December 2019 ~ Central Florida.
Most northerners know winter takes on a whole new meaning in Florida. There’s no snow. No sleet. No winter coats and hats—and sometimes no temps below hot. That means we might wipe beads of sweat off our brows while hanging Christmas lights. Although the seasons are usually one humid blur, today a sudden gust of wind whipping leaves across the manicured golf course outside my window reminds me; Christmas is right around the corner. I envision snow-covered mountains and our family huddled together in our cabin. Then, I hear my husband or oldest son tell a familiar story. Our grandchildren’s eyes bright and gazing as logs crackle and embers glow in the fireplace. This isn’t Santa’s or Rudolph’s tale. Those are stories for another day. It’s the story of the birth of Jesus—The most glorious Christmas day.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).Matthew 1:23 NIV Bible
When snow and angels call
Friends and family know me well. News of an approaching winter storm or the possibility of southern snow is soup for this transplanted Yankee’s soul. I beg my husband to head north for the holiday. “You know we both need rest. We’ll hike, drink hot chocolate, and chill out—in the snow.” I watch him do his usual moaning groaning thing, but still, my smile hit its intended target. “Please think about it.”
“It probably won’t snow.”
“I believe it will. And, if you say yes, I’ll bake your favorite cookies…and you can nap every day…and—”
He leans down to kiss my head. “You’ll make my mother’s thumbprint cookies?”
“Sure. Whatever you want. Let’s call the kids.”
After we debate the issues of work and other responsibilities he checks a few weather apps on his phone, grabs the TV remote, and clicks on The Weather Channel. “See,” he says, “it’s too early to predict the storm’s definite path.” He stammers and tries his best to convince me he’s almost sure…until I walk away. “Okay, grandpa. I guess I’ll reminisce about Christmas vacations when a fun dad and mom made ugly snowmen and scrawny angels in the snow with their kids—all by myself this year.”
From across the room, I hear him say, “Those were the days.”
Remembering “the amazing” in every gift
It’s true. Those holidays were special. But snow and cookies and cabins in the mountains didn’t make them stand out. During the early years of our marriage, my husband lost his job. After a few months, we couldn’t pay the rent or buy food for our children. With Christmas only weeks away, we didn’t have any presents to give—only time to sew a few throw blankets and stuffed animals, paint two rooms in a friend’s home and offer simple labors of love. We made soup for elderly neighbors and took the boys to sing Christmas carols at our local nursing home.
Every night, my husband and I held hands and prayed and cried until an unexplainable peace filled our hearts with hope. The pleasant chime of our doorbell sent my husband out of his chair late that Christmas Eve. He opened the door and found a huge red bag filled with gifts and food on the doorstep. To this day, the givers remain anonymous. Although we were forever thankful and kept these brothers or sisters in our prayers, it never really mattered. We knew who the real giver was. That year, and every year since, God has filled our home with Christmas blessings and hope—in sickness and in health. In sadness or joy. He is the reason we celebrate life. Emmanuel. God with us.
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6 NIV Bible
Merry and bright
God knows my heart longs to experience the quiet wonder of the first Christmas: The night heavenly hosts sang creation’s story and proclaimed Messiah’s birth. I believe there’s a deeper meaning behind the words merry and bright. Perhaps the truth lies in the mysterious way the first Christmas and the birth of the King of Kings began with a fear that gave way to faith. Pain and the darkest of nights gave way to peace and incredible light. Only God could light the sky that night. He alone made the way—for me, for you, and for all.
Today and every day, we have opportunities to give of ourselves. If we ask, and if we believe, God will shine through us in mighty ways—not only during the holidays. The Father’s Gifts can come in all kinds of packages. Some are beautiful. Some broken. All are wrapped in stories worth telling. Many are Christmas miracles. Each is a testament to the most glorious Christmas day. And yes, a little snow and stories told by a warm fire also help to make the season bright.
This year, I hope the nine-hour drive to North Carolina allows us to decompress from the stresses of work, day-to-day not so empty nest chaos, and crazy mom and dad life with an Irish Setter puppy. As usual, it won’t take long before my mind wanders to events from years past—childhood sleigh rides, snowball fights, family vacations, and ski lessons. My imagination lingers with all the nostalgia—until a row of perfect powdery snow angels reminds me again of the most glorious Christmas day.
His name is Jesus. Born in a lowly manger. Son of God ~ and hope of all the world.
Merry Christmas, friends,
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the most glorious Christmas day, and your family’s favorite holiday stories too. Don’t forget to join the conversation in the comment section below this post…and share it with your friends. Wishing you and yours peace, joy, health, and happiness.JC
All images from PIXABAY. Feature Image by Pezibear Photo gallery #1 by Shawn Raza (top left), Hermann & F. Richter (middle), Jill Wellington (top right), Alexas Fotos (bottom) Photo gallery #2 Images by Larisa Koshkina (TL), LUM3N (TM), 1273611 (TR), 3917933 (bottom) Photo gallery #3 Images by Steve Buissinne (TL), Gerd Altman (TM), Michelle Maria (TR), mskathrynne (bottom), Last photo: Gerd Altman