I just noticed that it’s been a couple of weeks since my last email. How time flies. And four days until Christmas.
The season is a bit harder this year. I want to be joyous, but the many things that I enjoy about the season, I have not been able to do.
Our yard still looks like a war zone and we haven’t been able to make the time to put up any lights. Jon loves putting up lights and we wanted to add to our display this year. Maybe next year.
I’m thankful to have floors and carpet now, but the rooms are still filled with tools, construction clutter (Jon is using a 5 gallon paint can as a nightstand) and items we don’t yet have a place to put away. I haven’t wanted to drag out Christmas boxes (I am thankful to still have them) and add to the clutter. We’ll have to push some of the mess aside in order to make room for a tree. We hope to put it up Thursday evening.
We have baked some cookies, but not the traditional Christmas fare, mostly the cut, plop and bake kind. I did loose my recipe box in the floodwaters, so I don’t have any of my favorite cookie recipes. We have been making do with our kitchen (we have all of our appliances) but we have no countertops yet, which makes storage and cooking space interesting.
Normally, I have my Christmas shopping just about done by now, so as not to have to fight the last minute crazy shoppers in overcrowded and under stocked stores. This year we’re trying to keep things simple. And I’ve had to fight some of the crazy shoppers in overcrowded and sorely under stocked stores.
Many of you know that I am very faithful with Christmas cards and our annual newsletter. I almost decided to forgo it this year (I even managed to get one out the year we deployed for war), however a certain newsletter I received in the mail inspired me and helped me to realize that much more happened this year than a hurricane. It will be late, but I will be sending out our annual Christmas newsletter.
In the midst of it all, and in spite of all the buts, I am thankful.
And in the midst of it all, I was reminded of what Christmas is all about.
Our little church, by the inspiration of Jon and Nette, put together a simple Christmas program. They picked out scripture passages and selected a few favorite Christmas hymns. Heather and Elizabeth made some sheep costumes from T-shirts and cotton balls and we pulled out costumes from years gone by for Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. A pretty yellow sheet swathed Mary’s head and the shepherds wore genuine headdresses Jon had purchased on travel at a market in Bahrain. Daniel and Matthew took turns reading the familiar story told from the Gospel of Luke and Heather introduced each Christmas hymn by playing her flute. Her notes, clear and pure, sounded like a heavenly melody. We ushered the in the children, dressed in their roles, at their appointed times. Mary and Joseph, three shepherds with their flock and an angel (portrayed by a slightly grumpy seven year old whom I will claim as my own). They each took their place at the front of the church, around a manger, while the passages were read and the songs were sung.
As the Sunday morning sunlight streamed in the windows on our simple rendition of the well known and loved story of long ago, my heart swelled with the sweetness of joy that can only come from an awesome and gracious Father.
Then I saw it. Our church has a seven-foot vine cross, draped in crimson cloth, standing in the front of the sanctuary, off to the side. The children of our Christmas story were in their places, slightly off center at the front of the sanctuary, in the shadow of that cross. A foreshadowing of the future of the babe we were celebrating.
An amazing story. A virgin birth in a stable in an obscure town, long ago. Witnessed by lower class, common shepherds. Proclaimed by a host of heavenly angels.
The Promise, wrapped in the earthly flesh of a newborn son.
But born in the shadow of a cross.
Born to die.
That we might live.
And that is the meaning of Christmas.
Grace & Peace