It happens the same way every year. Thanksgiving comes and goes and the seasonal music fills the air everywhere, the shopping begins, the invitations come, the calendar fills, and one activity runs into the next….busy, busy, busy.
No matter what, I join in along with the rest. It begins on the day designated to decorate the house. I put the Christmas CD’s on and drag out the boxes from the attic. My children gather to help me pull out each decoration and we reminisce over each item and look for that certain spot to display it best. Snowmen, snow globes, wall hangings, bells, and the N-O-E-L blocks that everyone mischieviously takes turns at moving the letters to spell LEON, an inside joke, just to bug mom!
Mangers of all kinds are placed around the house. One for the kids to handle and play with, one for looking pretty, one as a ceramic candle base, one made from a foam craft kit, and one made out of cardboard – fashioned together with brotherly and sisterly love four years ago. Each child runs in wont to be the one who is privileged to set up the pretty set – the one that is not allowed to be played with.
I watch as the delight falls across the faces of my children. I feel my own countenance lighten and be filled with joy. I smile a genuine contented smile. And it happens. The Christmas spirit arrives.
Traditions each claim its day as the weeks draw nearer to December 25th, the spirit seems to be stronger than the day before. I wonder at it; this phenomena that overcomes me each year. Wrapped within each tradition is HOPE. Hope of good coming. Hope of gatherings, yummy special food, people, hugs, and all that warms the heart. Each of us yearns for this. In HOPE we delight and expectation keeps us going.
What a mirror of the delight that Mary must have had in the expectation of birthing her son, whom she would call Jesus. What HOPE must have filled her as she was witness to shepherds drawing near the stable, kneeling before her son, the Son of God. Scripture says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). I imagine the smile she had…most likely a very contented smile. Surely she was filled!
I believe, it is the HOPE I have in Jesus that makes the decorating, the shopping, the singing, the going and doing all so beautifully full – filling me with what I call the Christmas spirit. As I delight in the remembrance of Jesus’ birth – how he came humbly to this earth for the one purpose of dying on the cross for my sins, your sins, all human sin – I am filled with expectation and HOPE. Risking sounding trite: What an awesome gift!
We just finished decorating our tree this evening. All the usual bantering and bustle was present. We are one more “tradition” day closer to the 25th. I sit and allow myself to be mesmerized by the glimmering of sparkles and lights on the tree. I rest in love; the love of my Savior and am filled by His Spirit. These traditions are so wrapped in HOPE.
Christmas Day. Jesus’ birth. It was, and is, only the beginning of the story…His death and resurrection is the purpose for His coming to us as a baby in a manger. Jesus is the wrapping; Jesus is the HOPE. Expectation of His return keeps me going.
As you go about your traditions and doings the rest of this month, I ask you to reflect and absorb the true gift and meaning of Jesus lying in the manger. Be wrapped!
Just for your delight and pleasure, I am going to share with you
the Gramma Christmas Cookie recipe
This cookie was the ONLY cookie that my husband’s mother baked for Christmas. She made them by the dozens, giving them as gifts and filling a tin of them for everyday consumption during the weeks leading up to Christmas. When she passed away, twelve years ago, I found the recipe in her recipe book, a tattered and yellowed paper clipping. In memory of her, I carried on the tradition and it has become the ONLY cookie my children and my husband care about for my baking season at Christmas. They are wonderfully satisfying and totally delicious. Some liken desserts to “heaven” especially if chocolate is involved….this cookie may be one of them. But I ask you, as you bite into these tasty morsels, keep your mind and heart on the HOPE of heaven gained only because of the birth of God’s Son, Jesus! Enjoy!
1st layer: 1/2 cup butter, 1 egg yolk, 2 TBS water — beat these together. Add in 1 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1 tsp.baking powder. Press into a 13 x 9 greased pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
2nd layer: sprinkle 1 bag of chocolate chips onto the hot 1st layer crust. Return pan to the oven for 1 minute. Spread the chocolate smooth.
3rd layer: Beat together 2 eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar. Add in 6 TBS melted butter & 2 tsp. of vanilla. Add 2 cups of finely chopped nuts. Spread this mixture over the chocolate layer. Sprinkle with colored sugar sprinkles. Bake for 30 min. Cut into squares when cooled (a plastic knife works best).
* VARIATIONS on a good thing: I use a variety of chips — peanut butter chips swirled with the chocolate, or butterscotch chips, or mint choc. chips & then use peppermint extract instead of vanilla….be creative!