I love the Christmas season from the first day to the last. I love it during hard times and good times and I love it no matter who I'm with or where I'm at.
Yesterday I had a doctor's appointment and afterwards we had to stop in a couple stores to get some supplies for my many Christmas "projects". When we came out of the last store it had got dark and the many lights, the busy-ness of the shoppers, seeing store windows with the colors and decorations of Christmas all gave me a contented and excited feeling at the same time as we drove down the city streets.
I have several books I get out at Christmas time and scan just to get myself into the mood and spirit of the season. One book helps me to get my devotional life in place, another gets me in the mood to bake, create and open my home.
Christmas time takes me down memory lane and brings back warm memories. I can go back to my grandmother's cozy living room and remember the smells of Christmas dinner, the warmth of her kitchen, the tastes of her food. The sweet memories of her at Christmas help to shape the grandmother I want to be to my grandchildren and the memories I want them to have of me.
I can go back to when my children were little and during an especially frugal year the fun we had making a happy birthday cake for Jesus and eating chocolate cake with hot Tang (an orange drink) by the light of the Christmas tree with my babies. I was so concerned about only having Tang (which was given to me) to serve with the chocolate cake and the next year they wanted the same thing, and the next and the next. Tang and cake became a Christmas memory and tradition for them!
Christmas means hours spent at my sewing machine making little aprons, cowboy costumes, pirate costumes, tiny dresses, doll furniture and the list goes on and on. This year's list includes a Union soldiers costume, a Roy Rogers cowboy shirt, a little girls very fancy dress-up dress (with lots of tulle), a military outfit, and a brand new superhero invented by my grandson Caleb named Sylvester man! That one required Caleb's art sent to his grandma so I knew what Sylvester man looked like!
Christmas means the cupboard decorated, the village set out on the buffet, all the nutcrackers standing at attention on the dry sink, and the nativity in the living room ready to move.
Our nutcrackers have been known to attack and kill mice more then once. This began after we watched the Nutcracker on a cartoon and our son Asher was convinced that we needed them to catch the mouse that we had been after for about a week in our kitchen. Sure enough the night that he put the nutcrackers on patrol by the kitchen cabinet the mouse was killed and found dead at their feet. Isn't that amazing? Our son John sets the trap every year now just in case a mouse is lurking in the cabinet.
As for the nativity it is my favorite part of Christmas at the Neal's. It all began with a book given to one of the children that opens out and forms the stable. One at a time nativity figures were added. First Mary and then Joseph and then the baby in his manger.
Now we have shepherds in their fields with little campfires that actually flicker, and we have wise men on the other side of the living room far, far away from Bethlehem.
Along with that, the children and I built Mary and Joseph a house in Nazareth which is on one side of the living room with Bethlehem on top of the piano.
Tonight, Mary and Joseph have had a decree left on their door which states that they have been commanded to pay taxes in Bethlehem. The Roman soldier is standing outside their door.
In a few days they will take their little burro who patiently waits outside and put a blanket roll on him and each morning they move just a little further across the living room. At long last they end up in Bethlehem. And of course, on Christmas Eve the baby appears in the manger.
Within a few days of Christmas the wise men end up with all the others. (Although I know that doesn't follow the Bible I put everything away before they would actually appear!)
We also have a pocket calendar at our house hanging in the hallway that has treats in it every morning up to the 25th. The kids never get to old to check the pocket calendar each morning to see what's in it. It might be a candy bar, a pack of gum, a new mechanical pencil, or all their battery operated toys lined up down the hall with batteries put in them!
Isn't Christmas wonderful! And yes, at our house we have the stress of it too.
We have the weeks we don't know how we're going to make it financially, we have the late night sewing, we have the lights that don't work, the time when one more batch of cookies to make is almost revolting but when I see the look on the children's faces, or get a letter from my daughter saying how sweet the memories of Christmas are all that is quickly forgotten and I know it's worth it.
So pour your heart and soul into making this month a month to let people know how much you love them and to put your silly deer antlers on (like I did today!), play the jolly music, tell the Lord how thankful you are He was born and celebrate His birth all month long!