It really wouldn’t be Christmas without pictures of the family around the Christmas tree. This one taken on Christmas Eve 1965 of John, his brother Mark and their Mom shows boys exercising great restraint as they’re posing with gifts instead ripping the wrapping off.
TBT Lesson #82: Why do parents taunt their children with picture taking on Christmas Eve?
Lights seem to be mandatory at Christmas, but since we’ve strung lights for three weddings this year, we decided viewing others hard work would be the best way to satisfy the need for a festive light display.
In addition to lighted trees, reindeer and toy soldiers, for the first time I saw a rainbow featured prominently in a Christmas display, but I guess a rainbow isn’t any stranger than a toy soldier. Especially since we were at Rainbow Springs State Park.
This was much better than driving through neighborhoods. Mainly because we walked with my parents through the park instead of sitting in a car, but I am glad we were able to avoid the long line of children waiting to see Santa.
Thanks to all of the volunteers who lit up the park and provided a night of holiday spirit.
It’s the last day in November. With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s definitely time to prepare for Christmas.
The stores have been preparing for weeks with decorations, music and displays to entice shoppers to buy. Lights have been strung downtown and candy canes, toy soldiers and bells adorn light posts. I’ve noticed several cars with trees tied to their roofs the last couple of days, and several friends have posted pictures of their homes decorated for the season.
And of course, you can’t turn on the television, radio or computer without hearing about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, door buster deals and predictions about the total sales anticipated during the coming weeks in the busiest shopping time of the year. But it’s not shopping or decorating or baking or addressing cards that I’m suggesting you do to prepare.
The past several years have been filled with campaigns to put CHRIST back into Christmas by those who are appalled by a greeting of Happy Holidays. However, more recently I’ve noticed an effort by a few, to put CHRIST back into Christmas by recognizing Advent, the time to prepare for and anticipate the coming of Christ. I think that’s a much better campaign.
Yesterday was the first day of the Advent season, the time to prepare. It’s a good time to slow down instead of getting caught up in all of the hustle and bustle thrust upon us at this time of year. Slow down and prepare for Christmas by celebrating Advent. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’d like suggest you visit the blog of First United Methodist Church of Ocala where you’ll find daily Bible verses, readings, music or videos that can be a source of inspiration as you prepare for Christmas.
“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”~ Bob Hope
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” ~ Calvin Coolidge
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ~ Steve Maraboli
“Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” ~ Philip Yancey
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day.” ~ Helen Steiner Rice
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” ~ Peg Bracken
“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie
The same cast of characters will be attending this year’s Christmas dinner…Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph and the other reindeer, as well as Cindy Lou Who, Buddy the Elf, the Nutcracker, and Frosty. After hearing complaints about who sat at which table for years I finally devised a plan to eliminate the need for a “kids’ table” a couple of years ago.
Place cards indicate the seating plan for guests, but instead of the names of the guests the cards are printed with the names of characters from Christmas songs, books, and movies. Guests draw names out of a bag to determine which seat they are assigned. We no longer sit with all of the “adults” (grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles) in the dining room and the “kids” (none of whom are under eighteen) in the kitchen or living room. Instead, we mix it up. It’s been a great plan even if couples are separated; they’ll survive for the course of a meal.
I bet Grandpa ends up at the dining room table again this year. I wonder what how he convinces others to swap seats with him?
Yesterday, I outlined all of the things I dislike about Christmas; but I want to assure you there are plenty of things I love about this time of year. I do not dislike Christmas.
I love other people’s decorations. I love Christmas music – both religious and secular. Go Tell It On the Mountain, Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are among my favorite Christmas carols, but I also love Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Felix Navidad, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
I love Christmas Eve. Eating dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Opening gifts (yeah, I know, the same ones I hated shopping for) and seeing how much Grandma and Grandpa enjoy watching everyone open the garage sale items they’ve been carefully selecting for months. Then going to Christmas Eve candlelight services at 11:00 with music, communion, and time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.
I love Christmas morning…getting up and enjoying breakfast, a fire, and music as we open gifts. I love watching Dad on Christmas morning because he’s still childlike – enjoying every moment of the morning, especially watching everyone open the gifts he’s carefully selected.
I love Christmas dinner. Good food, smiles, laughter, games, relaxation. No more pressure, just enjoying one another. A day of love. Dr. Seuss summed up the reason for the season in his book How the Grinch Stole Christmas,
“And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I think he got it right!
It seems that reading the Christmas story from the Bible should be required for a message reminding you to remember the reason for the season, but actually, I think you’re more likely to watch this You Tube clip from Charlie Brown’s Christmas in which Linus recites the Christmas story from Luke, but feel free to read Luke chapter 2 yourself if you prefer.
Yes, I may seem like Scrooge or the Grinch at times during the Christmas season, but I do love this time of year especially when I can avoid the hustle and bustle and remember the reason for the season.
Late last December I posted a message about R.A.C.K., a plan to practice random acts of Christmas kindness. Unfortunately, it was only a couple of days before Christmas with little time remaining to put the plan into action so here it is again.
In middle school, your writing teacher assigned a project on random acts of kindness, an idea that started in a Sausalito, California, restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. From this simple start, bumper stickers spread the idea and a book was published filled with stories of random acts of kindness, which started a kind of chain reaction. You were asked to find an example of someone who participated in performing these acts of kindness not only as a writing assignment, but to encourage you to think about how you could be a part of this movement.
Without even thinking about it, you frequently do little things that add beauty to the lives of others. You may bring in the grocery cart for a fellow shopper, compliment someone, reach an item on a shelf, or hold the door…all simple acts, but acts that brighten the days of others. However, by thinking about acts of kindness and acting intentionally, we can bring smiles to the faces of those we meet.
So what’s R.A.C.K.? Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. Recently, I’ve come across several websites with ideas to make the Christmas season a time to make these acts, not just random, but planned to spread good cheer. In fact, you may want to search random acts of Christmas kindness on Pinterest. The ideas are boundless.
Perhaps you can think of a couple of ways you can make an impact during the next month that focus on Christmas kindness. I’m making plans. This is a good tradition to add to the Christmas season. And who knows, once you get thinking and doing, you may decide to make intentional acts a kindness a year round project.