Some of my sweetest childhood memories come from Christmas seasons past. Growing up in a preacher’s house on a preacher’s income didn’t afford us what many would consider luxuries by the world’s standards, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there were definitely treasures along the way. I remember the fireplace in the house Dad built on Clark Street. He had always wanted to build Mom a house, and all she ever really wanted in that house was a fireplace. A real fireplace, the kind that burned seasoned wood that crackled and popped, smelled woodsy and altogether wonderful. She got her wish. We got her joy. I remember waking up early on cold December mornings and walking on that bone chilling tile floor down that long hallway (it certainly seemed long to a 10 year old) and seeing Mom sitting in the corner of the couch, snuggled up in a robe that zipped up to her chin and a thick blanket just in case the robe needed some backup, coffee in one hand and her Bible on her lap, often praying and often just looking into the fire. If ever there was a case for consistent, Mom made it. She was there, every morning. While I’m sure she didn’t know it at the time, her gift to me wasn’t wrapped up in shiny Santa paper and homemade bows under the silver tree…because that stuff is long gone, anyway. No, her gift was something that lodged itself into my heart and stayed. Her relationship with her Father wasn’t cultivated on a church pew, it was right there on the corner of that couch.
I wish I could remember more (getting old stinks) but there are still a few memories lingering around. I remember the year that Dad and Danny made (yes, made) me a waterbed for Christmas. I got it early that year. I had been gone all day to an All Region Choir concert and came home exhausted, only to walk into my room and BAM, there it was. I was speechless! (Really.) They worked on it all day and had finished putting it together just minutes before I came home. I don’t know who was more giddy…me or them. It was ice freaking cold but I slept on it that night, anyway. What a gift that was; seeing in my Daddy’s eyes the true joy of giving, the truth that it really is more blessed to give than receive. I get that now as I wrap presents for my girls, my man, my people, and wish they could just open them tomorrow. Sigh…timing is everything.
I remember the sounds from the sewing machine in Mom’s room, for hours on end, in the month of December. I remember the homemade dolls and clothes (for the dolls and for me too), the green Barbie house set, the lamp Dad got me one year that really wasn’t all that cute but how I wish to heaven I had it now. I remember eyeing the packages under the tree for a week, trying to determine which one I would open on Christmas Eve. I think I changed my mind a dozen times a day. I remember getting to open that gift, finally, on Christmas Eve (after we read the Christmas Story from Luke) and then having to wait another eight hours to open the rest. We begged and pleaded and promised anything we could think of to get to open just one more, but Dad didn’t budge. And so it was off to bed as we endured through another 8 hours of delightful torture. Six if I got my way. As if we could sleep! But somehow we finally did. I remember Santa bringing me a coloring book and a brand new box of crayons, every year. My girls know this tradition well.
The greatest treasure in the memories for me is the peace in knowing there are still memories to create, promises yet to be fulfilled. Like the strands of white lights on my Christmas tree, one is connected to another which is connected to another. It’s not over! Many are facing this season with loss, sadness, and a heaviness that seems magnified under the seasons’ illumination. My hope for you is just that…hope. Know that the One who planned the manger is planning something even bigger and greater than your wildest imagination can fathom. This hope is our treasure. So cradle the memories, but don’t lose sight of what is to come.
Wishing you the Savior’s best,