Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’
Posted on December 2, 2013 - by Lorna Seilstad
What time of year is it?
Obviously, it’s Christmas, and as the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
But Christmas goes beyond the shopping sprees, the Christmas programs at school, and stories of Santa and his tiny reindeer. During the next two weeks the Inkspers want to celebrate the greatest gift every given–the birth of our savior, and we want you to step into the story with us.
Most modern theologians agree that Jesus was not actually born on December 25 because the shepherds would not be in the fields in the winter and no census would be taken during the cold season. But the date is not nearly as important as the gift of the Christ child. Have you ever wished you could have been present when Jesus entered the world? Would you have wanted to hear his first cries? Been an angel bringing the good news? Each of us are going to choose someone from the story of Christ’s birth that we’d to exchange places with if only for a moment. Join us every day in the next two weeks and take a fresh look at an age-old story.
Elizabeth spent years of being barren. I can imagine the hours she spent on her knees praying for a baby of her own. When the angel Gabrielle tells Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah that she was going to conceive and bare him a son, Zechariah didn’t believe. He was struck mute until their son was born.
Now, imagine and older mother Elizabeth, several months along, seeing the knowing smile on her husband’s face every day. If only he’d had enough faith he could have shouted for joy every time he saw her!
Elizabeth was heavy with baby John when her unwed cousin Mary came for a visit. According to Luke 1:41-45, here’s what happened. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (NIV)
If I could change places with someone from the nativity story, I’d choose Elizabeth and here’s why.
1. Custom would dictate that Elizabeth would not have been happy with the appearance of her unwed, very young cousin appearing on her doorstep. Still, Elizabeth listened to the Holy Spirit over traditions. How hard that is to do sometimes! She blesses her young cousin with her praises.
2. Baby John leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you can imagine what an eye-opening moment that had to be. Elizabeth would never have to doubt that Jesus was Lord.
3. Elizabeth is joyful for Mary. Because it had taken Elizabeth so many years to conceive, she could have been bitter. She could have looked down on Mary. Instead, she lifts her up. I imagine Mary really needed that kind of support at this point in her life. While Mary knew the truth about the child she carried, all those around her did not.
At this time, a girl who became pregnant out of wedlock would have been terrified. The whole social structure was set up for children to be born within marriage. Genealogy and ownership of children was seen as very important. Girls who became pregnant outside marriage would probably have had to leave their homes and their families.
There was the potential of being sold into slavery or of being stoned to death. She may have been married off quickly or banished from her home and village, which may have led a women to prostitution or slavery when she had no way of supporting herself.
But it is in the arms of her older cousin that Mary finds the love, affirmation and support she needs at just the right time. I’d love to be her for day.
What about you? Have you ever thought of Elizabeth’s role in the nativity story?
Posted on December 26, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
I realize that we’re supposed to write about Christmas disasters, but I can’t for the life of me think of anything that would qualify (unless I wrote about the Christmas Eve diaper disaster, but I really don’t think you want to hear about that!). Instead I’m reminded of a Christmas that could have been remembered for our loss, a Christmas that could have been weighted with sorrow, but was lifted by joy.
On December 20, 1995, my grandma passed away unexpectedly. She’d been healthy up until that point, and had recently returned from a trip to New York. Losing her was heartbreaking.
But then, on December 21, at 8:45 in the morning, my brother, Gary, and his wife Sandy got the call they’d been waiting on since the first of September, a wait that up until that point kept getting delayed: their soon-to-be adopted son was arriving from Korea that night at 10 pm. As a matter of fact, he was already on the plane!
Their five-month-old son Matthew (the name means gift of Yahweh or gift from God) was welcomed at the airport at 9:45 that evening by a slew of relatives eager to grasp onto joy. The very next day, at my grandma’s wake, many of us met little Matthew Bryant for the very first time.
We all wondered at this amazing gift from God–the author and giver of life. We marveled at His perfect timing. We all knew Grandma was in Jesus’ arms, still the sadness could have overwhelmed the holiday, if not for the gift of a child.
Matthew’s arrival turned our sorrow into joy–our mourning into celebration.
What a beautiful reminder about the real reason for celebrating Christmas.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Posted on December 25, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Over the years, we’ve had plenty of Christmas disasters:
- New potatoes that never cooked (maybe they were old?) – left like tiny bowling balls on every plate.
- A tree that had to be tied to the ceiling with dental floss.
- A dog helping herself to part of the meal – before it had been served (a few dog germs never hurt anyone…I don’t think).
There are funny memories too:
- Our five-year-old exclaiming for the camera, “My very own scissahs! (She couldn’t say her r’s very well). And a toothbwush!” Good thing her expectations were low for what was in her stocking. She’s always been a particularly grateful kid!
- Learning to open the gifts from the in-laws at the exact same time since we all received the exact same things.
- And the infamous box of Ribbon Candy that gets passed around each year to one unsuspecting person (the box is from 1982). It has appeared tucked in an old book after the gift-giver cut out the insides, arriving from China more candy dust than pieces (not one of my brother’s most stellar ideas), hidden in the bottom of a homemade reindeer planter.
But the memory that stands out the strongest for our family is the year we had to unveil “the secret.” That particularly grateful five-year-old was deathly afraid of anything in a costume. We have exactly one photo of her on Santa’s lap – the year she had just turned one. Screaming bloody murder, her bald head a deep red from the exertion. Poor thing!
She hated clowns (we found that out after attending the circus – once). Didn’t like any character in a parade approaching her. She liked dressing up but didn’t like any kind of spooky costume at Halloween. She was even leery of pumpkins once they were carved.
As we tucked her into bed one night, she shared with us that she was afraid of that man.
“What man?” we asked.
“Santa. The man that comes into our house.”
“But honey, he just comes in, leaves presents under the tree, and goes on to the next house. He won’t come into your room.”
Tears. “I don’t want a stranger in our house!”
Oops. I guess she took that stranger-danger lesson a little too much to heart. After a few days of ongoing conversation, her anxiety escalating, my husband and I decided we’d have to tell her the truth.
After her three-year-old brother was in bed, we sat down with her and prefaced our talk with the admonishment, “What we’re about to tell you, you cannot ever tell your brother. Not even when you’re mad at him. This is something only big kids get to know.” Truly a first born rule follower, she nodded very seriously and promised. So we told her the truth. Santa wasn’t real. He was just a fun way to celebrate the gift that God gave us – the real gift of Jesus. (It was a great chance to talk more about the real reason for celebrating Christmas.) We told her the presents under the tree were actually from us. Nobody would sneak into our house on Christmas Eve night. It was just her Daddy and me.
To say she was relieved was an understatement. Thrilled would be a better word. The rest of the season passed happily (while we held our breath hoping she wouldn’t spill the beans). She didn’t tell her brother that year – or anytime after that. We finally had to break it to him when he was nine!
To this day we get a chuckle out of that crisis. She’s grown into a lovely, well-adjusted twenty-six-year old married woman who still isn’t particularly fond of clowns – but at least she doesn’t run away from them anymore. We can’t wait to see if she takes her future children to see Santa or just skips that whole scene and goes right to the manger.
Blessings to you this Christmas time. What a joy to celebrate the gift of Jesus with all of you!
(By the way, that’s a photo of my friend “Santa Joe” – Joe Courtemanche, a fellow writer and member of MN-NICE and ACFW.)
Posted on December 20, 2012 - by Shari Barr
The first year I moved out of my parents’ home I was excited at the thought of decorating my little apartment for Christmas all by myself. Feeling adventurous I decided to do things the old-fashioned way. Heading back to my parents’ farm, I slipped into my old boots, grabbed my dad’s hand saw, and trudged through the snowy field in search of the perfect Christmas tree.
Unfortunately exquisitely groomed pines don’t grow in abundance in these parts. Scrappy little cedar trees do, however. (Of course I already knew this, but I thought for sure the perfect little tree would materialize just for me.)
Charlie Brown would have had a heyday that day. Me—not so much. After wandering around for about an hour, I gave up my dream of finding the perfect tree and settled on an odd-shaped little thing that would look sorta normal if turned just so-so. I dropped to my knees and realized I would have to lie on my stomach in the snow in order to reach the trunk. In case you’re not familiar with cedar trees, they’re a million times pricklier than pines and sticky with goopy tree sap too. With the needles poking my face, I slowly hacked away at the trunk until it toppled.
My anticipated simple adventure turned into a whole afternoon ordeal by the time I dragged that tree a half-mile back to the house—uphill through half a foot of snow. Mom and Dad assured me that the tree would look beautiful, so I shoved the scratchy little thing into my trunk and headed for home, determined to make this thing a feast for the eyes.
After dragging that tree up a flight of stairs into my apartment, I wondered how I would ever hold it up straight and tighten the tree stand at the same time. (I also noticed that when I’d chopped down the tree, I sawed the trunk at an angle instead of straight across. Since I was naïve, or maybe a little dense, I didn’t see this as a problem, though.) By the time I finally managed to get that tree to stand upright, I was more than a tad bit grumpy.
My mood didn’t improve any as I struggled with the strings of Christmas lights, and I wondered why I ever wanted this stupid tree anyway. Well into the evening, I felt the first hint of satisfaction as I hung the last ornament. I filled the tree stand with water and added a little green food coloring because I’d heard this would help keep the tree green longer.
Feeling proud of myself I sat on the couch and admired my little tree, all sparkly and twinkling with colored lights. By George, it turned out to be kind of cute after all.
Then it happened. The tree slowly began to lean; then it toppled over in a heap on the floor. Ornaments crashed and lights flickered. I gasped at the puddle of green water soaking into the carpet.
Racing to the kitchen I grabbed a towel, frantic that the green water would soak through the floor and drip into my landlords’ living room. I sopped it up as best I could, praying that I wouldn’t get evicted.
With the mess finally cleaned up, I realized the importance of sawing the trunk straight across, but since I had no saw to fix it, there was only one thing left to do to keep the tree upright—tie it to the plant pole. (Remember those suspension rods from the ‘80’s that reached from the floor to the ceiling?)
I never did get a phone call from my landlords about a green stain on their ceiling, and the tree stayed firmly secured to the plant pole until I took it down a few weeks later. I also never discovered whether or not green food coloring helps to keep a tree green.
After that first Christmas in my new apartment, I knew one thing for sure. I was cured of the desire to cut down my own tree ever again.
Posted on December 19, 2012 - by Rose Ross Zediker
The first few years of our marriage we had real Christmas trees. One year our son asked to put up a real Christmas tree versus our artificial tree since he’d been too young to remember having a real tree. After much debate, my husband hates stepping on dry needles imbedded in the carpeting, we purchased a five-foot tree.
The year before Mike’s Christmas gift to me was Terry Redlin collectable Christmas ornaments. Since I’d waited an entire year to use my gift, I was anxious to hang the heavy ceramic bulbs on our tree. So we carefully hung the ornaments, making sure they were securely on the tree branch.
For over a week we enjoyed that tree. Then one night when I was taking a bath I heard a loud crash, followed by heavy footsteps heading toward the bathroom door with our son shouting, “The tree fell over.”
By the time, I dried off and dressed, Mike and Jeremiah had the tree vertical and tied to the wall but three of my collector ornaments lay in pieces on the carpet. Disappointed, I began to gather up the pieces to throw away. But Mike told me to leave them and he’d clean them up.
Little did I know that he was noting which pictures were on the ornaments that broke until we drove to the mall a few days later-which seemed odd because my husband dislikes malls! However, there was a store that carried these ornaments and we were able to replace the three that broke!
We have no idea why the tree suddenly fell over after a week but that was the last real tree we ever put up. The next year, I purchased a small artificial tree that I decorate with my Redlin ornaments, and I make sure it’s in a very stable place!
PS..Once again, I couldn’t get my pictures to load…sorry!
Posted on December 18, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
I can’t really say I’ve ever had a disastrous Christmas. No candle snuffing, breaking traditions like Lorna. And since I do my best to only bring one tried and true dish to any gathering I attend, I’ve never seen a raw turkey or tried to cook one. So I thought back to our first Christmas. Not really disastrous, but funny, thanks to Oscar.
Six months worth of red gold fur with floppy ears, short legs, and a loooonnnnnggggg body. Yes, Oscar Meyer Weener was our first weenie dog. My husband brought him home shortly after we got married.
My mistake was buying tennis balls and wrapping them for Oscar. He could smell them. He waited until I was gone and unwrapped the tennis balls, knocking over the tree in the process. When I got home, there were tennis balls everywhere and three broken ornaments. I spanked our little darling, scolded him, wrapped the tennis balls up, and put them back under the tree.
But it wasn’t a one time thing. The next time I left, down went the tree and he unwrapped the tennis balls again. After the third tree incident, I took all the breakable ornaments off and put them back in storage. The next day, he didn’t knock over the tree, but opening the tennis balls became a daily thing. Each time, I scolded him, wrapped the tennis balls back up, and put them under the tree. He already had tennis balls, why couldn’t he wait?
I don’t know why I was so determined he not open them until Christmas or why I didn’t put them up somewhere he couldn’t get to them. I guess it comes down to me being a rule follower and not realizing weenie dog puppies aren’t built that way. I kept thinking he’d give up. He kept thinking I would.
With a week left until Christmas, Oscar decided maybe there were tennis balls in all the packages under the tree. Yes, he opened each one and knocked the tree over again. He didn’t knock the tree over anymore after that, but he opened the tennis balls plus two or three other gifts each day until Christmas. Eventually, I got tired of re-wrapping. As Christmas neared, the tree was looking bent and bare and the gift wrapping a little shabby as I just taped the rips closed.
One day, I was off work and home all day. We didn’t have any incidents. Until in the middle of the night, I awoke to whimpering downstairs. Oscar usually slept in his bed upstairs in our room, but he wasn’t there. I went down to check on him. I could hear him whimpering in the living room, but couldn’t find him. The tree was down, numerous presents were open with numerous tennis balls scattered about. But no Oscar.
I stood the tree up. The jacket I’d bought my dad lay underneath. Then it moved. The sleeve was packed full with a nose sticking out one end and a tail sticking out the other. The only thing I could figure was Oscar hid his ball in the jacket, then went in after it and got stuck. I. Could. Not. Get. Him. Out. I had to wake up Grant and have him pull on one end of the jacket, while I held onto Oscar.
We both folded after that night, I let Oscar have the tennis balls and he didn’t bother the presents again.
The next year, we repeated the process, minus the jacket. The year after that, Oscar grew out of his puppy hood and left the tree and the tennis balls alone.
Has anyone else had weenie dog experience? Did anyone besides me have bad seventies carpet when they first got married even though it was the eighties?
Posted on December 13, 2012 - by Regina
“Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too . . . . “
Christmas is upon us! In less than two weeks, the presents will be opened, the parties and family dinners will be attended, and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ will be celebrated!
So, if you love all things Christmas, you want to get your hands on some great Christmas reading, right? Of course! And this year, Janice Hanna (who also writes under the name Janice Thompson) has blessed us with her first Christmas-themed novel, Sleigh Belles, book 2 of her “Belles and Whistles” series.
Here’s a blurb . . . .
From Savannah to Montana…
In 1916, Southern belle Alanna Lessing travels to Montana on a mission—to rescue her older sister from the influence of suffragettes and bring her back home to Savannah where she belongs. Alanna fears that her sister, Margaret, has allowed herself to be swept away by these newfangled beliefs.
The Christmas season is drawing near, and sleigh bells are ringing among the snow-covered peaks. The charming town of Missoula begins to grow on Alanna, and so do a few of its inhabitants—particularly neighboring rancher Tanner Jacobs. Alanna takes it upon herself to turn Tanner into a true Southern gentleman. He plays along, in part because he likes being near her, and in part because he’s intrigued by her very different way of life. Will their differences bind their hearts, or forever keep them apart?
In true Janice Hanna Thompson style, romantic comedy and warm faith abounds in this fish-out-of-water tale. The author tackles a time and place infrequently visited – the wilds of Montana in the days leading up to WWI, during the suffrage movement that was growing in popularity in the Western states when it was still frowned upon in the more refined areas of the East Coast.
Can a rancher from Montana and a Southern Belle find common ground in the snowy west? Will Alanna’s traditional beliefs about the roles of women and the suffrage movement survive the winter? Can Tanner measure up to Alanna’s expectations of gentlemanly behavior – and can Alanna measure up to the expectations of a true woman of the frontier?
And do they want to measure up to the ideals of someone else, when they are each convinced that their way is the “right” way?
Hinging on all this is the question of the hour: Will Alanna succeed in convincing her sister and brother-in-law that the only place to raise their newborn child is the South, where things will be easier . . . or at least more genteel?
Read Sleigh Belles. If you want to read about a white Christmas that you probably won’t have, Montana is more than likely going to fit the bill. If you want to laugh, cry, and swoon, all in the same chapter sometimes, Sleigh Belles will definitely fit the bill.
Giveaway!!! We’re giving away one copy of Sleigh Belles this week! If you’ve commented on any of the posts from December 10-14, you’ll be in the drawing for your copy! We will contact the winner via email!
Posted on December 12, 2012 - by Brenda Anderson
My earliest memories of reading go back to a little attic playroom in my grandparent’s home. They had a wealth of books from Mike Mulligan to Ping among the dolls and Tonka trucks. And there was one Christmas story that I dearly loved: Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, written and illustrated by Robert Barry.
The story begins at Mr. Willowby’s mansion of a home. A grand tree is brought in and set up, but it’s too tall. No problem! They just snip off the top of the tree and present the top to the upstairs maid. But the tree is too big for her, and she too snips off the top and throws it away. That little tree then gets snipped by the gardener, a bear family, a fox, and a rabbit. Until finally, that teeny-weeny topper is picked up by a mouse family …
Who happen to reside in Mr. Willowby’s home.
Nothing is wasted.
Isn’t that the way it is with God? The God who knows our very thoughts, who knit us together in our mother’s womb? (Psalm 139) The very God who numbers the hairs on our head? (Matthew 29:30, Luke 12:7). No detail of our lives is unimportant. Nothing is too small. With God, nothing is thrown-away.
So when we question our worth or our gifts, remember no gift, no talent is too small. All is precious in His sight.
Or when we’re struggling through a waiting period, every moment is to be treasured …
Everything is important.
Just like the smallest tip of Mr. Willowby’s tree …
And just like those long-ago moments spent in a quiet attic.
Posted on December 11, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Christmas is a time of traditions – from certain foods to favorite carols to opening gifts in a certain order (or in a free-for-all). One of my traditions is reading my favorite Christmas books. Here are a few that are always out on our coffee table.
“The Mark of the Maker” by Tom Hegg, illustrated by Warren Hanson. This is a family favorite that follows Joseph’s journey from childhood to becoming the husband of Mary, and the father of Jesus. The illustrations are fabulous, the storyline different from most, revealing a wonderful peek into an aspect of Christmas rarely considered.
The story opens with Joseph as a teen learning carpentry from his father, Jacob. From fights with other boys to meeting Mary, Joseph learns lessons about integrity, choices, and being true to one’s calling. His journey from apprentice to master carpenter is complicated by Mary’s surprise pregnancy, a message from God, and an arduous trip to Bethlehem. It’s only there, as he lays his son, God’s Son, in a manger (that he realizes he himself built) that he learns the most important lesson of all.
“The Christmas Letters” by Bret Nicholaus (a fitting name for a Christmas author, don’t you think?). As the family gathers at Grandpa’s house to celebrate Christmas, he surprises them with a different kind of gift.
Using the letters that spell Christmas, he gives one to each person along with a personalized note explaining how that particular letter describes them and how they’ve brought joy and happiness to his life. Afterwards he pulls out the letter “J” and explains that without Jesus, there is no Christmas.
It’s a lovely idea that can be used for our own families, for small groups, for the neighbors, etc. to share how they’ve touched our life in ways as unique as they are. It just might become a family tradition!
“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” by Henry F. French. This was first written and delivered as a Christmas sermon in two voices, the author (a missionary pastor, teacher and seminary professor) and his wife. As he states in the Preface, “The Christmas celebration marks the beginning of what a Hollywood screenwriter once called ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told.’ It would have to be a pretty great story to bear telling for some 2,000 years. The story begins with God. And that is the way it should be, for all things begin and end with God. Which is another way of saying that all things – including you and me – begin and end in love. Which is just another way of saying that you and I are also central characters in this greatest of all love stories.”
This unique writing is part narrative, part story – starting with a conversation between God and the angel Gabriel. More than just “the Christmas story” as we often think of it, this little book reminds us how much we are loved by God and what lengths He will go to show us.
Whatever your traditions, I hope reading the Christmas story (in all its glorious detail) will be part of it.
Posted on December 8, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
Catherine Parker won the drawing for Shawna K. Williams’ A Hand to Hold. I appreciate Shawna for visiting with us and everyone else for stopping by.