But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)
One of the things I love about Christmas is all the tradition that is tied into the celebration of our Lord’s birth. It is a time of coming together with shared memories and stories of Christmases long ago as well as a time of creating new memories to pass along to a new generation. As a child, I listened with wonder to the stories my grandparents and parents told me about Christmases when they were growing up. Times were very hard for most of them, but they still had such fond memories of the times they spent Christmas with their families as youngsters, many times getting only a piece of candy or a coin for a present. But it was not the presents that brought the smiles to their lips and the twinkle to their eyes as they recalled those Christmases of yesteryear. It was just the memory of being with loved ones and all the acts of kindness and sacrifice that they remembered most. And as I have gotten older and look back upon my many Christmases past, I realize that I, too, treasure the memories of being with those I love above all else.
I no longer have my mother and father to share Christmas with me. Mom passed away almost ten years ago, and this will be my second Christmas without Dad. I miss them so very much, and I am just so grateful to have been raised by the two people I was blessed to have as my parents. Times were very hard growing up as far as finances were concerned, but we were never short on love. Every year, somehow I cannot imagine, my parents managed to buy Christmas gifts for their three girls. We never got the most expensive brands or anything close to what most of our friends got, but we never hurt for anything we needed either. We always got at least one thing that was on our “list”. Except for one Christmas. The year of “the sweater”. I wrote about it a while back. But even that year was special, and it was a year that stood out from most because it showed me just how much my parents really loved their children and how much they sacrificed for us. No matter how hard times were and how bleak the outlook for enough money for presents , they made Christmas a happy time for our family. Santa always made it. Because of them, we understood the term “Christmas magic”.
This year is a lean one at our house. Economic concerns have taken a huge toll on our income, and the past couple of years have truly been a struggle to make ends meet. And they don’t always meet. My heart fell the day my husband told me that we weren’t going to have money for the kids to have much of a Christmas. But I remembered my family of childhood, and the beautiful memories of lean Christmases that led to sweet handmade gifts from the heart, less hustle and bustle because there was so little shopping to be done, no money to go places so we spent time together, and special traditions that we created just for our family. We were able to focus on the true meaning of the season and didn’t have to be caught up in all the entrapments. And you know, it really was a good thing, not a bad one. So I decided to give my kids some of the same memories and to try to keep the focus on what Christmas is really all about.
Most of the gifts my youngest will receive have been the result of the generosity of incredibly thoughtful and generous friends. They have made things possibe that I never dreamed would happen this Christmas. One of the gifts she will open is a beautiful American Girl horse that a dear friend has given her. Kellie’s brothers are making a stable for the horse with wood taken from our fallen barn at the family farm. With four generations of our family having used that barn, this makes the stable even more special. Kellie will be thrilled that her brothers took the time to make such a special gift for her, and I am sure it will be a family heirloom. I am happy she will get to open such special gifts, but most of all, I am thrilled to watch the joy she has experienced as she made the gifts for everyone in her family. She put so much thought and time into each one, and her excitement about giving those gifts has spilled over into me. She has not asked for one thing this year, but cannot stop talking about the things she is giving to those she loves. More Christmas magic.
A few years ago, I put out a little gingerbread house that is part of one of those little light up villages so many of us have. I don’t even know how it started really, but little elves started coming out during the night, unnoticed by a sleeping family, and leaving little bits of gingerbread for Kellie to find when she got up in the morning. I will walk by the living room some days and hear a little voice whispering. If I ease closer, I can make out Kellie’s voice whispering instructions to the elves and making requests for more gingerbread. She peeks in the windows, hoping to get a glimpse of the little guys at work. So far, she hasn’t been able to find them. But she gets so excited every time she finds the little cookies left for her. Christmas magic.
I was pretty sure that this might be the last year for Christmas magic in our house. At least for a while. But when I thought about it a little more, I realized we can always have Christmas magic. And that is because when you get back to what the celebration is all about, and when you experience the joy and the hope that was created by the birth of that tiny little baby in a lowly manger, you have magic of the most sensational variety.A year ago, I never dreamed I would be sitting around the piano with all four of my children , my husband, and his parents listening to a concert of Christmas music. Our family has experienced many challenges that made that possiblity seem highly unlikely. One of those challenges included my father-in-law having multiple surgeries to remove a brain tumor. Although he is suffering from paralysis on one side of his face, he is otherwise doing very well. And other challenges have been conquered that can only be explained by the intervention of the Lord Almighty. More Christmas magic.
So I am grateful for the chance to slow down and enjoy Christmas with my family this year. I am grateful for the reminder that gifts are not even necessary to experience the best Christmas I could hope for. I am grateful for my family, and for the chance to be together and enjoying each other’s company. But most of all, I am grateful for the magic of that first Christmas.