I bent the spindly tree branch for the billionth time. There was just no way I could fill the gaping hole in the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. A twelve dollar, six foot tree left a lot to be desired in lushness and extravagance. But at six months pregnant and walking to college through the snow, I rejoiced in the wonder of our first Christmas tree.
Finish college first. Don’t get married. You’re too young. Yes, I suppose, in retrospect the naysayers were right about that. We were but babes. At twenty and twenty-one, both me and my husband, still college students, could have probably planned it better.
It will never last. You’ll be divorced in a few years. I laugh in joy as I type this. Now, thirty plus years later, two children, two in-law children, and two grands, my husband and I still revel in each other’s company, anxiously await our Friday night dates. Our children grown with families of their own.
But that day I lamented over ornaments. We’d spent all our budgeted money on the tree. That meant no money left over for ornaments. For surely, our faces graced the billboard’s example of “starving college students.” It saddened me to think we would weather our first holiday season celebrating the birth of our Savior with a barren tree.
So I continued to wash clothes in my “new” fifty dollar washing machine and hung the clean clothes on strings strung in the bathroom. I tidied the apartment with its hand-me-down furniture like our three-legged couch, stuffing tumbling out the left cushion. Thank the Lord for the perfect measurements of the brick under the left front leg.
But somehow, by the Lord’s sweet providence, we found ourselves with a crisp five dollar bill, standing In a local department store. My brilliant husband came up with the perfect plan. Why buy ornaments when you can make them much cheaper? This appealed to my creative nature, and he and I hurried home with a kit to make “stain glass ornaments” in the oven.
What a jolly and jubilant night he and I spent that evening, poring over each creation, dropping the tiny colored beads into each space. I could hardly wait until they popped out of the oven. And then, they were finished. No less a work of inspiring art than the Sistine chapel. At least, for us.
Those ornaments, coupled with the nostalgic silver strands of icicles, took our tree from drab and sad to yuletide wonder. And with a little yellow felt I had amongst my fabric and a tiny bit of glitter, I stuffed a star for the top.
Now my husband and I are in our fifties. And every year I take those little ornaments in my hand and lean over to my grandchildren to whisper the story of my first Christmas with their grandpa. Their eyes light up while a tear comes to mine.
For you see, God taught my husband and I a valuable lesson that year. The meaning of life is not about possessions. It’s not about a ginormous tree blanketed with a plethora of extravagant decorations footed with the grandest of gifts.
It’s about love. It’s about sharing yourself. Giving of your time. Being faithful. Daring to be dedicated. Committing to being there. Sacrificing your wants for others’ needs. Making the impossible work. Even when it’s hard. So very, very hard.
But most of all, it’s about the Lord Jesus, Savior of the world. The author of all of these things. Merry Christmas.
Read my interview with Peggy Trotter
Year of Jubilee Book Review
Peggy's Facebook Author Page
I have many wonderful Christmas memories: the year my older sister got a bicycle and I got a red tricycle, and the year my aunt gave me a two-story metal doll house with all the furniture included, but there is one year that stands out in my memory in every detail.
Our family always attended Christmas Eve services at the small church a few miles from our house in the country. I also attended school there and had a memorized ‘piece’ to say in the program. Mom would make me a new dress for that auspicious occasion. This year, the dress material was a shimmery blue; nothing flashy, but I thought it was beautiful and I loved the feel of the material.
Although I was probably too old for dolls any longer, I had specifically asked for a ‘bride doll’ I saw in the Sears catalog. She was a big doll and not only had a white bride’s dress, but a veil covered her hair and a portion of her face. I wanted her so badly. I told myself I wouldn’t actually play with her, so I wouldn’t get her dirty, but I would be able to look at her and that would be enough.
Our tradition was to open gifts on Christmas Eve after we returned from church and I was beyond happy when I opened the long box and my coveted doll looked back at me from inside the tissue paper. I danced around the living room holding her carefully. I didn’t care about the other two or three gifts with my name on them…I had what I wanted.
My mother encouraged me to put the doll down and open the largest one. When I took the lid off, the contents almost took my breath away. Inside was a pair of soft flannel pajamas for me and a matching pair for my doll, a coat for my doll, a sweater and hat for her and the best of all: a dress made from the same fabric as my Christmas dress. I was in heaven and couldn’t thank my mom enough.
I knew the real meaning of Christmas and could recite the entire second chapter of Luke. I was well aware of the fact that it was Jesus’ birthday and I was always thankful for that, too, but as far as earthly possessions go, the bride doll with the blue dress like mine rates as one of my ‘bestest’ memories.
Click to read my reviews of books by Gloria Doty.
Not Different Enough
A Bouquet of Devotions
and the The Magnolia Series (5 volume romance series)
Visit Gloria at Writing by Gloria.
I love everything about Christmas—the music, the TV movies, the celebrations, the food, time spent with friends and family. Although, since moving so far away from my family eighteen years ago, I don’t get to spend as much time with them during the holidays as I’d like (if at all). And that’s hard sometimes. My family is fun to be around, especially during the holidays!
When I was growing up, my parents often struggled to make ends meet all year round, and Christmas made stretching the budget even tougher. But they managed to give us happy holiday memories every year. One way they made that happen was by purchasing pre-owned gifts for us. Often, my mom and dad could find something on our list from someone who no longer needed or wanted that particular item. But that tradition took an interesting turn when my siblings brought their future spouses to a family Christmas.
At the time, my dad worked maintenance for the city. Each one of us got a toilet bowl brush that included the cleaner (the city was getting rid of these because the cleaner ate the porcelain in the toilets). So the used gifts also became gag gifts. Even better? My (now) brother-in-law held onto his and re-gifted it to my dad the following Christmas.
Another way my parents stretched the budget to allow for a more memorable Christmas was by making gifts. I wish I still had some of those things they made. My mom crocheted several Strawberry Shortcake dolls for my sister and I. And one year, my dad made each of us desks. They were all designed around our interests. At the time, my brother was really into Nintendo so his desk had slots to hold his games. My sister’s desk had a large area where she could do her artwork and mine included enough surface area to put my word processor (does that information give away my age?).
My mom also crocheted each of us Christmas stockings. We always got a laugh out of those because they were huge (especially Santa—my dad’s stocking).
Presently, God has blessed my family and none of us are living on as tight of budgets as we did growing up, but I am so thankful for my childhood Christmases. They taught each of us that it’s not about how much money you spend or how many gifts are under the tree. Instead, Christmas is about appreciating the uniqueness of every person in your family, what their gifts are, and how to support those gifts. Christmas isn’t about what’s under the tree but those who gather around it.
Suzie Waltner is the author of the Remembrance series and the upcoming
Rhythm of Love series. You can visit her at www.suziewaltner.com
One of my favorite things during the Christmas season is driving through the neighborhood to see the war of the Christmas lights. Some entire blocks, lit with twinkling lights, are are as bright as daylight.
I’m not sure I ever understood the true meaning of these lights or the Christmas lights I hung on my tree and draped across the mantel. Mostly, they were pretty decoration signifying my celebration of the birth of the Savior. Today, when I lit the tree, I remembered the Light of the world.
Jesus was at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. The Jewish nation was commemorating God leading them out of Egypt and out of slavery. At the feast, they set up temporary housing and tents to remember their ancestors’ journey.
At that time, the newly freed nation set up their homes when God stayed in one spot, and packed them up again when God moved on. God promised to stay with the nation in their trek through the barren dessert and to remain with them always. He manifested himself in a pillar of fire by night, giving them light and warmth, and a pillar of cloud by day, giving them protection and guidance.
At the Feast, four huge candelabras were lit, illuminating the whole of Jerusalem. It was here that Jesus proclaimed this truth. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.“ John 8:12 ESV Some believed. Some wondered who this man was.
Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that he is our light.
The prophet Micah warned his enemies not to rejoice over him for when he fell he would rise and when he sat in darkness, the Lord would be his light. (Micah 7:8)
The psalmist wrote “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)
In Job’s trouble, he said his God watched over him and His light shone upon his head. (Job 29:3)
Isaiah spoke of a time when there would be no more sun or moon, because the Lord will be our everlasting light. (Isaiah 60:19) This was echoed in John’s vision of the New Jerusalem, where he saw no sun or moon because the glory of God gave it light and the Lamb was its lamp. (Revelation 21:23-24)
Now when I marvel at the Christmas lights, or simply light a candle, I’ll think of the one who led me out of the slavery of sin, who is a light in every dark place, and who is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?
Christmas is a big deal in the life of a church community. There’s children’s programs, “Hanging of the Greens” decorating parties, and caroling parties, all leading up to the final event, the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. As a minister’s wife, let me fill you in on a little secret.
Pre-Christmas activities are exhausting. After the initial opening of presents and reading the biblical account on Christmas morning, our family often spent the rest of the day doing a bunch of nothing.
I got too smart too late. Since Christmas Eve services in the churches we’ve served often started at 5:30 p.m., I struggled with Christmas Eve dinner plans. Eating out sounded like a good option until we discovered restaurants closed early for the holidays. All restaurants except Chinese restaurants that is. Thus was born our family tradition of eating Chinese food after Christmas Eve Services.
We’d order our food and then read aloud the Christmas cards and open gifts church members had given us at the service. We felt the tension and fatigue of the past few weeks slip away as we indulged in a frequent case of the giggles over caricatures of the waiter and the more absurd fortune cookie messages. Having that relaxing time away from public activity helped us reconnect as family after a busy holiday season and have the emotional energy to treat the next day with the reverence and enthusiasm it deserved.
One year, the only other customers were an older couple from our church. By the next year, our family had become close friends with their daughter-in-law and her two daughters, so we invited them to join us after the candlelight service. That, too, became a cherished tradition, a time well spent with good friends who could become as silly as us. When we accepted the call to a new church 500 miles away, our two families kept up the tradition, sending each other photos on Facebook as we mutually enjoyed our dinners.
Christmas Eve. Candlelight service, reminders of precious people in our congregation, and good friends around a meal I didn’t have to prepare. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Karen Wingate writes novels and magazine articles, speaks at women’s events, and leads several bible studies both in her local church and online.
Check out her website ministry, Grace on Parade, at www.graceonparade.com.
When I was a teenager my favorite part of high school was art class. In ceramics class, I made a variety of animals that took on a folk, primitive style. I tried to make as many different ones as I could in the limited amount of time. Animals also showed up in paintings, drawings, and weavings.
I loved going to the zoo with my mom and grandparents where I could get inspiration for artwork. The giraffes, monkeys, parrots, and many other favorites were a joy to see. I especially liked the llamas. They were unusual with their long necks and lovely brown fur. They always seemed happy and content.
One Christmas, the zoo had a Christmas walk. It was bitter cold, but my mom and I had to go because it was Christmas at the Zoo. How could we miss that? We bundled up and walked along the pathway. It was too cold for any animals to be out. I remember a few lights and some painted wooden designs. We guessed that the main attraction was to be able to walk the path in winter. But then excitedly, we saw the reason for the event. Around the bend in the path, we glimpsed a Nativity scene with lights shining on it. As we neared the display, we were greatly disappointed. We couldn’t see the baby Jesus. We couldn’t see Mary or Joseph. Nestled under the lights, in front of the manger was my favorite, dark-brown llama, trying to keep warm. We decided he just wanted to keep baby Jesus warm. We smiled at the thought.
Christmas day came! I was so excited! I had a special surprise for my mom and grandmother. When they woke up and looked at our little Nativity, they were surprised to see a handmade ceramic llama right in front of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. My mom and gram broke out in smiles and laughter—a special memory for me since my gram didn’t laugh very often. Hearing her chuckle meant everything to us. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas filled with lighthearted laughter!
Look for books by Jackie Zack. An Irish Heart, A Chance Mistake, Rafe's Cafe.
Visit Jackie at:
Jackie’s Facebook Page:
Jackie’s Author Page:
When I was a child, Christmas was always the time to bring out cotton balls. These soft white puffs were not meant to decorate. Instead, they became our mother’s way of teaching us a spiritual lesson.
The mundane becomes inspiration.