As Christmas Day gets closer, families and friends are making plans to gather together to celebrate the Season. For a lot of families it will be the only time that they gather all year. In other words, the Christmas Season is a time for coming together with people near and far.
Over the years, I have over heard conversations, heard comic routines and seen movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that show and/or express the downside of these family gatherings. Family members off to a corner to talk about another person and it is usually not anything of building that person up. There is always a family member that has to one up what anyone else has to share or is doing in their life. Scenes such as these can set the stage for not very fond memories and a very stressful Christmas. It is scenes and situations such as these that make me sad to observe and hear about. After all, the reason for the Season is celebrating a person who came to this world to demonstrate what grace is all about and how we are to accept each other flaws and all. He came to this world so that we can experience the good stuff.
In the song, The Good Stuff it is an older man telling a young man how important it is to capture all the good moments as you are starting out in a marriage and in life. We can carry the theme of this song into the Christmas Season. Instead of looking for ways of criticizing a family member or friend because they don’t do things the way do, I encourage us to seek the good qualities in each person. Let’s take the time to laugh not at each other but with each other. We need to embrace the hugs the conversations and laughter as much as we can because we never know who may not be with us the next time we are together.
For most families, there is going to be a grandparent, aunt or uncle that is going to tell a story of Christmas past that we have heard a hundred times before. Instead of rolling our eyes back and saying; “here we go again” take heed the words found in Proverbs 2:11 about being quick to listen. It might be this one Christmas that we may catch a part and/or meaning of the story that has an impact on our life. Also, it is important to remember that these stories are a part of who we are and they are a special heritage that needs to be handed on down to the next generation.
Then there comes to the moment when we exchange and open gifts. I am sure there will be a gift where we will think; “oh, you shouldn’t have”, “you really shouldn’t have” with a fake smile on our face as we give the giver a fake thank-you hug. Instead, we need to be that extravagant receiver that I talk about in my blog, The Extravagant Receiver. We have to realize that the giver took the time out to think of us and the joy they have felt as they prepared the gift. Let’s not steal their joy but embrace the joy. In other words, capture the good stuff.
Last but certainly not least, we need to capture the good stuff of what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about a baby being born that would grow up to a man who would die for us so that we can experience the good stuff in life.
My Christmas wish for you is that you capture all the good stuff you can not only during this Christmas Season but in the year ahead.
- Ten Ways To Stuff Your Stocking (pennythots.com)
- First Things First (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Time In Africa (profarms.wordpress.com)
- Extravagant Receiving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- 1915 Letter To Santa May Make Today’s Kids Feel Pretty Greedy In Comparison (PHOTO) (mukeshbalani.wordpress.com)
There is a picture of a tear that has been going around on Facebook that says; “ever have a memory to roll down your cheek?” I recently had one of those moments. For me, it was hearing the song, Don’t Blink and not some Christmas song that caused this gal’s dam to break.
As I listened to Kenny sing about how life goes by so fast, I reminisced on Christmases past. As I reminisced, I looked about the family room and other rooms of little reminders of not only Christmases past but of those who have had a special influence and place in my life and heart.
In the picture there are four items that represent Christmases past and the meaning for Christmas for me. The first item is the train under the Christmas tree. Growing up it was a tradition for Dad to set up the train under the Christmas tree. My brother and I would sit there for hours making up destinations of where the train would be going and we would also add a little cargo to the cargo cars as we played. Though the train only went around in one continuous circle my brother and I reached many destinations in our imaginations.
The other item in the picture is an elf. I remember the year Mom and Dad went to Sears and Roebuck to buy new Christmas ornaments. I was probably about six or seven at the time. Mom picked out candy canes, gingerbread houses, gingerbread men and these elves that would decorate our tree. Over the years these ornaments became damaged because of the wear of time and due to the moves they had to make as we moved from one place to another. However, out of those ornaments were two elves. One elf for me and one for my brother. This elf sitting on the ladder is the elf that has now gone with me from place to place. Each year I place it on the ladder going up the tree and each year I remember the Christmases from childhood. Oh, I could go on about the different Christmases and what made them so special but that will have to wait for another day and time.
Beside the train lays a sweatshirt with a reindeer painted on it. This sweatshirt was a craft that my son, Drew made when he was in pre-school. On it is an old pizza stain that won’t come out but it does not stop me from getting it out year after year and having it on display somewhere in the house. When I reached into the closet to get this special shirt out the words; the secret to life is don’t blink came to my mind. It seems like it was just yesterday where Jim and I were out shopping for Drew’s first Christmas. And, this year we are Christmas shopping for him and his wife, Megan’s first home. It made me think of all the Christmases we have spent with Drew and I saw how time has really flown by. It is so true of what Kenny says in the song; “it’s important to put first things first” and “you can’t flip over the hour glass.” A tear rolled down my cheek as I longed to have that little boy back but also another tear rolled down my cheek with pride knowing what kind of man he has grown up to be.
Earlier, I mentioned the ladder. Jim’s parents gave us that one year in our early years of marriage. Jim’s mom has had a ladder by her tree through the years and she thought we needed one, too. Needless to say, I was excited to get it knowing that is was a part of bringing some of Jim’s Christmas past into our home. I don’t have them in the picture but there are snow flakes made by his sweet grandmother that go on our tree as well.
The train not only reminds me of Christmases growing up but it is a reminder that God sent his Son, Jesus and through Him there is a destination. The destination is heaven. By accepting Christ into my life, I have my ticket to heaven.
The elf on the ladder is a reminder that no matter where I go Jesus is there. Just like this elf being with me all these years and going through all the moves I’ve made, Jesus has always been there and will always be there with me. It is up to me to acknowledge His presence and make sure I include him in all that I do and invite him to go with me in all the places I go.
The sweatshirt reminds me of how time really does fly and the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL situations everyday. There are opportunities put before us each day of being a witness for Christ. We are given opened door opportunities to invite people to join us on the journey and yet so many times we don’t embark on them.
The snowflakes are a reminder of family. Though we are related by blood or by marriage,just like each snowflake we are each different and unique in our own way. Each one has something that they can and have contributed to the family and to the world in order to make things a little bit better for someone else.
The ladder reminds me of the story of Jacob. A ladder aids us in being able to reach something. Therefore, the ladder represents our connection to God. The ladder being Jesus whom is the very reason for the Christmas Season.
As I listen to the song, Don’t Blink again, I think of the song written by Mark Lowry and composed by Buddy Greene, Mary Did You Know?. Can you imagine what was going through Mary’s mind and what her heart was feeling as she watched her son carry a cross that he would soon die on? You know she thought about the moments of his coming into the world and the hours she must have watched him at play. Just like any mother she probably reminisced about his favorite foods and stories they had shared around the table. As a mom myself, I know it had to be a moment in time where she wished she could go back in time but couldn’t. Mary knew first things were first. She knew that though she carried and gave birth to this child of hers that He was God’s Son He was sent so that we may obtain the ultimate ticket to the most wonderful destination.
“The secret to life is don’t blink.” This lyric holds true not only for those moments we have with our family and friends. It also holds true for us in our Christian walk. There are opportunities out there for us every day to be the hands and feet of Christ. Yet, there are moments we sit and look back and realized we blinked. It is when we blinked we missed the opportunity of being a true ambassador for Christ.
This Christmas as I look at photos from Christmas past, hear the same old stories told like they have never been told before sing the old carols from years past, I will not only be reflecting on my life of memories with family and friends but I will reflect on my Christian walk. It is in the reflection where I will see where I blinked and will be made more aware of the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL that I do.
This Christmas may you put first things first and that is keeping Christ first in your life. May you capture all the opportunities put before you to be his witness. May you also capture all those special little moments that soon become memories with your family and friends this season.
Growing up I did not always see my grandparents on my Dad’s side during the holidays. Grandmother and Papa Hill always made sure packages were wrapped and mailed to us in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve. Most years we got our Christmas pajamas from them.
Yet, there was this one Christmas where my grandmother decided she would send me a night-gown instead of pajamas. After going out for a Christmas Eve services, dinner and visiting with friends, my brother and I rushed home anticipating opening that first gift on Christmas Eve. Of course, Dad had to draw out the anticipation by acting like he could not find the packages and then magically making them appear.
As soon as these packages landed in our laps the paper was off in the blink of an eye and the box lids flew opened. Instead of pulling out the fuzzy footie pajamas like I had always gotten, I began to pull out this night-gown. As I began to pull the gown out of the box the more material would come out. As the night-gown began to unfold and unfold, the entire room become quiet. I know the looks on the faces of my family had to be inquisitive. If you have every seen the movie, Christmas Story, I am sure my family’s faces looked about how the faces looked when the bunny rabbit pj’s were opened and the leg lamp came out of the box.
In my package that had been wrapped and shipped with love and care came out a nightgown with the size in the tag that said; “one size fits all.” As I began to unfold and unfold this nightgown, we realized that the entire family could get into this gown. (You see, I am a petite size gal. When God was giving out height, I overslept and missed getting in that line that day.) The more the gown unfolded the more everyone was scrambling for words. Suddenly out of my dad’s mouth came; “well, Peanut, looks like you have a new tent for camping.” At that moment the entire family was laughing until we were crying. Today, all I have to say is “one size fits all” and laughter will burst out in my family. I had received a gift that I was not going to be able to use.
After opening Santa and eating Christmas breakfast the next morning, Dad kept with tradition and called Papa and Grandmother Hill to wish them a Merry Christmas. My brother and I would also get on the phone to tell our grandparents thank-you for their love, thoughtfulness and the presents. This is one year I had to show gratitude for my gift while all the while my brother was in the background making a fort with the kitchen chairs and this ” one size fits all gown.”
I share this story because it is becoming the gift giving season. People work hard and shop hard to find that perfect gift to give their loved ones. These gifts are given or should be given out of the abundance of love from the heart. The gifts also show that the person cares enough to think about the receiver.
Yesterday, in my post, Extravagant Giving I shared how we need to be extravagant in our giving by giving others God’s grace. I also shared how God gave to us extravagantly so that we can have eternal life. We give to others out of the abundance of our hearts.
There are times when someone has received a gift and I have heard comments being made to the giver like the following:
“What were you thinking? I don’t need this!”
“I can’t believe you spent (insert $ amount) on this.”
“I don’t like the color.”
“This is NOT what I wanted!”
I am sure in my lifetime of forty-nine years I have made an off comment like these at some point and time. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully a little more mature I have come to realize these comments are not needed and should be said. Just as the giver has given out of the abundance of their hearts, we should receive out of the abundance of our hearts. When we are negative about a gift that has been given we are stealing the joy of the giver even if they are not present when the comment is made. Instead, we should be grateful that the person took time out of their schedule to do something for us. We also should be thankful that they took time out to think of us.
The gift is a material thing but it is also language of “I love you” and “I was thinking of you today.” Thus, our response should be that of gratitude. In other words, be an extravagant receiver. Now, what you do with the gift after the person leaves is up to you. Hold on to the gift in case you should some time need it. If the opportunity presents itself where someone else can actually use the gift, give it to them. The gift is now yours and up to you to do what you want with the gift.
As I said earlier, God gave to us extravagantly because he loves us so much and wants us with him for eternity. God gave us his Son and it is up to us to accept his Son into our hearts. We need to be an extravagant receiver of God’s gift. It is up to us as individuals of what to do with his gift. It is my hopes that we share his gift with others. We pass it on to someone else who needs Jesus in their lives.
Not only did God give us his Son but he gives us a gift everyday. As the old cliché says, every day is a present and it is up to us as to what we do with it”. It is up to us to make the most of every day God wakes us up. Each day God has blessings for us. It is up to us to be aware of his presence at all times to receive these blessings. When we receive these blessings it is important to acknowledge them and say thank you just as I acknowledged to my grandparents that I received their gift and said thank you.
This year as you receive Christmas cards and gifts be sure to be an extravagant receiver. Tell the giver thank you. Remember, the person took time out to think of you. They are giving out of the abundance of their heart. May our response to the gifts we receive and especially to the gift God gave us be the following:
“Thank you for thinking of me.”
“You are such a generous giver.”
“ I didn’t realized I needed this blessing today but YOU did.”
I love the reminder we are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about having a grateful heart;
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will
for you in Jesus Christ.
It is when we are an extravagant receiver that we will see the giver in a whole new perspective. We begin to see and experience joy in all things and we will become more open to see beyond the material gift and see the abundance of love the person has in their heart. May our receiving be a blessing to others this year as their giving is a blessing to us.
Until next time, give thanks for ALL things!
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- The Christmas Present Pile-Up: How Much Do You Buy? (motherhoodismagic.com)
- The gift of giving (fechaplaincy.wordpress.com)
Where does the time go? If you are like me, you look at the calendar one day and think you have all the time in the world to get ready for Christmas. Then, it happens! You look at the calendar and realize Christmas is only three weeks away! Suddenly, we are jumping on that treadmill trying to get the house, the gifts and food prepared for our families, Christmas parties and Christmas Day.
Preparations are necessary for any big event. Yet, in the hustle of the Christmas Season and festivities are we preparing our hearts for the reason for the season? Just as John the Baptist went out preparing the way for the Lord, we need to be preparing our hearts for the Christ child. Though we may already be Christians and have Christ in our hearts, it is our responsibility to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming again. We do this by sharing God’s grace and love with others who may not know Him.
Throughout the Christmas season I encourage you to stop and prepare the way as you make preparations for all the Christmas festivities on your calendar. Prepare the way so others may know Him.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets.
Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness;
Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths strait.
It is that time of year again where we have multiple lists that we are checking off. These lists include added items to the usual grocery list, baking list, gift list, party list and the lists go on. You cannot imagine having yet another list. Yet, I am going to give you a list to remember this Christmas Season.
Things To Remember:
We all have to just sit down and rest at some point and time.
Take a deep breath.
It is in those deep breaths we can relax and inhale the joy and love of God into our souls.
Look at all that is around you.
Give thanks to God for the daily gifts that surround you.
Remember to keep it simple in the gift giving.
The most cherished gifts are not the most expensive but the ones where thought and love were put into them.
After all, God’s gift to us happened in a simple place to simple couple but He came with a lot of love.
- Gifts of Christmas – God with Us (essentialthingdevotions.com)
- How Advent Can Be Much More Than “The Christmas Season” (glennpackiam.typepad.com)
For us Southern Belles, not only is getting the tree and fireplace mantle in perfect shape but getting the dinning room table is at the top of list in what absolutely has to be done at Christmas. For me, candles are essential when setting the table not only at Christmas but year round. Having candles on the table holds meaning for me.
Growing up, my Dad’s dad was a retired Army Coloneland you knew he was an Army Colonel. When we visited my grandparents’ home, Mom always made sure we were brushed up on our manners especially before going to the dinner table. Dinner at Papa Hill’s house was an event every night. The good china and silver was used, no one sat down at the table until Papa took his seat and there were always candles on the table. As a teen I would roll my eyes and think “why not just use the Corelle Ware and be done with it” because at that age I would be having to help hand wash the china and silver.
As I have grown older, I have reminisced on those dinner affairs and their true meaning. For Papa, dinner with his family was special to him. He cherished having his family around the table for not only a meal but for a visit. Many a story and tale were shared around the table as we savored the pot roast, mashed potatoes green beans and apple pie. Grandmother had so lovingly prepared. Along with no one sitting until Papa sat, no one got up until they were properly excused by an adult at the table. As I reminisce about dinner with Papa and once I had been properly excused from the table, I also remember being in the kitchen with Grandmother up to my elbows in suds helping her wash the china and silver. It was those moments in the kitchen where Grandmother would not say a lot but here and there she would gently and lovingly smile and give you a little wink. She was a quiet lady with little to say but her smiles and winks said it all. You knew all was right in the world.
May, 2002 I stood by my Grandfather’s bedside just a little before mid night. Jim and I had volunteered to take the night shift of staying up with him at the hospital. From the looks of things, we had a pretty good idea that Jim and I would not be there all night. Late in the night, Jim sat by Papa’s side checking vitals until Jim noticed Papa’s breaths were getting further and further apart. As these breaths were getting shallow, I came over and took Papa by the hand. While holding tight to his hand, I looked at him and thanked him for all the cherished memories he had given us around the table that was always beautifully set with linens and candles. Then, I said “Papa, the table is now set for you. God has the candles lit and He has your place ready for you to take your seat at His banquet table. ” A few seconds later, Papa joinedJesus at the great banquet table.
The table is set. It is Christmas. The candles, fine linens and china are on the table. A meal will be prepared and the candles will be lit where new memories will be made and old stories shared. As I light the candles, I will not only remember my loving grandparents who showed by example that we are all special but I will also be reminded thatChrist is and has always been the center of our family.
How about you? Is your table set? If you haven’t already, add some candles to your table. Let your family know how special they are and remind them that Christ is the center of your home by lighting the candles. Sit around the table and make memories and share old stories. The teenagers may roll their eyes a little but let them roll. One day, they will be thankful that they have such warm memories.
This post is dedicated in loving memory of Col. Carl R. Hill, Sr and Virginia Louise Hill
- Can You Squeeze In A Little More? (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Centerpiece (heatherthomps.wordpress.com)
- Plug in the Lights! (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Memories (ptl2010.com)
- Writing about my favorite Christmas memory – will you add yours? (christiansread.wordpress.com)
In my December posts from last year and this year, I have shared the roles my son chose to be in telling the Christmas story when he was a child. Since the Advent Season has begun, we have either seen or will see the Christmas story told in churches, shown with live nativities in various places and/or will share many versions of the Christmas story. Last year, there was the Google Search that showed what it would be like if Google existed back in the day. This year, we have seen how the story would be told via Facebook. Then, this afternoon, I find the video of the Google Earth Christmas which is another beautiful sharing of the Christmas story as told in Luke.
No matter how the Christmas story is told, whether it be kids dressed up in their finest bathrobe to tell the story, box office hit movies telling the Christmas story, or the Social Media sharing how the news would spread in today’s world, the message remains the same. God sent His Son for us. Christ came to be our Prince of Peace, message of hope and forgiveness.
As we continue through this Advent Season, may you seek a way to share the story of this Prince that came to bring hope and forgiveness to a broken world. You will have your own way of sharing it but non the less “Go Tell It!” Tell people what Christmas is ALL about!
This morning, as I began my morning routine, I looked across the room to notice the Christmas tree lights had not been plugged in. “Ugh!”, I thought to myself; “that tree looks so ugly right now!” “Before I do anything else, I am plugging in the tree lights!”
What made the Christmas tree look ugly to me? It was all the matter of the lights. Once I ventured across the room and plugged in the tree’s lights, my outlook on the tree changed completely. I saw a very pretty tree that my family will enjoy when they come in from Christmas.
When the Christmas Season arrives, some of us go out to find that perfect tree to bring home. For others of us, it is a matter of deciding which tree from the attic will come down this year. Then, for some, there is a theme for the tree and others it is putting heirloom ornaments on the tree. The Hawkins’ tree is one of two we choose from year to year as to which to put up. Then, in recent years, I have used a Santa theme with all things related to Santa with the exception of two nativity ornaments that are placed in the front of the tree. Other items that go with our tree are the heirloom hand crochet snow flakes that Jim’s grandmother made for as a wedding gift, the Precious Moments angel at the top, the crochet tree skirt made for me over thirty years ago by one of my dad’s parishioners and underneath in front of the packages is Santa kneeling at Jesus’ crib. Yet, with all the memories and ornaments that have been placed on and around the tree, it is still not the same until the lights are plugged in.
Our lives are much like the Christmas tree. Despite all the dressing up we do, our true beauty is revealed when we allow the light of Christ to shine through us. Jesus reminds us ALL in Matthew 5:14-16; You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
May your light shine before ALL men not only during the Christmas Season but all through year ahead. Plug in the light of Christ and let others see His beauty through you.
- 10 Ornaments Kids Can Make (makingtimeformommy.com)
- Christmas Tree (coopersview.com)
- Now…the rest of the story…Drew’s Role As The Donkey (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Qoutes (theanythingvanessa.com)
- Keep In Mind (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
Last year in my post,Drew Said; I Want To Be Star”, I share how at age three Drew wanted to be the star in the church’s Christmas pageant. In that post I shared the importance of the Christmas star and how we are a star for Christ. As Christians we are commissioned to share the light of Jesus Christ.
As I close in this blog, I promised to follow-up with Drew wanting to be the donkey the next year. Again, his dad and I shake our heads and try to suggest to Drew about playing the role of a wise man or a shepherd. But, Drew dug his heels in once again and announced “I want to be the donkey!”
The donkey is not the most respected animal in the barnyard. As a matter of fact, it has been used as a symbol of mocking and used in name calling and put downs. Despite the donkey not being respected, it is known as a symbol of peace times whereas, the horse seems to symbolize war times.
When you think about the donkey it makes sense that it would be a symbol of peace. After all, it was the donkey that Mary rode to Bethlehem as she was pregnant with the Christ child. Once in Bethlehem, Mary would deliver this baby that would share God’s peace with the world. Then, one week prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey where the crowds greeted him with the waving of palms. In a matter of days, Christ would give Himself to be crucified so that each person could experience the peace of God in their hearts.
The donkey is not only the creäture that carried the Prince of Peace but it is the one creäture that probably understood Jesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he was mocked, laughed at and probably called a few unsavory names. Just as Christ was mocked, Christians today face the same type of mockery from time to time for their witness. Some Christians even lose their lives for testifying and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Reflecting on that Christmas where Drew insisted on being the donkey, God gives me a message today through that memory.It seemed that Drew knew at a young age the risks he would take sharing God’s message during his lifetime. At the age of four, Drew knew that sharing the gospel would have its challenges at times. Our son, Drew is now a man who continues to seek peace with those he is around and shares the light of Christ that he symbolized when he was three. Once again, it seems that a child understood his role in not only the Christmas pageant but what his role would be in this great big world. All of us should be willing to demonstrate the peace of God to all of those around us.