My mother worked to make Christmas joyous for the family, but it wasn’t an easy task. Once Thanksgiving was over, things turned into a full-out race to the end of the year in our house. Both Mom and Dad were busy … with more programs than one person can even realize. For every thing that a church member was involved in, there were five times that many activities going on for the preacher and his family. Dad was at everything, and he turned into a grump pretty early in the season. To top it off, back in those days, ministers weren’t paid very well and that meant presents under the tree were fewer than what he or Mom wanted for their kids. But when Christmas morning came, there was always enough for each of us and along with a sense that the craziest part of the year was past and we could relax again.
Now … the weird thing is, that even though we all remember the Christmas season as being extremely stressful, all three of us kids love Christmas. Mom did it right, I guess. Traditions surrounding ornaments and decorations, music and celebrations were established early on and we’ve carried some of those forward and made our own along the way.
I don’t remember specific gifts, but I do remember packages under the tree. I remember the traditions and experiences we had. I remember being frustrated because when all we wanted to do was get to the presents, we first had to sit quietly as the Christmas story was read out loud and then we had to sing two or three Christmas carols (as a kid, I was distinctly aware that we had JUST done that eight hours earlier at the Christmas eve service. Come on, Dad!). But today, the words of the Christmas story fill my heart. All I have to hear is “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world shall be enrolled …” My heart begins to sing and feelings of joy and hope surround me.
The first Christmas words I want to share with you this year were written by Mom in 1969. The war in Viet Nam stood in stark contrast to love-ins and cries for peace. Take a few minutes with this. You’ll find that her message easily moves forward 45 years.
Amid the tinsel, glitter, laughter,
The message of that grown Child
Who spoke of love, peace ever after,
The man who walked the second mile,
Is guiltily hidden deep down
Under mounds of gifts; pushed aside
By fur-clad shoppers who darkly frown
And snatch a bauble with greedy pride.
Peace on earth . . . a hollow joke
to children whose wide dark eyes,
Terror struck at a world blood soaked
Reflect the carnage and the cries.
Mars, god of war, with smoking gun
Stands on the corpse-strewn field.
Discord, his sister, Strife her son,
Triumphantly lift high the shield.
Peace! The lonely cry of long-haired kids,
Plaintive sounds of ancient songs,
Of gentle Friends . . . of Jesus . . . bids
Us hurry to right the devilish wrongs.
The perfect gift cannot be bought,
Nor gaily wrapped, but found again
Within oneself where love has wrought
The miracle: good will to men.
Lion and lamb, white man, black man;
Nations, people, reconciled;
Rejoice and sing, hand in hand,
to us was born that holy Child.
Dec. 13, 1969