Misty, blue shadows are tucked between the bare trees, and the mild weather seems more like Indian Summer than it does late December. It reminds me so much of the year before our son Andy was born. (He was 55 in November.) On Christmas Day Criss and I sat out in the yard on lawn chairs with our neighbors, Bud and Liddie Coon. The temperature must have been in the 70’s.
In January we moved to Spring Hill mountain and it began snowing. Soon the hill was almost impassable, and snow continued to fall all that spring. I’ve heard predictions that we are to have a mild winter, but this weather makes me sort of leery. Time will tell.
Christmas is almost upon us, and on every side we are assailed by sales promotions, and a frenzied effort to buy. I read three different women’s magazines lately, and there were all crammed full of suggested gift items, Christmas craft ideas, and holiday recipes for delicious foods. There was not one mention of the Baby Jesus, born in a manger and destined to become the Savior of the world. Not one religious symbol, or even an inspirational quotation.
What is the world celebrating? Have we become so brainwashed that the mention of anything spiritual is anathema? What has happened to America? I see the quotation, “God bless America” used in many places. God can’t bless America in the shape she is in. This oft used scripture quoted today is still true, and our only hope. “If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven , and will forgive their sins, and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14) May God help America.
What makes the season bright and merry are the children and their excited faces. We also revel in the Christmases past when we were children ourselves and the old traditions were handed down from generation to generation. Betty Banks writes of some Christmas memories that she cherishes. One year there was no money to buy a tree, and her mother found some discarded pine branches. She tacked them to the wall in shape of a tree and decorated them. In memory, that was one of the warmest Christmases she had.
We all have our own unique Christmas memories that we take down and dust, and relive for a while. Memories of family and children, and loved ones now gone. One of my best memories is Daddy reading the real Christmas story from the chapter of Luke. We would be gathered around his chair, garbed in our feed sack nightgowns, while the open gas fire burned bright. I can hear his voice now, sometimes choked with emotion, saying, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” At that point, we could see the old stable, with the manger full of sweet-smelling hay. Although we felt indignant that Baby Jesus didn’t have a real bed, it was cozy place. We played in the barn a lot, and used the manger for our own baby dolls. We were there, as Daddy read, gazing in awe at the sweet little baby.
We didn’t look beyond the newborn Babe to a darker hour, when His ultimate destination was His death on the cross to be the sacrifice for our sins. I’m afraid that is the way with a lot of people. It is easy to accept and love an innocent little baby, but to go on and accept Him as a Risen Savior is a different thing. And yet, that was the purpose of the birth of Christ. He came to seek and save that which is lost. He is still seeking.
My cousin, Katie Khan, who writes marvelous poetry, sends this poem of hope.
STARLIGHT, ANGELS & HOPE
When snow paralyzes the land
And starlight glimmers
From the bowl of the sky,
How do we greet her, this innocent
Girl, whose heart gave her a voice
She never knew she had.
Even Gabriel must have been
Surprised at how easily she agreed,
Without protest, to the Holy Plan.
This Christmas may we embrace anew,
Wise–stargazers from the East,
Humble shepherds, who listen to angels;
A village girl, who brought forth
The Hope of the world and laid Him
Gently in a manger;
And a devoted Joseph, who showed
Compassion to Mary, leading her to
Bethlehem, where Messiah was born.
A true miracle defies explanation
But Love enables us to grasp the
Only real fairy tale ever told.
By Katie Samples Khan
I love the beautiful Christmas cards that folks have sent me; also the heartfelt get well cards and prayers. I have been “under the weather” again, but am better now and still improving.
I found an essay that echoes the very thoughts of my heart.
THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
By Francis Cardinal Spellman
(Archbishop of New York)
Holiday and Holy Day, Christmas is more than a Yule log, holly or tree. It is more than natural good cheer, and the giving of gifts. Christmas is more than the feast of the home and of children, the feast of love and friendship. It is more than all these together. Christmas is Christ, the Christ of justice and charity, of freedom and peace.
The joy of Christmas is a joy that war cannot kill, for it is the joy of the soul and the soul cannot die. Poverty cannot prevent the joy of Christmas, for it is a joy no earthly wealth can give. Time cannot wither Christmas, for it belongs to eternity. The world cannot shatter it, for it is union with Him who has overcome the world.
The leaders and peoples of nations must understand these fundamental truths if we are ever to have freedom and peace. Unless charters and pacts have a divine sanction, unless “God is the Paramount Ruler of the world,” then again and again, as waves upon the shore, must catastrophe follow catastrophe. Not until men lay aside greed, hatred, pride and the tyranny of evil passions, to travel the road that began at Bethlehem, will the Star of Christmas illuminate the world. Christmas is the Birthday of freedom, for it is only the following of Christ that makes men free.
(Georgianna–please forgive me–I have lost your address. If you will send it to me, I promise I will send your books right out.)