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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas memories’

Many elements of the Christmas season trigger memories of long ago, including:

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  • The carol, “O Holy Night,” takes me back to the pew of my childhood church where I listened to a gifted soloist, my mother, sing that Christmas hymn. I remember anticipating the high notes—so rich, clear, and resonant. The lyrics, including “Let all within us praise his holy Name” came from her heart.

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  • Waking up on a winter morning to the sound of a snow shovel scraping against concrete. Dad would always clear the sidewalks for the suburban commuters who’d walk past our house on their way to the train station—just one example of Dad’s thoughtfulness.*

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  • Red, green, and white tissue paper remind me of the gifts our grandmother would pile under her tree for my brother and me (her only grandchildren). You would think Grandma Clara’s shopping budget was unlimited, to see the number of packages. But what she lacked in funds Grandma made up for by shopping for super-bargains all year long. The tissue was probably an economical way to wrap some of the packages, so her precious dollars could be spent on what was inside.

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  • The aroma of pies, cookies, or breads baking in the oven take me back to Grandma Rachel’s kitchen. No one’s piecrust was as flaky, no cookies as perfectly browned on the bottom, no Parker House rolls as tender. And no holiday was complete without these treats.

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  • Red N-O-E-L letters with angel cherubs adorning each one remind me of childhood home #3. My mother would perch them on the sill of the leaded glass window by the stairs. I don’t know what happened to Mom’s set, but Steve’s aunt had the same ceramic letters and we eventually inherited hers. Now I’m the one who lines them up each year.

Not one of these memories is attached to a significant event, yet they are precious treasures of my heart. Now why would that be? Is it just the nostalgic atmosphere of the season that seems to envelope many of us at Christmastime?

Perhaps such memories highlight best what our Heavenly Father provides for us: his peace, love, and security–entities that our souls crave.  A verse from Isaiah gives us a perfect image of his constant loving care—one that Handel used in Messiah, “He Shall Feed His Flock.” (And yes, my mother sang that one, too.)

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“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:

He shall gather the lambs with his arm,

And carry them in his bosom,

And shall gently lead those that are with young.”

–Isaiah 40:11 KJV

I first experienced the love, peace, and security of God the Great Shepherd within the fold of my loving Christian family—not just during the euphoric season of Christmas but all year long. Memory after treasured memory give proof, and I am so very grateful.

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I thank you, Father, for treasured memories of the heart, and for the love, peace, and security my family provided throughout my growing years. I praise you as the Source of those glorious qualities.  

You first loved us and allowed your only Son to be sacrificed in our place. Such love is beyond human comprehension. You provide peace as we trust in you, just as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds. And our final destiny is secure because “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 How can I not be grateful?

(1 John 4:19, 10; Isaiah 26:3; Luke 2:14; Romans 8:31)

What Christmas memory speaks love, peace, and security to you?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

*After forty years in Florida, my husband and I moved back to the Midwest in 2014 to be near our sons and their families. Imagine my delight to hear that shovel-on-concrete sound again after so many years, and have that ancient memory come bubbling up from the depths.

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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Steve picked up a card from the restaurant table and exclaimed, “Hey, look! TGIF is going to be open on Christmas!”

We had just discussed what our family of five would do for dinner that year since Christmas was on a Sunday. The fact that Steve was a pastor complicated matters a bit.

Yes, we could have planned a menu around a Crockpot main dish and a wee hours stint in the kitchen to assemble it. But after two Christmas Eve services the night before, that idea didn’t hold much appeal.

In addition, we knew that Christmas Sunday was already going to be plenty busy. Steve and I, the choir director and his wife, were providing the special music—a gift to the choir who was scheduled to sing the night before. Then, of course, Steve would preach again—twice.

So when he saw that card on the restaurant table, sometime in early December, we rejoiced that at least one holiday dilemma was solved.

But when we arrived at TGIF on Christmas Sunday afternoon, a CLOSED sign hung in the window. Sometime between early December and the 25th they had changed their minds. Now what?

It didn’t take too long for another idea to occur to me. “Let’s go to that delicatessen, TooJays, out at the shopping center. I’ll bet they’re open!”

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Off we drove, another few miles to the west. They were closed too.

Now we were in big trouble. Three hungry kids, ages nine to fourteen, sat in the back seat. And it looked like Christmas dinner would be tomato soup and grilled cheese. But when I mentioned that idea, no one complained. That’s how hungry they were. Plus, who could forget what was waiting under the tree?

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On the way home, while mindlessly watching the buildings go by the passenger window, my eye happened to fall on a brightly lit OPEN sign in the window of a strip-mall restaurant. We’d never noticed the eatery before, in the six months we’d lived in that community.

Steve made a quick decision to check it out, turned at the corner, and backtracked through the parking lot to Sun Hai Valley.

Soft Christmas music greeted us inside the door, as did the tantalizing aromas of fried rice, beef teriyaki and Kung Pao chicken. A hostess escorted us into the dining room where large floral fans adorned the walls, pink cloths decked the tables, and a long buffet stretched along the back. Not only did we dine in lovely surroundings, but we enjoyed a delectable, reasonably priced meal.

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Finally, we headed home to the tree, overflowing with gifts from family and friends. Our three children were such troopers, waiting until mid-afternoon on Christmas to open their gifts. But we held to tradition and opened them one person, one present at a time, and taking turns. That way we could all take part in the joy of each gift.

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About four o’clock, Steve’s parents called from out-of-state, ready to ask about the presents they’d sent.

“Guess what?  We’re not finished opening them yet,” Steve told them. “I’ll call you again when we’re done!”

That Christmas was one of my favorites. God expressed his love and grace to us by supplying that surprise dinner, far above and beyond what we had planned. In reality, soup and sandwiches would have sufficed just fine, but he saw fit to provide much more.

God also granted the children angelic grace to accept circumstances outside our control. No one expressed impatience or frustration that I can recall.

Such precious Christmas memories are in themselves treasured gifts to enjoy our whole lives long—especially those memories that unmistakably highlight God’s grace, loving kindness, and generosity.

(Art & photo credits:  www.savingadvice.com; http://www.toojays.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.zomato.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

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Please share one of your favorite, God-enhanced Christmas memories below!

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(Reblogged from December 27, 2012)

 

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The main events are over: the decorating, the programs, the gift-giving. Yes, there may be a few more get-togethers to enjoy. You may still have family camped out in the living room (we do), and there’s still New Year’s Eve to look forward to.

But most of us are now experiencing the afterglow of Christmas—an agreeable feeling following a pleasant experience. (Thank you, Mr. Webster.)

In an effort to extend the euphoria, I skimmed through my blessings journal to remember special moments of Christmases past. I was surprised by the number of them and the fact I had forgotten many.

Example #1:

One year my husband’s parents were going to fly the five of us from South Florida to their home in Ohio for Christmas. Our kids could hardly wait, excited by the prospect of a new phenomenon—snow.

I was teaching school at the time, and a colleague, Ginny, asked me early in December, “Do you have warm clothes to take with you?”

“We have a few things,” I responded. “But I’m going to check the thrift stores over the weekend, and we can layer up.”

“Well, we have a bunch of stuff. Our family usually heads north for Christmas, but we’re not going this year. Let me loan you our gear.”

Ginny gave me sweaters, hats, gloves, and five coats. I think every item fit someone in our family.

Example #2:

As the kids became teenagers, their schedules became busier. Getting five people where they needed to be with only two cars was a challenge. Then a friend from church offered to sell us his car at a very low price. (He was buying a new one.) It was a blessing we hadn’t even prayed for. But it proved Matthew 6:8 perfectly: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Our older son got a car for Christmas that year.

Example #3:

Another year I needed a long black skirt for the Christmas musical at church. Pushing through a long to-do list each day, I kept postponing the eventual mall trip. But the afternoon I finally went shopping, God met me at Macy’s! Not long after arriving in the misses’ department, I spotted the perfect, ruffle-and-lace-trimmed skirt for almost 75% off!

How amazing is our God? He keeps track of planetary movements and weather patterns, yet he cares what we wear (Matthew 6:28-33)!

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Thank you, Heavenly Father. Reviewing Christmases past does give me a lovely afterglow. But it’s not the holiday memories as much as your involvement in those moments that causes the glow in my heart. Each instance proves your loving care, and the obvious pleasure you take in surprising your children with good things. I celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness (Psalm 145:7)!

What Christmas memory gives you an afterglow?  Share your story in the comments below!

(Photo credit:  www.freechristmaswallpapers.net.)

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Why is it that most of us find Christmas to be the pinnacle of each year? Is it:

• the twinkling lights and yard displays?
• the treats like eggnog, that we only allow ourselves during the holidays?
• the gift-giving, with all the build-up of anticipation beforehand?

Or might it be because: “Christmas is the day that holds all time together?”

Those words were penned by Alexander Smith, a Scottish poet of the 1800s. With just nine words he deftly solved the riddle. It is the Christmas season, more so than any other time, when past, present, and future come together in one glorious, unified experience.

Consider how the past becomes entwined with the present as the holiday season progresses. Memories are more poignant than ever, and traditions hold greater import. For example, preparing the house for the holidays often involves customs and heirlooms that have been in the family for years.

One custom many of us enjoy is decorating the Christmas tree. And it’s probable that most families treasure at least several heirloom ornaments. Releasing each one from its cocoon of tissue is like greeting an old friend. And attached to those decorations are memories–memories of the loved ones who gave them to us and memories of Christmases past.

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One particular ornament of our family’s collection causes a great wave of nostalgia for me. It’s shaped a bit like an old kerosene lamp, and shimmers softly with the patina of age, pale green and silver.

My father bought that ornament, in the early 1930s, when he was just nine or ten. Grandma gave him the honor of bicycling to the dime store to choose a new decoration for the family tree. Later he realized she and his older siblings were probably anxious to get him out of the house, so they could complete holiday preparations without an overly excited boy underfoot.

That lamp-ornament hung on our family Christmas tree all the years I was growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. And sometime in the 1980s, Mom and Dad passed it on to me.

Wrapped up in that one decoration are all the Christmases of my distant, childhood past, characterized by tinsel-covered trees, dolls in crisp, starched dresses, programs at church and school, and dining tables overflowing with delectable feasts. As I hang the little lamp, my imagination returns to those Christmases celebrated with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, whose love and laughter now live only in my heart.

Undoubtedly, memories are an important part of the euphoria Christmas creates. But there is plenty about the present that brings joy to the season as well: families gather, carols ring, and sweet aromas waft from kitchens. Cards arrive from distant loved ones, renewing bonds of love and friendship. Gifts are purchased and wrapped, with the delicious anticipation of bringing delight to the recipients. Meals become occasions to be savored, as family and friends gather to simply enjoy one another’s company.

And what about the future? As Christmas approaches, the excitement of all the splendorous moments to come certainly has us looking forward. In fact, there is a large measure of joy in the anticipation itself, not just in the events. Who has not felt the excitement of checking off days on the calendar until that special party? Until loved ones arrive? Until Christmas Day itself?

And no sooner does one holiday season draw to a close, than we start thinking, “Next year, I’m going to make some of those cookies Sylvia brought to the party.” Or, “Next Christmas we’ll have two grandchildren to enjoy, not just one!”

And so, it is just as Alexander Smith said. Christmas holds all time together–in memories of the past, joys of the present, and anticipation of the future.

However, Mr. Smith’s words include a deeper truth for us as Christians. Christmas is, after all, the holiday, or holy day, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Again, past, present, and future come together in one shining moment.

First, Christ’s birth obviously took place in the past, two thousand years ago.

Second, we have only to consider his name, Emmanuel, to realize how Jesus’ birth touches the present. No doubt you remember Emmanuel means “God with us.” Present tense is suggested, reminding us that now, in the present, Jesus is with those who desire his presence.

Finally, the greatest truth of all: Our future is secure because of Christmas. Those familiar words of John 3:16 make clear that God loves us and sent his Son, Jesus. When we believe in him, he gives us the most precious gift of eternal life. It is a simple fact, but wondrously profound.

In reality then, it’s not just the celebration of Christmas that joins past, present, and future. It’s the One we celebrate on Christmas that holds all time together.

“To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 25).

What experience(s) of the Christmas season bring together all time for you? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

(Photo credit:  www.pinterest.com.)

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