“Do not be afraid; I have good news for you.” Luke 2:10
Many years ago, I decided to simplify Christmas. I made the holidays about understanding the deeper meaning of the season and celebrating the love of family and friends instead of the trappings.
When my children were small, I started the tradition in my family of always gathering around the breakfast table on Christmas morning for the reading of the birth of Jesus in Luke, Chapter 2. I made sure we chose Angels from the Salvation Army Christmas tree and carried food and gifts to the needy in my community so my children could experience the joy of giving to those less fortunate. And we were always in church where I played piano, celebrating His coming with pageants and songs of praise.
“All at once there was with the angel a great company of the heavenly host, singing the praises of God: ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth his peace for men on whom his favour rests.’” Luke 2:14
In spite of my efforts to keep the focus directed toward Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the greatest gift of all, the holiday season always became stressful. Why? Because I let the pressure from others in the family push me toward the commercial falderol and the idea that every Christmas activity had to revolve around a particular date.
For too many years, I let myself be swamped by an avalanche of decorating, special baking, parties, shopping, and gift wrapping. As my children grew up and moved with their families to far-flung places – Florida and New Hampshire – and I obviously couldn’t be in both places at one time, Christmas also meant many treks to the post office to mail gifts that might not fit, couldn’t be swapped and might not suit in the first place.
The “good news” and “the splendour of the Lord” (Luke) had become lost in frantic activity. It was “high time,” as Mama used to say, for me to do some soul searching and make changes.
And so, many years ago when my grandchildren were small, I chose the second week in November to celebrate Christmas in New Hampshire and somewhere in the ballpark of December 25 to celebrate with my family in Florida. Not only did I change the date, but I ditched the whole commercial idea of Christmas, and transformed it to leisurely time to enjoy family and to celebrate with them the true meaning of the season.
Armed with sweat pants and sleep socks to ward off the chill (I consider any state north of the Mason-Dixon line to be bitterly cold in winter), I would board the plane alone in Memphis and walk into the arms of my daughter, my son-in-law, and three of my beautiful grandchildren in NH. “Christmas with Gigi” (my grandchildren’s name for me) meant special time spent together making sausage balls and Mayan hot chocolate from scratch (recipe below), trekking the mall arm in arm until we found exactly what my NH grandchildren wanted, then racing home with my grandson to “drive” the Mario Kart on his new Wii, taking my teenaged granddaughters out to dinner and hearing their hopes and dreams, walking with them to piano and voice lessons, gathering around the piano and singing with them, worshipping with them at church, and going to their church’s wonderful Giving Fair, where money for gifts purchased goes to charity.
Christmas with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my grandson in Florida typically meant—and still does–a leisurely drive to the Panhandle for a very laid-back holiday filled with love, laughter, worship, treks to the beach, and lots of good eating. Both my children are wonderful cooks, so I get to sit back with a cup of coffee and wait to see what delicious treats they’ll put on the table. My daughter-in-law and I will have “girl time” getting our toenails done. My son and I will read the Bible and pray together, sing together while he plays guitar, and laugh uproariously over a Pink Panther re-run. This year, the grandson who took me out into the backyard when he was four to show me the rocket ship he’d built that would take us to the moon will show me his new house in Florida. He grew up to be an engineer. No surprise there!
For me, Christmas is love.
As promised, here’s the Mayan chocolate recipe: For one cup, melt three squares of Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate in one teaspoon of water over low heat. Stirring constantly, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, an extra dash of red pepper (optional) and either sugar or Splenda to taste. When the chocolate is melted, slowly add approximately six ounces of two per cent milk. Stir constantly until the milk has heated through. Do not let it boil.
Pour the Mayan hot chocolate into your favorite mug, top with miniature marshmallows, put on your favorite Christmas CD and let the joy and comfort of the Good News overflow your heart.
I will be singing the Christmas cantata in the little country church my grandfather built, teaching the Littles to love Jesus at Sunday School, and then playing the piano for evening services. Then, of course, I will write.
God is good!
It’s always heartwarming to read about the special traditions and memories that people associate with the holiday season. Your words serve as a reminder to take a moment to appreciate the people and things we hold dear. Keep sharing your insights and experiences with the world.