December 31, 2014

An Oddly Wrapped Gift - Guest Post by Betty Lepage

We are pleased to end the year with a guest post by Betty Lepage.

It was a beautiful evening in December. Happily I slipped on my lighter winter jacket, grabbed my scarf and headed out the door.

I was excited as I drove along the snowy city streets. The homes I passed by were all decked in their glitter and lights. They added softness and warmth to the darkness of this wintery night.

I reached the church and easily found a parking space. When I entered the sanctuary, I was happy to find there were still plenty of seats available. My eyes scanned the crowd for any familiar faces. I didn’t find any so decided on a pew about half way up on the right hand side. I slipped the red plaid scarf off my neck and waited in anticipation.

The padded bench was a bonus, but I didn’t come here just for the comfy seats. I had attended other presentations in this church and had really enjoyed them.

The lights dimmed and my eyes focused on the stage in front of me. Soon there were Shepherds wandering about. An angel appeared to them with big news. A very bright star appeared in the sky to some wise men. I could see the outline of a stable.

My anticipation and excitement faded. Where was the unique and different presentation that I had so earnestly hoped for? Tonight was just a repeat of the same old story. I was so disappointed.

I had always wondered how anyone could ever enjoy reading a book twice over within only a matter of days. Even if the books were my favourites I had to put them away for a couple years, before I dared crack them open again. Too many details just stayed glued in my memory.

And here I was now, viewing this same account yet one more time. I had gone to church all my life so knew it well.

The familiar was okay when I knew the people on stage or if there were toddlers or small children involved. Kids are unpredictable and their cuteness and spontaneity always bring newness to any event. But here I knew no one or they were all adults.

I silently whispered a prayer of desperation, Oh Lord please show me something new. Your coming to earth was very precious, and I never want to take that for granted but this same story told over and over, well tonight, I just need something extra, to breath new life into it.

My eyes focused back on the stage. Now there was Mary and Joseph, and the baby. The stable with some animals, and I think there were some wise men bringing gifts.

But suddenly my heart got stuck on the baby, and that changed everything!

You know about babies don’t you? They are so cute and cuddly. They have the most irresistible smile, the softest skin, and the tiniest little fingers and toes. They are a little bundle of perfection. Oh don’t you love to slip your big index finger into their tiny gently curled ones? I loved to feel their gentle baby grasp tighten around mine.

And who could resist, tickling their tiny toes? Would there be a rewarding sweet smile or a burst of infectious laughter? Not that I could see all that from where I was sitting. But we know it, don’t we, because we’ve all seen babies up close! And this baby was wrapped.

My heart flooded with awe. I saw Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who laid aside all the splendour and glory of heaven, all wrapped up in the body of this little tiny baby. Wow, what a humble beginning He had.

Now can you imagine, Jesus, as a helpless baby? Can you imagine Him totally and absolutely dependent on another human being? It was enough to melt my stony heart. Tears crept slowly down my face.

And now I wished the Bible mentioned more about Jesus as a baby. What was he like?

Because babies just need so much help. They can’t get up and walk to the fridge when they are hungry. They can’t dress themselves. They can’t go to the closet and pick another choice of raiment when they are tired of the clothes you put on them. They can’t clearly tell you what they need or want. They can only cry and hope you will come to them and figure it out. Oh, He could have called a thousand angels at any time, but He didn’t.

I was amazed, thinking about Jesus as a baby. But you know the baby was just the wrapping - It wasn’t the gift. The world is filled with babies of all colours and sizes. So it wasn’t that the world needed one more of them. And although they bring joy, any parent knows they are a full time commitment. But left on their own they are completely helpless. So how can a baby help change the world?

But we know Jesus was no ordinary baby, and He had to come to us this way. There was an exceptionally big promise that came along with this Baby. He was a gift of love and hope, the promise of a coming King, a precious Saviour to the world, and someone the world had long been waiting for.

I don’t remember much else of the presentation. But this story would never be the same again!

Jesus, the greatest gift of all, came to us most oddly wrapped as a baby. He did it for us.

Oh what a beautiful gift.

Betty LePage enjoys the peaceful country life in central Alberta. She loves books, gardening, and her small animals as well as all the birds and butterflies that come to visit. She has wanted to write a book ever since she knew what a book was. She occasionally blogs over at, and is currently working on two book projects.

December 30, 2014

Christmas Truth by Susan Barclay

Image from Pixabay

One of my most memorable Christmases reminds me a bit of the old television program, ‘To Tell the Truth’. The show featured a panel of celebrities who had to guess which of three contestants was telling the truth about his or her unusual career or life experience.

I was about five at the time. My four-year-old cousin, Donnie, and his family were visiting from New Jersey. His Dad wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. When Donnie and I were told to go to bed and go to sleep or Santa wouldn’t come, we did our best to comply. But the night was early and we were young. Besides, we were super-excited about what we might find under the tree the next morning, and sleep is impossible when you’re in such a state.

While the two of us lay side by side in my mother’s double bed, I practiced tying a bow in Raggedy Ann’s apron. Despite my mother’s efforts to teach me, I still hadn’t mastered the art.

My uncle passed by the open door and saw that we were still awake.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

"Trying to tie a bow,” I said, reasonably.

“Well, stop it and go to sleep,” he said. “Santa isn’t going to come as long as the two of you are still awake.”

I lay still, and Donnie did too. My uncle partially closed the bedroom door and couldn’t see that our eyes remained wide open. Quietly, I tried to make another bow. And just as I succeeded, we heard sleigh bells ringing outside the house.


But no. Suddenly I knew the truth. It was my uncle ringing those bells.

Belief in Santa died that night, though a stronger realization came. My uncle was more complicated than I knew. Given black and white, I’d painted him black, but perhaps he was grayer. And now I also knew I was capable of doing things. Big things. Bigger even than tying a bow in a doll’s apron string.

When I look back, I can still see that little girl, lying under the covers in a darkened room on Christmas Eve. And I know that the event didn’t destroy the magic of Christmas for me. While I discerned the lie, I gained a larger truth. The holy day isn’t about Santa, or about the giving or receiving of gifts. Saint Nicholas would agree.

Christmas is about the Christ child and what He came for. He wanted us to know who we are and who we can become.
He wants the truth to set us free.
This story was originally published on my friend Annmarie's blog in December 2013. For more of my writing, please visit

December 29, 2014

Christmas Contrasts by Ruth L. Snyder

The Christmas memories I have from my childhood are very different from most of the ones my friends have. My parents introduced me and my siblings to many North American traditions like decorating a Christmas tree, writing Christmas letters, exchanging gifts, and reading the Christmas story, but because we lived in southern Africa, Christmas also used to mean celebrating the end of another school year, Summer holidays, going swimming outdoors, having a barbeque, eating watermelon and popsicles, having beggars show up at the door asking for "Christmas" (a gift of some kind), and all night services at our local church.

 I'm richer for these experiences, because I understand that Christmas means different things to people. I also learned to focus on the true meaning of Christmas instead of decorations, snow, or turkey. Relatives were introduced to me by way of pictures and letters. (I was five years old before we returned to North America for our first furlough.)

While many parents in North America fret about their children receiving too many gifts, my parents worried about not having any gifts for us at all. We depended on monthly support cheques arriving via the infamous mail system. Sometimes an envelope made the journey from North America to southern Africa in two weeks. Other times it took a more circuitous route that lasted up to two months. In the early 1970's we didn't have the luxury of e-mail and phone calls were only made if there was an emergency.

One December our support cheque did not arrive. My mother became even more creative than usual with our meager food supply. When Christmas day arrived, our parents gave each of us a new Bible (The Living Bible, paraphrased by Kenneth Taylor), the only gifts they had purchased ahead of time. I don't remember feeling deprived. We still had food to eat and we were together as a family.

The next year my parents received extra funds, so they decided to make up for the previous year and ensure our Christmas was extra special. We were treated to an abundance of food, and there was a huge pile of presents under the tree. As children we picked up on the excitement demonstrated by our parents. On Christmas morning we laughed and shrieked as we ripped paper and uncovered gift after amazing gift. However, half an hour later, all four of us children had left our treasure trove of gifts and we were outside making up our own fun with the barrels in which our possessions had been shipped to Africa. One of us would get inside a barrel and the others would roll it down a hill. After we tired of the dizzy spells this created, we stood on the barrels and had races with each other. The barrels were played with many more hours than any of the fancy gifts.

Most Christmases from my childhood were filled with laughter, food, and family. One Christmas stands in stark contrast to the rest. Early in December that year, my dad came down with influenza. My father was usually strong and healthy. (His African nickname was "Big Bull Elephant.")

However, this time Daddy was sick for weeks. He couldn't keep any food down. My mother spent most of her time at his bedside, but she still made an effort to prepare for Christmas as usual. Visits to the doctor didn't yield any answers. He progressively became weaker and weaker. I remember wondering if my daddy was going to die. None of us felt like eating. The mood was dark. I'm not sure when things turned around, but my dad eventually recovered fully.

My family returned to Canada to stay when I was eleven years old. It was then that I began to recognize how different my Christmases in Africa were from the way most North Americans celebrate the event. However, our family did have many traditions that remained constant, no matter where we lived. We still put up a Christmas tree, but in Canada we enjoyed the experience of going hunting for a real evergreen tree. We still read the Christmas story before we opened our presents, but in Canada we were able to enjoy Christmas programs complete with drama and music. Instead of listening to The Messiah on cassette tape, goosebumps broke out on my arms as I stood and sang The Hallelujah Chorus with hundreds of people. We still enjoyed our usual treat of pecan pie, but we also enjoyed a multitude of other candies and desserts.

As a parent, I have enjoyed passing on many of the traditions I grew up with, while also making a conscious effort to share how different Christmas can be in other parts of the world. Although my children have never celebrated Christmas in Africa, they have cousins who have given them personal glimpses into other cultures. My children have also learned to reach out to others at Christmas through caroling, serving in a soup kitchen, visiting retirement homes, sending gifts in shoe boxes to children who may not have any toys otherwise, and sending cards to missionaries and others serving overseas.

I'm thankful for my Christmas memories and the way they still impact me, my family, and those around us. What Christmas memories are you thankful for?

Ruth L. Snyder was privileged to spend her early years in southern Africa where her parents served as missionaries. Ruth used Botswana as the setting for her novella, Cecile's Christmas Miracle. She now resides in northeastern Alberta with her husband Kendall, and their five children. Learn more about Ruth, her writing and photography, and her life adventures at

December 27, 2014

The Greatest Christmas Gift by Melanie Fischer

I will never forget it. It was one of those moments where kids get confused why adults cry at happy things. I heard a commotion at the front door. Mom sounded like a child as she squealing with excitement. I sheepishly peeked around the corner to see what was going on. I saw a couple ladies standing at the front door dressed in bulky winter coats and Santa hats. I didn’t recognize the women. In my mom’s familiar loving voice, I heard “thank you” over and over. The couple of strangers then hopped off our front step and went on their way. Mom ambitiously dragged a ginormous decorated box into our living room.

“Who was that?” I inquired. With a bit of a shocked look on moms face she replied, “I don’t know, they just came to drop off some gifts and food for Christmas dinner”. I was oddly curious why complete strangers would do that for us. “They must be some very special people” I thought, “maybe even angels.”

Mom was on her own with us three kids. I was the middle one. We always had what we needed, but not much extra. With tears dripping down moms cheeks, she popped open the box and peaked inside. We kids were tiny and that box was so big we could crawl right inside of it. We took turns pulling out wrapped packages and an assortment of other goodies, screeching with excitement at every find. We stacked the presents under the tree, and the food on the kitchen table. Mom took careful inventory of the precious gifts as we enthusiastically planned the upcoming festivities.

Christmas quickly came. I was nine years old then, but I remember that time as if it were yesterday. I recall unwrapping a giant craft set that I cherished as if it were as precious as the gifts baby Jesus received.

Our faces were plastered with grins, and moms' fridge soon became plastered with art work. It wasn’t the wrapped presents though that was the greatest gift that was left behind. The lesson on how to love and care for people we didn’t even know, lingered in our home long after the presents were unwrapped and the Christmas dinner was digested.

Melanie Blogs at

December 26, 2014

Ordinary Time by Marnie Pohlmann

The lights on the Christmas tree still shine, but their twinkle seems to have faded.

There are still some gifts under the tree, but they shiver, naked without the gay Christmas wrap surrounding them. They wait forlornly to find a permanent place in the house.

Stockings hang from the mantle – one with a small lump still in the bottom, most deflated of their surprises. One is missing altogether, dragged to some unknown spot and abandoned by a grandson.

The house still smells of turkey, sweet potatoes, and apple pie, which just a day before was tantalizing, yet today is cloying and excessive.

The quiet is eerie. Yesterday, grandparents were laughing, children were teasing, and grandchildren were singing. Festive music danced in the background while everyone played games or explored their new toys. Today everyone is travelling back home, to their own lives.

The anticipation and excitement of advent, the waiting, is over. The celebration of the Christ-child’s coming is completed. Perhaps not today, but soon the tree will be dismantled, decorations packed away, leftovers frozen, and thank-you notes sent.  When the excitement of Christmas is over and when pieces of the celebration are cleaned up, we return to our usual routines of daily life; we begin Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is marked in orthodox churches. One period of Ordinary Time is between Christmas and Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the Easter season. The church does not mean life is to become commonplace after the celebration of the birth of Jesus, though our days may once again become average, with regular people, places, and activities passing the time until the next celebration. Most years, life after Christmas generally returns to the same life we had before Christmas, yet during this Ordinary Time, life can be anything but ordinary. The orthodox churches provide certain Scriptures to read and smaller celebrations to note, to help parishioners in the extra-ordinary life of walking with God.

Not everyone practices Ordinary Time. For many, life just carries on as it always did.
Even on that first day after the birth of our Saviour, most of the city of Bethlehem, as well as the rest of the world, went about their daily lives not knowing everything had changed. For some, though, like the Shepherds who received an invitation to witness the coming of the Messiah, daily life was forever changed. We too can leave the Christmas season forever changed. The Shepherds show us just what ordinary time after celebrating Jesus’ birth could look like.

Scripture describes in Luke 2:8-16 how, after having a frightening yet joyful encounter with an Angel who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and hearing the thunderous praise of the Heavenly Host, the shepherds left their flocks to join Mary and Joseph in celebrating the birth of this baby.

Luke 2:17-20 goes on to tell us that after the quiet celebration, when they left the side of the manger to return to their flocks, to their daily, regular, routine lives, they knew everything had changed.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told. – Luke 2:17-20 NIV
Proclaiming what they knew to be true. Glorifying and praising God. This response to Christmas is one that would excite God!

We know God loves celebrations. In fact, He told His people to make sure they gathered and shared feasts at specific times each year, which Jesus himself celebrated. While Christmas is not one of the prescribed festivals mentioned in Leviticus 23, we can surmise that God is pleased when any celebration includes welcoming His presence into our midst, and when those celebrations make a difference in our ordinary times.

Christmas is a festival of rejoicing - God became a man, Jesus, to live among us. He came, an extraordinary child in an ordinary world, living in a way that enabled Him to be the perfect sacrifice to reconcile humanity to God. So that we can live our daily, ordinary lives in peace with God.

Did your Christmas festivities this year include remembering the birth of Christ? Having celebrated the coming of our Lord, will you, like the shepherds, also carry proclamations and praise about Him into your regular, day-to-day, ordinary life?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” - Luke 2:14 NIV

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!! By Vickie Stam

Christmas was my family's favourite time of the year, so it came as no surprise that in 1968 my two sisters along with my parents, would jump in the family car and drive from Hamilton to Santa's Village in Bracebridge, Ontario. At the age of four, it seemed like a long drive; almost as far as driving to the North Pole. Sitting in Santa's sleigh didn't ring high on my list of things to do when a white dog who bared no resemblance to 'Rudolph' joined in my mother's game of picture taking. The scowl on my face complained....Bah-humbug! But deep down I just wasn't sure if the white ball of fur was, 'naughty or nice.' As luck would have it, someone finally noticed and reached out their hand in an effort to extinguish my angst and keep the white dog from getting too close. 
At home, boxes protected our decorative treasures from one year to the next. As soon as the calendar began to tick its way into November my mother started hauling them out, one after the other. She blew the dust off the tops, cracked them open and fished out the tinsel, the coloured lights and long strands of shiny garland. Red, gold and green adorned the Christmas tree; the very thing that seemed to summon Santa's arrival. Good cheer filled our home. The count down to Christmas was on.  

The smell of fresh baked cookies lingered in the air long after they were pulled from the oven. The voices of Bing Crosby and Gene Autry belted out holiday tunes over and over. We never tired of Bing, 'Dreaming of a White Christmas.' I was dreaming of more than a white Christmas. I could hardly wait to see what Santa would bring me. The wait felt so long.

I loved the endless tearing of wrapping paper and the way the carpet seemed to disappear beneath its remnants. There were so many presents. I screamed with delight. "Look what Santa brought me!"   

My children grew up with much of the same traditions. Most often, Christmas Eve was spent gathering together at my parents home with my sisters and their families. We opened presents, shared a meal and laughed the entire evening. It was a time we all looked forward to. A time when cast all of our worries aside.

I never once thought about the people who were hurting, hungry or alone. I was too caught up in my own celebration to think outside the box of what was my world. And afterwards, we all hurried home at just the right time. I wanted to be sure that the kids would fall asleep long before Santa would come to deliver presents.

I recall those memories with such fondness even though Santa was the driving force behind Christmas, not the birth of Jesus. The true meaning of Christmas was something I never fully recognized back then. 

The gift of a savior! 
           "Today in the town of  David a Savior has been born to
             to you; he is Christ the Lord."

I wasn't thinking about Jesus at all. But, a lot has changed since then. I can't imagine my life without God. He showed his great love for us by sending his son to save us from our sin. We can receive this gift if we simply open our heart and accept him. 

Having done that, I still miss those Christmas Eve gatherings of long ago. My mother has passed away, my sisters no longer live in Hamilton and the children have grown up and have families of their own. All of our lives have taken a different path. 

Losing people I loved so much has somehow robbed me of my Christmas spirit. It's not difficult for me to conjure up that face from my Christmas past; the one that had 'bah-humbug' written all over it. This time it isn't fear that sparks that look; it's grief. It clings to me. 

But there comes a time when I need to let go of those past traditions and make room for new ones. Give up my sorrow. Rejoice! 

Christmas is not only about the greeting cards, the presents and the turkey dinners with all the trimmings. It is so much more! 

I have to admit, I am still learning to embrace the changes in my life. Not an easy task. These days, Christmas Eve is spent with my church family. I focus more on what Christmas is truly about....the birth of a Savior. 


Quoted from, A Christmas Carol 
By: Charles Dickens.

"--as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts and to think of people........"  

Merry Christmas Everyone! 












December 24, 2014

Family Memories by Tandy Balson

When I ask my now grown children about favourite Christmas memories they will talk about two things.  One of those is the fact that we always got new board games and jigsaw puzzles for the family and would spend many happy hours around the table playing together.  

More importantly, though, was the time spent with my mom.  In their early years, we would join other family members at Grandma’s home for Christmas dinner.  As she aged, our traditions changed.  She had been widowed for many years and we didn’t like the thought of her waking up alone on Christmas morning.  

On the afternoon of December 24th, we would drive the 20 minutes to her house and pick her up.  She was perfectly capable of driving herself, but this was an extra touch of care that we wanted to provide.  Our evening held a familiar comfort for all of us.  We would have an early dinner and then attend a candle light Christmas Eve service at our local church.  With the strains of Silent Night still in our hearts, we headed out for our next adventure.  

Armed with the local newspaper’s  list of the best light displays, we drove around the city enjoying the elaborate displays in people’s yards.  The best ones always had the manger scene.  Then it was home for hot chocolate and cookies.

My son would give up his room for Grandma and sleep on the floor of his sister’s room.  Together they would wake up early and sneak out with flashlight in hand, to look through their Christmas stockings.  They vividly recall the time they heard Grandma’s voice behind them and thought they were going to get into trouble.  Instead, she asked for the flashlight and went through the contents of her Christmas stocking!  This was a secret the three of them shared for many years.

My mother has been spending Christmas with Jesus for fifteen years now.  We still talk about the fun we had with her sleepovers and her childlike enthusiasm.  The gift we gave her was the freedom to relax and have fun as she had no other responsibilities.  The gift she gave us is the countless precious memories that we recall.  

Southern Gospel singer Guy Penrod sings a song with the following line: “I miss you most at Christmas, you were like a little child.”  It took many years before I could listen to the song without tears.  I thought I could do it now, but I am shedding a few tears just thinking about it.

The true blessings of Christmas are not the physical gifts we receive.  My children have no memories of special gifts.  Our fondest family memories are the love, laughter and time spent together. 
My husband and I have been invited to our daughter’s house for a sleepover on Christmas Eve.  I think I’ll find a board game and jigsaw puzzle to take along with us.  

Merry Christmas.


December 21, 2014

Christmas North African Style—A memory in the making ... by Jocelyn Faire

 I have traveled thousands of miles to be with my daughter and her family in North Africa for this Christmas season. There is a part of me that hungers for beauty, the fulfillment of a longing I cannot exactly put my finger on. I know that the bonds of love are a huge part of the craving, the desire to share the same air space with those I love, to rekindle memories and craft new ones. Here in a desert land of North Africa where Joy to the World is not sung and Peace on Earth/peace in their homes is often not a reality, I watch as my daughter intentionally celebrates both the season and the reason, and I see the grace that spills over to the neighbourhood. As my
grandchildren light the Advent candles I am reminded of the hope, the peace, the love and joy Jesus brings. Around the kitchen table small fingers glue tissue paper to make a lantern light craft. And a song plays in my head, from when my children were crafters at my own kitchen table, One small child in a land of a thousand, one small dream of a Saviour tonight.(Sung by Evie) A knock from the back door announces the neighbour and her thirteen year old daughter's arrival in the midst of glued tissue, and the speaking of light in the darkness ... the flow goes Arabic, and I step back to keep glue on paper. The girl joins in and the head-scarved mother asks the reason for what we are doing. More Arabic explains about the light of the world, and a fourth tissue lantern goes to another home.
This is the land where the homes look like the Bethlehem Christmas card ... and here I am closer to the bread and olive oil world that Jesus entered, than when I am in my snowy homeland ... yet, ninety-five percent of the people here know nothing about the Christmas story. I am delighted to participate in what has become my daughter's annual Share the Christmas Spirit community party. Trying to recreate Christmas baking from her childhood, we browse the church recipe books and laugh .... ingredient lists common in her growing up world, but not here: packaged cake mix, coconut, chocolate chips, marshmallows, oatmeal, glace cherries, brown sugar, molasses, baking soda. How can you not have baking soda? (That and coconut seem to be seasonal here.) We do borrow some from a friend. But I can find sweetened condensed milk and dream about the seven layer Magic Cookie bars. This recipe we improvise with chocolate chips from Canada. The guests may try new ways of baking, but are less likely to try new ways of thinking about life and its meaning.
I realize that on the day of the party (Dec 19), I act more like Martha than Mary, focused on tasks, thinking that the lopsided brownies should not be served, they would not pass the Martha (Stewart) test. To make matters worse I drop the large container of chick pea flour local cookies that a neighbour directed us for a five hour session to make. That's the way the chickpea cookie crumbles and my two year old grand son learns a new word or two, one of them being bummer, the other one he shouldn't know. My daughter remains calm. Many believers back home join to coat the event in prayer, for the right people to come, for wisdom with the games, with her words, above all that God be glorified in this event.The salon room is filled and the surprise hit event of the
evening is the crafting of a Christmas ornament. For twenty-five minutes conversation and laughter flow as all ages of women glitter glue and sequin foam ornaments together. The grandmother with the twinkly eyes and the white scarf is delighted her ornament is chosen for one of the prizes. Somehow I get elected as judge, thankfully no one contests the decisions. A short time later, in flawless Arabic my daughter shares her Christmas customs and the meaning of the story. A believer with a guitar accompanies as we sing three carols. The acoustics are wonderful, and somehow the Oh Come Let us Adore Him rings louder as I watch a dear 19 year old who is learning English, sing Christ the Lord. The others listen and applaud each song. Hark the Herald Angels Sing ... born to raise the Sons of earth, born to give them second birth. In that moment of singing I feel connected to the ancient Christmas story and the realization that this is what Christmas is all about—Good News that is for all peoples. Joy and peace fill the room as another candle of hope is lit in the neighbourhood.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 NIV

Jocelyn blogs about hope in the hard places at her blog site:

December 20, 2014

Joy Comes Christmas Morning - a story by Joylene Bailey

We had the Christmas tree in the kitchen that year, next to the church bench on the long wall by the phone.  Seemed strange to my brothers and me to come down the creaking stairs Christmas morning into the bleak, echoing living room where the very atmosphere was HARD and gaping.  Hardwood floors, bare plastered walls, sharp corners, and high vaulted ceiling.  Everything was unfamiliar after the summer fire that had taken that side of the house.  Not even a whisper of past joy-filled Christmases remained. 

But then we entered the kitchen where the coloured lights twinkled on the tree, and splayed into sprays, like fireworks, when we squinted our eyes at them.  Mom already had Christmas breakfast baking in the oven, filling our beings with warmth and promises. 

We sat down by the tree, Christmas oranges in hand, to listen to Dad read the Christmas story.  But none of us could take our eyes off of the lone gift under, or rather, beside the tree.  It was huge, oddly shaped, wrapped in a combination of newspaper and three different kinds of wrapping paper.  My brothers and I exchanged wide-eyed wondering looks.  Was it any wonder we couldn’t stay focused on the Christmas story?  No matter.  We all knew it off by heart anyway: 

“… And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord…’”        

Finally, permission was given and my brothers and I ripped into the paper to discover the trappings and skeleton of a trampoline!

Now, any rational parent living on the prairies would never give a trampoline for a Christmas gift.  Where on earth do you put it in -30 degree weather?  Not to mention four feet of snow?  But my Dad was full of surprises.  Calculating.  Ingenious.  He never did anything without thinking it through.  When he realized that the living room would be rebuilt in time for Christmas, but that no furniture could grace it until spring, he contrived to fill it with a used trampoline for the winter.  He was like that, my Dad, always finding ways of turning hard things into joy.

So that Christmas the stark living room was filled with squeals of joy as my brothers and I took turns jumping on our best gift ever, and shouting,  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”

[This story was sparked by a writing prompt at Writers Cafe.]

photo credit: <a href="">PKMousie</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>