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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas! We've arrived at the celebration of the birth of Our Savior - - Jesus Christ! As a child I used to always look forward to Christmas. We weren't particularly religious or anything. We would visit Santa yearly - - I think my mom has pictures up until I was about 10 or so. More than the presents that I would receive, I think I looked forward most to the festive air of the holiday season. There were things that only came with the holidays - - tree trimming, decorations, the Christmas parade, the lights. Something seemed magical about this time of year - - like if you made a wish, it could come true. Not that it would, but that the possibility was there. You could practically see the virtues of generosity, charity, good will, and love dancing in the air. People seemed happier, brighter, more hopeful.

In Pittsburgh, my hometown, during the holidays, if you donated to the Children's Hospital fund you would receive a complimentary Farkleberry Star cookie. I parted with many dollars for these cookies during the holidays. I have fond memories of Parade Day and Farkleberry Star cookies. Often we would go tour the windows of the downtown department stores (Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's always told a story) with their magical displays - - never with toys that you could purchase - - just old fashioned dolls, cars and trucks, Santa, and elves busily working to get ready for Christmas.

Christmas now comes earlier and earlier for both the retailer and the consumer. Some places have their Christmas items out as early as July. Some start right after Halloween. Like Charlie Brown and Linus, I have lamented the commercialism of Christmas. I long for the days of the magic - - of storefront windows with whimsical displays, parades that I don't have to watch on TV, and Farkleberry cookies that came and went with the season. Perhaps it is not so magical when Christmas starts so early. Reading an article over the holidays, the author too lamented about the early Christmas "rush" leading to us looking forward to the end of the season. The ending comes earlier and earlier - - with many throwing out their trees soon after the new year.

As I have gotten older, I still look forward to the Christmas season. I, too, have changed. Having children, I look for those things that will make the wishes of my children come true. I try to make the magic alive for them, but I am not sure they perceive it. We have things that only come out with the Christmas tree - - the Polar Express train, the Playmobile Nativity playset, the various knickknacks, and more. We do our Christmas baking and yearly photograph. We do our Advent wreath, say special prayers at mealtimes when we are all together, have stories that are read during the season, and take off longer from home schooling. All of these things are special to me, and perhaps someday they will remember them as fondly as I remember store windows and Farkleberry Star cookies.

Traditions are important, even new ones that have come our way as we explore our faith more deeply and more deeply commit ourselves to it. We are still learning, still adding and subtracting to our Advent and Christmas traditions.

God Bless you all and may God bless you in this Christmas season and through the New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Advent

I hope this posting finds everyone doing well and having a restful Advent! In the past, we have done Advent many different ways. One year, we even delayed trimming the tree. This was harder for me than I thought. I have always loved Christmas time - - both the time before and after. It was always a time to focus a little more on others, and a little less on myself. As a young girl, one of the sure signs of Christmas was putting up the tree, which we did soon after Thanksgiving. I would lie under the tree and look up at the lights.

I thought delaying the tree would allow us more time for reflection and really focus our Advent on preparing our hearts for Christ. I have since come to the realization that for us, preparing our home can be a part of preparing our hearts for Christ, as well as our home for the company that inevitably visits during the holiday season. Stringing lights on the tree often calls for reflection and sacrifice. Reflection on what the lights mean and sacrifice for the many cuts and frustration of string lights that ensue. Putting up the ornaments, especially those special ones, gives us time to reflect on the years past. I have a few with pictures of the kids when they were younger. We also have ones that reflect the personalities and likes of our children - - like the flower-power VW bug or the ice cream cone.

And with the tree comes the tradition of putting up the train and houses beneath. A few years back, loving the movie and book, we had gotten the Polar Express train. So our tradition is to put up this train once a year. We also take the time to watch this wonderful movie again. While we don't do the Santa thing too much here, the movie reminds us a little about what Christmas is about. Not Santa, but belief and faith, trust and hope.

We also get to pull out our Nativity scenes. We have several. We have the traditional one that went up on the piano this year. I have one made of olivewood from the Holy Land that goes on the TV. We have the one made by Playmobile that comes out for the kids to play with at this time of year. There is also a cool German one. Unless, baby Jesus is glued in, we wait until Christmas Eve to put him in the manger.

I have found that the many preparations in our home, from decorating to baking cookies and making candies to reading stories with the children all lend itself wonderfully to traditions and to preparing for Christ's birth. Certainly preparing your home for Christmas can be a symbol for preparing our hearts. Hopefully, both will be beautiful for coming of Christ!

God Bless you all and I pray that all have a wonderful holiday season!