, hair doodles, along with chocolate kisses, a pack of crackers (planned for our Christmas trip to Grandmother’s) and always a candy cane sticking out the top. It was fun to add an extra surprise, too big for the stocking and wrapped in tissue, laid alongside the stocking. We took great pleasure in collecting things, over a matter of weeks, that we thought might bring a smile to our children on Christmas morning.
We comment, you and I, on the fact that Jesus loves to give us good things–even during hard times–good things packed into the stockings of our days.
Think about the Christmas tree. We enjoy bringing home a new ornament as a souvenir of special trips. One prominent one each year on our tree is a tiny replica of the White House, complete with wreath. It reminds us to pray for whoever occupies that house and for other government officials. There are reminders all over the tree of our children and grandchildren. But the tree itself reminds us that Jesus came as a Baby but gave His life on a tree that we may have eternal life. And the lights twinkling so brightly? Even in the darkest days, He is the Light of the world and He wants us to shine for Him. Underneath the tree are various sizes, shapes of packages, gifts to our loved ones, a wonderful tradition, reminiscent to some of the wise men bringing gifts to the Baby so long ago.
Look at the Nativity scenes. We have several. One is our elegant one, beautiful ceramic pieces purchased when our children were young enough to move the figures around, but surviving the little hands of grandchildren and great grandchildren. There’s an olive wood stable and figures from Bethlehem, a set a sister gave me made especially for children, another from France. Two Nativity scenes I’ve arranged on the piano on either side of hymnals ready for a pianist to play “Away In A Manger” or “Silent Night.”
As we sit here by the fire talking about the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph and the Baby as depicted by the Nativity scenes, our conversation turns to a question that troubles us. Why is it so hard for people to believe this story? It is so crucial to their receiving the marvelous eternal life God the Father gave us through His Son Jesus Christ. Why are there so many millions who refuse to believe because it “couldn’t have happened,” or “God wouldn’t have done it,” or because God doesn’t care that much. We’re talking about God who created the world by the spoken word, God who could do anything, impossible or not. Why will they not believe?
We remember Paul Harvey, a favorite radio storyteller. One of his stories he told several years at Christmas is about the birds. Remember that one?
It went something like this.
A man, his wife, and two children, lived happily in a little town. They did almost everything together. But on Sunday the wife and the children went to church and the man stayed at home. Repeatedly, the family begged him to go with them to church but over and over he refused, sometimes going so far as to say there couldn’t be anything to that Christian stuff. It didn’t make sense that God would become a little baby. On Christmas Eve, the family prepared to go to the special church service and, again, pleaded with the man to go with them. He almost lost his cool in his irritation and told them just to go on and leave him alone, that there was no way he’d believe Jesus was born to a virgin, died on the cross, and was raised again. Why in the world would God do that? So the family sadly left him alone and went on to the midnight church service. It began to snow again and, hearing the sound of many birds, the man looked out the window. On the lawn were a dozen or more little birds cold, huddling together trying to stay warm. He thought of the barn where the birds could be warm for the night. He went out and turned on a light to entice them. They didn’t come. He got some bread and sprinkled crumbs on the snow leading to the barn’s lighted door. Still, they continued to huddle on the snow. He waved his arms trying to shoo them in. Nothing worked. In frustration he thought, if I could just explain to them that they don’t need to be afraid of me, that I’m trying to give them a warm, safe place away from the storm. But, he realized, he’d have to be one of them in order to explain and to make them understand. He’d have to be one of them, one of them. He took in a gasp of cold air just as the church bells began to ring. Oh, my! The man dropped to his knees in the snow.
Because of the magic of modern media you can hear on You Tube Paul Harvey, who’s been dead for years, telling this story in his own words with his own dramatic pauses.
Well, here we are still nursing our warm cups, though they’re empty. Maybe we better get started on that knitting we were going to do together. Christmas is a time for sharing. It is so much fun!
Merry Christmas, everyone!