My Christmas Story…
As a little girl, I loved the tradition of being at my grandparents’ small one bedroom home on Christmas Eve. Around their living room, my sister and brother and I played together while being mesmerized by the glow of the large silver tree with the blue ornaments hanging from it. Grandma would turn on her ‘magic lamp’ that rotated so that the glistening silver tree turned red, then green, then blue – we loved that tree!
The presents were few and must have been prepared with great attention because the instructions were always the same: “Be careful when you unwrap to save the paper.” We did not know until we were well into our teen years that our grandparents had very little money and would visit yard sales throughout the year to find just the right gift for each of us. They took time to carefully wrap each one with the pretty paper that was saved year after year, and taped in the same spot so that it appeared to be new.
I remember watching the Lawrence Welk special on TV and dancing along with each song. After the gifts were opened and the meal consumed, grandpa would let us turn on the outdoor lights. Those big orange bulbs that hung from the roof and windows were such a big deal to us as kids. But they only stayed on long enough for us to scurry outside to see the lights and then into the car to hurry home to prepare for Santa’s big arrival. I am not sure the lights were ever on longer than for us to enjoy them.
To make that long trip home go faster (all 16 miles), we would create stories of the reindeers journey and look for Rudolf’s red blinking nose as we rode in the back end of that Ford Station Wagon. It was not until we were older that Christmas Eve also included the Christmas Eve service at church and fully understanding that Christmas was not about Santa, but about something far greater. Listening to the stories of the journey of Mary and Joseph seemed like such a great history lesson, but how could that be relevant to me, a kid? After all, people do not travel by donkey, and we certainly do not give birth and place the child in an animal’s food trough.
The stories of the Bible never really came to life for me as a child, often because I was not engaged in asking questions or exploring what the Bible lessons meant. On Christmas Eve, the journey of Santa seemed much more realistic than the journey of Jesus. Have you ever thought about the journey of Christ’s birth and of the people who journeyed with Mary and Joseph during that time? It began in a small town in Judea where Mary went to be with Elizabeth after an angel had visited her. Joseph also had a visit from the angel, sharing the news that they would have a child together. Mary and Joseph journeyed together from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted because of the order of King Herod and found safe shelter there to bring this new life into the world. The shepherds journeyed from the fields to find this Christ child who had been talked about as the King of Kings. The Wisemen had their own journey from the East to search for this child as well, though later in our story.
Each piece of the birth story is a tale of a greater journey to joy. I invite you this Advent and Christmas season to find your Journey to Joy. I pray that you find the Hope, Love, Joy and Peace of this blessed savior’s birth and the renewal of our commitment to telling this great journey story. May you and your loved ones experience Christ in a new and joy-filled way this season. God Bless.