O Holy Night

I’ve sat in this little chair next to the glowing Christmas tree, with all of its light and love and joy flowing out of it, almost every night since dad passed away. I’ve twirled the ornaments in my hand, got lost in the candy cane swirls and let my mind drift back to Christmas on the farm.

Growing up, it was a magical time when everything seemed to crackle with excitement and anticipation. The tree went up early, decorations popped up in almost every corner of the house and, even though we lived 8 miles outside of town and had no neighbors, lights were strung on the house. One year my brother built a magnificent wooden star covered in lights and placed it right in the middle on the very tippy top of our roof. Oh, how I loved that star!

Each day new presents seemed to miraculously appear under the tree while I was away. Beautifully wrapped packages with sparkling paper and lovely bows that caught the reflection of the tree lights and shimmered like diamonds. As the number grew they poured out into the living room floor like milk flowing from a jug.

At night, after everyone went to bed, I would tippy toe down the hall, turn on the tree and just stare at the lights. Always, always I would clear a little section of the packages away and lay under the tree just enough to catch the reflection of my face in the lowest hanging ornament. Before I would turn out the lights and head back to bed I would shake my packages just enough to see if I could figure out what was inside. Just for good measure I would shake my brother’s packages too…in case they were better.

As Christmas drew closer I would fall asleep to the sounds of clanking pots and pans as mom stayed up late cooking and baking in preparation for the special day. I would wake to the same sounds as the night before and wonder if she ever slept. The air would fill with the scent of pecan pralines, peanut brittle, Christmas cookies and fudge. Add in the smell of scotch tape and cranberry candles and you could have sold Christmas in a bottle.

But the action…the action happened on Christmas Eve as the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents arrived from near and far. The noise level, and the package count, increased with every arriving guest and before you knew it the walls echoed with laughter and loud stories. My Aunt Mary would roll in to the kitchen, supplies in hand, pull out the stock pot and mix up the biggest batch of homemade hot cocoa you had ever seen. The table would fill with delicious food and treats from end to end and everything about it just warmed you to your core.

I was among the youngest of the cousins but I loved to hang with the older kids and pretend I was an equal. We would typically pile in to my brother’s room and play Space Invaders, Pac Man or football on the Atari and if the weather was nice we would head outside for an actual game of front yard football or go exploring. One year we talked our cousins in to riding a calf (I think we got in trouble for that) and one year we climbed as high as we could in the tree house and my cousin fell out and broke his arm. But the best was the year we hatched a grand scheme to trick the parents. The plan included a shoe, a board, and a squealing little girl (me) and it went something like this: one of the older kids would slap the shoe against the board as hard as they could and I would yell like I had been hurt…then we waited for the parents to react.  I KNOW we got in trouble for that!

Some years we drew names in advance and exchanged gifts and some years we played dirty Santa. It didn’t matter which we chose because it wasn’t really about the gifts, but about time spent together.

Time has a way of slipping by and before you know it everyone is grown with children of their own and even grandchildren. The farm is no longer in the family, my grandparents have passed away and now my sweet daddy lives in heaven with them. Over the years, Christmas has changed a lot and this year, well this year is just crazy. But what really matters, what’s most important is that long ago in a lowly stable, a baby was born and he was named Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, our rescue plan. There was no smell of pecan pralines or Christmas fudge, no loud stories and laughter, no hot chocolate boiling on the stove or football games being played outside. Just a man, a woman and a Savior.

So tonight, in the middle of the not so normal, different than usual, slightly strange Christmas, I’ll celebrate the unchanging story of that birth. I’ll sit beside the glowing Christmas tree with all its light and love and joy flowing out of it and remember His love and remember the farm and remember my dad. And before I turn out the lights and go to bed I’ll clear a little section of the packages and lay under the tree just enough to catch the reflection of my face in the lowest hanging ornament and laugh at how big my nose looks. I might even shake the packages!

Merry Christmas friends – May the birth of our savior be what comforts and brings you joy this season!

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