This got me thinking about different Christmas celebrations from my childhood. Here is one year that I remember well....
This was Christmas 1962. I was in Third Grade (which is exactly the same age as Lia is this year). That little cutie sitting on the floor next to me is my very first niece Amy, who was about 1.5 years old. I remember this Christmas because my brother Jerry was in the Army and not with us. I also remember how much fun it was to have Amy there with us. She loved opening those presents. You can see my sister Karen and brother-in-law Roy in the background (if you look carefully). They lived in South Dakota and we lived in St. Paul, Minnesota. So it was very special to have them visit. And I especially remember the dress I have on in this picture. It was a blue corduroy jumper and the blouse was really silky. I loved that dress and it was only for "special occasions" like Christmas. I also am wearing a cross necklace. I am sure that this was my mom's and she let me wear it for Christmas Eve. And Amy was wearing a red velvet dress and black patent leather shoes. When I look back at these pictures, I realize that church and the reason for Christmas were not very evident in our celebrations during my grade school years. My mom was working full time and often worked on Christmas Eve. Things were very different for me than the rest of my siblings. It was always interesting to listen to my mom talk about Christmas celebrations because she never talked about the Christmas' in the 1960's. She always talked about the 40's and 50's. She would forget that it was very different for me. I never had a children's Christmas program that was on Christmas Eve. (All of my siblings did!). We never went to church on Christmas Eve (all of my siblings did!). In fact it wasn't until I was in high school that we went to Christmas Eve church (this was actually in 1969). Yes there were memorable celebrations, but in looking back, I wish that church had been on the agenda for us during those years.
I am very thankful that Ken and I made sure that church was always a very important part of our Christmas celebrations. In fact during most of my kids growing up years we went to church on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And I am so thankful that this year our Christmas celebration will include church. If there is one thing that has been so clear to me in the last weeks, it is my great need to draw closer to Jesus. At these times when the missing and the sorrow seem so big, the reality of Christmas.... the baby in the manger.....the angels in the sky......the star.....well it seems to bring Jesus that much nearer. The wonder and joy and excitement help. It doesn't change anything. It doesn't stop the missing or the sadness, but it is there. And it is good. And I am grateful.
Jesus, thank you for memories and for reminders that your story is what matters most. Thank you for this season and the reminder that you came and made your home with us. Thank you for meeting us exactly where we are and bringing us your love and your comfort. Holy Spirit, help us all to find joy in the celebration of Christmas, no matter what our circumstances are. Jesus, draw us closer to you! Amen