Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to my known and unknown blog readers. I trust you are taking good notes about rigorous Covid-19 2020 for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to read. Hopefully, future Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s will never duplicate the Pandemic disruptions of 2020.
This is a good time to reminisce about one of your favorite or particularly significant Christmas celebrations. When you were young, with grandparents, traveling, special company or home with your normal routine. The creative traditions are what we all cherish, whether it’s Christmas Eve. Services, driving around neighborhoods looking at decorations, candlelight dinners, exchanging gifts, seeing relatives, playing board games, watching ball games.
What is your earliest memory of Christmas celebration? When I wrote that question, I searched my memory which covers eight decades. I’ve celebrated Christmas many different places, but a couple really stand out. My first memory was when I was six; and a vivid one. My sisters were eleven and thirteen and my brothers were nine and five with one on the way. We had just returned home from Christmas Eve. service when we heard a knock at our back door. Were we surprised to see Santa! He looked just like the picture in my Jack and Jill magazine. He walked through the kitchen and sat down in Dad’s big chair in the dimly-lit dining room and everyone went into the living room. “Santa wants to see you”, Dad said to me. I cautiously entered the room. Santa took me on his lap and asked, “Ruthie, have you been a good girl?” He even knew my nick-name. I was frightened but murmured a faint “No.” I’m sorry about that”, he said, and put me down. Then, he asked for five-year-old, Mac. I stayed and listened. He took Mac on his lap and asked the same question. Mac answered “Yes”. Then, Santa said, “Since you have been good, Mac, you can be my helper and pass out the gifts.” I got over not being Santa’s helper but I never forgot the experience of disappointing Santa. No one enjoyed Santa’s visit like Dad, who made the arrangements with a friend. After rehearsing the story with my older brother an hour ago, he offered his version: “Grandpa McRoberts was Santa”. I never knew that.
When I was 12, Christmas was made special when Dad came home from a trip with boxes and boxes of board games and puzzles. Mother served a ham and escalloped potatoes dinner by candlelight—a first. As long as I can remember, we opened gifts on Christmas Eve and played games.
The bittersweet Christmas was in 1947, when I was 14. Dad deserted our family two weeks before Christmas. We were stranded in the country without a car without a chance to buy presents for each other. Our sisters, 19 and 20 who worked in Columbus and their boyfriends put their money together, brought a tree, decorated it and gave gifts to all of us. We had a beautiful Christmas, despite the circumstances.
The first Saturday in January, our country church moved us to the dilapidated three-room shack without water that was actually scheduled to be demolished, that we gradually transformed into a haven. The first Christmas was chock full of joy as our little dwelling overflowed with Mom, six siblings and two brothers in law just in time for a blizzard which dumped several feet of snow. I barely made it home from work. An older teen who I had seen at school but didn’t know was also getting off at the bus stop helped me struggle up the hill through deep snow and safely to the house. My brothers finished their paper routes just in time to make it home. The next day, my brothers and brothers in law dug a path through our little circle of houses over to Grandma’s home. We sledded down the hills in the valley behind our house. What fun we had together. Sister, Jane, taught the girls how to knit. And we played Monopoly well into the night.
While Jim was in college and seminary in Texas, we drove five hours to Odessa in far West Texas to spend Christmas holidays with Jim’s parents and his siblings’ families. Wonderful times. Our last year in Seminary, Lynn, our single Seminary friend with one of his deacons in the church he pastored drove an hour to our house on Christmas Eve on a Saturday night, to bring Christmas to us and our children knowing we had little money to spend. What an effort they made knowing he had to preach the next day. A special memory, indeed. I remember that the two older children, 8 and 9, searched through their toys for something to share with needy children in our area.
After we moved to Pennsylvania, we had Christmas Eve services at church. Early on Christmas Day, we and our four children drove eight hours to Central Ohio to visit my mom for several days. Many times, the turnpike was slippery and snow covered. We returned to York in time to get ready to host an open house for our church family—Temple Baptist--for a New Year’s Eve party. We ate, played games upstairs and down, and had wonderful visiting. Many times, there was enough snow so the kids could sled down the hill on our short street. Some stayed until the wee hours. Others stayed overnight. When the crowd reached 70, we moved the party to church. Many brought goodies, we played games, especially King Bobo, and ended with a New Year’s Eve. service and communion. It became the favorite party/service of the year. Christmas for me this year has returned to simple. My first without Jim and complying with Covid-restrictions, no out-of-town children are coming. Share your stories of Christmas with your children and grandchildren and be reminded that rigorous restrictions and difficulties are most often lined with endless joy.
Writing to you each week has played a strategic part of my adjustment without Jim. In Him we live and move and have our being, Acts 17:28, was the text Jim chose for his last message delivered Dec. 29, 2020 at Faith Fellowship Church. We had no idea that he was already suffering from Glioblastoma cancer brain tumors. Little did we know that he had three months left on this earth. He lived what he preached. My children take very good care of me and I’m blessed to receive weekly calls from my siblings.
Discussing the skills of communication, personalities and responding to questions has kept me from wallowing in all the drastic changes in my routine and rhythm. I am indebted to my granddaughter Laura’s husband, Kurt, for managing my blogs and choosing the garden scenes which reflect my text. Laura and granddaughter, Katy, along with Kurt have rescued me from computer Office glitches. Your comments and emails are encouraging. It’s been a treat to hear from friends after many years who find the blog.
Isa 46:4 has encouraged me since March: Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
I trust that the majority of your memories of 2020 are pleasant. Counting blessings has become a regular routine for Covid-endurance, a good habit to continue. I want to encourage you to make a personal pledge to grow in areas of communication and appreciation of those who are opposite in temperament.
Ready or not, the new year is upon us. Let’s energetically embrace 2021. The old adage I learned in Latin class still rings in my heart and mind: It’s not the circumstance you’re in but the attitude you take. We are all braced knowing that 2021 will also be a different kind of year as we continue to be safe and deal with returning to a more settled, normal, purposeful routine.
I’ve always preferred setting new goals and reinforcing older goals rather than making boring resolutions which dissipate after a few weeks. Hopefully, a passage that has challenged me in the last week will also neutralize an otherwise dismal reality that the Pandemic will still be calling the shots for everyone in some way until the vaccine chases it away. Don’t forget those who are still alone and isolated. Hearing your voice on the phone is a wonderful gift. Sending cards also brings joy. Check on your elderly neighbors.
My friend, John S. Riley writes in his 4th Quarter Push booklet “So this, then, is the ‘program’. We find somewhere to be alone on a regular basis. We get still and quiet. We ask God to come and join us. We read His word or something devotional. We meditate on what we have read and reflect on the way we might apply it to our life that day. We allow prayer to flow from our meditation, either with words or without. We leave our chairs feeling renewed, refreshed, challenged and disciplined!”
Hopefully a verse that has inspired me the last couple of weeks will also minister to you.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually,18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thess. 5:16-18 (NIV)
The verse doesn’t mean that we must say “yippee” when we have a flat tire, water in the basement or an illness or death, but giving thanks ‘inside’ as we face difficult circumstances. A friend shared that their church uses ‘recharge’ with rejoice. Rejoicing enables a joyful and energetic recharging for the New Year.
Thank you, Lord, for provisions, energy, ideas and abilities,
and especially for your endless grace that is available whenever we need it.
Next blog will be January 3, 2021 outlining the highlights of Sensing and Intuitive information gathering. Please feel free to comment or email your thoughts, questions or experiences.