What may we do to renew the spirit of Christmas daily so that the joy we know at this season may truly follow us the whole year through? Here are some suggestions.
Build memories that last. When I think of Christmases past, I revel in a world of memories that build joy upon joy. Some of my childhood memories of Christmas are a little dim now, but if I try hard I can recall them, and they still fill me with joy unspeakable.
I remember how we went to Grandma Sarah Souther Dyer’s house. It was quite a production, just the going. And once there, we had cousins galore to play with, and a Christmas meal that was tasty and inviting. Here’s how we went: Daddy hitched our two farm mules to our farm wagon and put the seat at the front of the wagon on which he and mother sat. Then back of them in the wagon bed, warmed by black irons heated and wrapped in blankets, and with our warmest coats and woven woolen blankets shielding us from the winter’s cold, we children rode. We journeyed the four miles over a country road to Grandma’s house. Nightfall came after we arrived, and I recall one night that scared us half-out-of our wits. About this story, here, briefly, are the details.
Whether it was Christmastime or not, I do not recall. But perhaps it was, for we had roaring fires in the fireplaces in three areas of the old house at Grandma’s. The house was built first as a cabin in 1850 by Grandma’s father, and then added-to as the family grew and needed more space. There was a fireplace in the “front room,” known also as “Grandma’s room,” where she sat in her little chair by the window that looked out upon the tallest mountain in Georgia—Brasstown Bald. She looked frequently through that window expecting “company” to come along the road and visit her. She lived to be almost 102 years of age and through the years welcomed many visitors. On the particular winter night—Christmas or not, I don’t remember—her fireplace glowed, as did those in Uncle Hedden’s family’s “front” room—and one in the kitchen fireplace in the ell that had been added at the back of the old house. But the fire in Grandma’s front room fireplace was too lively, and the chimney soot caught fire. Talk about fast action! Buckets of water were poured down the chimney from the roof by all the men present. Their quick action enabled them to put out the soot fire and save the house.
Then came the nighttime task of bedding all the children present (Uncle Hedden’s who lived there and visiting cousins from far and near). Quilt pallets were made on the floor, for there were not nearly enough beds to take care of the crowd gathered at Grandma’s house. We cousins talked and told stories, warned frequently by the adults that it was time to be quiet and go to sleep. With such excitement in the air—and especially that of the near-disaster of a chimney fire—how hard it was to relax and sleep.
Christmas is made dear by building memories. Perhaps even now you can think of many memories from you own Christmases that will bring joy to you as you recall them. From childhood to my young adulthood there were many highlights. One was Christmas, 1949, December 23, when my husband and I had a near-Christmas wedding. Then there were our years of ministry together, he as pastor and later director of missions, and I as a teacher. Such Christmases as we enjoyed in the communities where we lived and worked could make a book-length tome of truth stranger than fiction. This year marks our sixty-first anniversary, a life together of many joys and sorrows as well. But nothing has accrued on the side of sorrows that we have not had the grace and strength to bear, even now in his long illness.
And so it is with life. If we keep the joy of Christmas in our hearts all year long, we will anticipate the best. If we remember the best parts, we will have a garden blooming in December, even in the cold and snow. Someone has aptly stated, “God gave us memories so we can have roses in December.”
Add to good memories that cheer the heart the spirit of giving and gratitude for gifts which can be solid fabrics for warming every day of the year. And with these thoughts active and alive, we can have Christmas all year long!
c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 23, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.