The best part of the Christmas season is not the presents or the food or the festivities, it is the opportunity to recall sweet memories of special days with people that we love.
When Stacy Fulkerson was growing up, the fireplace mantel was the crowning jewel of the Christmas season at her home. Every year her mother would lovingly hang the stockings and greenery to build a festive and special scene, and everyone knew these decorations were to be enjoyed by the eyes not the hands. Well, when Stacy was a mischievous 11-year-old, she was able to find her Christmas presents from hidden around the house, unwrap each one for a peek and close them back up without her mother knowing. At the time, she thought she was being clever, but in the end, Christmas morning was disappointing without the suspense of not knowing what might be in the boxes that she opened. That was when Stacy’s mother’s mantel display brought back the magic. Being trained to not touch the fireplace area, Stacy had not peeked inside the stockings that year, and so Christmas was saved when she found a jewelry surprise in the toe. She would never almost ruin Christmas by peeking again.
As a boy, every year, Josh Stone would dig through the box of decorations to find his very favorite Christmas ornament. It wasn’t sparkly or large. It didn’t play music or light up. But this simple wooden horse held a special place in his heart. Josh would place it on the tree and then remove it and replace it over and over to find the perfect spot, the perfect lighting for the little orange equine. When he grew up and married, his mother gave him this special ornament to hang on his new family’s tree. Now each December, he takes his wife and kids to choose their own ornaments to represent the special memories of the past year. And, every December, Josh continues to meticulously place and replace his wooden horse in just the right spot on the tree.
For over 20 years, the MacQuarrie family has piled into their red 1988 Isuzu Trooper and driven across the Blue Bridge to Ahren’s Tree Farm to choose and cut a perfectly green Christmas tree Mother, Carole, remembers fondly when her children were young and would play with the farm animals there, petting the sheep, chasing the chickens, and being chased by the guineas. As the years passed, they looked forward to this annual outing and insisted on continuing important details. One year, the Trooper had broken down and was retired to the garage for the winter. But when the trip to Ahren’s Tree Farm started approaching, it was unanimously decided that the trip just wouldn’t be the same in their newer cars. They could not haul home their perfect tree with any other vehicle and so the Trooper had to be fixed in time to go too. Each year a different member of the family has the final say in which tree is chosen, but no matter whose pick, the experience is always special.
One Christmas, Brenda Larson gave her daughters Supergirl pajamas and superhero underwear. Three-year-old Brianna was so excited about this gift that she hopped behind the couch and immediately put on her new pj’s and undies. Once she reappeared, Brianna raised her arms in the air and jumped with all her might. Her face fell in disappointment as her feet thudded to the floor and she said, “They didn’t work. I didn’t fly!” Later that night, as her father tucked her into bed, Brianna considered, “I’ve got my super pajamas and my super undies. All I need are some super shoes and then I’ll be able to fly!” There is always a glimmer of hope in the magic of Christmas.
When I think about Christmas, my mind immediately goes back to Christmas Eve 2008, at First Presbyterian Church. That night, the room was aglow with the light of a hundred candles. The air was thick with the scent of cinnamon and cloves. And together, we sang, “O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” I can remember caressing my swollen belly as pregnant mothers do. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” My mind replayed my journey over the past nine months, and I felt rise up an air of expectancy about becoming a new mother. “The thrill of hope. The weary soul rejoices. For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn!” My first son would be born very soon, and that Christmas, I felt a new, deeper understanding of Mary and her story. “Fall on your knees. Oh hear the angel voices!” The handbells chimed, and like Mary, I treasured these things and pondered them in my heart. “Oh night divine! Oh night, when Christ was born.” I knew that Christmas would never again be the same.