An Intentional Christmas – Part 1
About a month ago I was dreaming up a collaborative piece to share with you during Advent season. I asked three Christian women I admire to share with us how they keep Christmas in their families intentional. I admit, I’m the first person to get distracted by shiny baubles and glittery garlands. But, distraction is so often what steals my joy this time of year. I busy myself with seemingly important, but inconsequential things. Pretty soon the Advent season has come and gone, all the packages are unwrapped and I feel a little unraveled. Like I missed it, again.
I’ve seen all three of these women’s faith in action. I’ve experienced it in the most wonderful of ways. Ways in which their humble service for Christ is not splashy or for show. It’s quiet. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but it is always there, and it is needed all the same.
Each of these women are at different places in their lives, but their hearts shine for Jesus with the same light. Steady, unwavering, rays of love, faith and service.
My plan is to share each of them with you this week. One today, one tomorrow and finally Friday. I hope you are as inspired as I am by these ladies to seek out the peace and joy in the season that can only be found in preparing him room. And, I hope you find a new tradition or two that will bring meaning to your family for years to come.
Today it is my pleasure to welcome my sweet friend Jenny Nice to Finding Joy & Sharing Beauty.
My husband and I have 3 children – Melissa, Alex and Rachel. One year when they were young, St. Charles, our church, gave out Advent wreaths. I purchased a set of candles and started what I hoped would become a tradition for years to come.
As an intentional way to slow things down after school or at the supper table, each child had a part…ringing a bell, reading the message or snuffing out the candles during Advent. And so we began to prepare our hearts for Christmas.
The first Monday night in December, Burlington Memorial Hospital hosts their Love Light Tree Lighting ceremony. The different color lights are in honor or memory of loved ones. My brother has been on that tree for 24 years, my dad for 4. A good friend, cousins, aunts and uncles have also had lights over the years. When the kids were small, we’d bundle up and go to the hospital for a short prayer service and listen to local choirs sing Christmas songs. And then the big moment…the trees were lit! A collective “aahhhh” was heard. Then voices blend…“Silent Night, Holy Night.” With rosy cheeks from the cold, we’d shuffle inside to the cafeteria and sip cocoa or cider and enjoy homemade cookies and bars baked by the women of the Hospital Auxiliary.
The second week of December, we’d take a trip to Stein’s. With the advanced reminder of “just look, don’t touch,” we’d walk through a ‘forest’ of trees, large and small, white lights and colored lights, trimmed with decorations of all kinds. Saving the best for last…the nativities! Some simple – just the Holy Family. Some with animals, shepherds, kings and angels. Some made of wood or metal or porcelain or glass. One set lovelier than the last! I’d find myself humming, “Away in a manger no crib for a bed, …”
Christmas Eve, when our children were young, we attended Christmas in the Barn at the Squire Family Farm. Here, the Nativity is recreated every half hour with different families participating in full costume. One year, I was Mary, my husband was Joseph. Melissa was an angel, Alex a king and 2-month-old Rachel the baby. There were always real animals – a donkey and sheep. Everyone sat shoulder to shoulder on hay bales. The Gospel is read: “This shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Together we sang, “Oh, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant…”
Christmas Eve back at home was a simple supper of soup, sometimes chicken noodle or chili or my grandma’s green bean soup. Cheese and crackers, sliced apples or clementines rounded out the meal. Each child opened a small gift from us. Then my husband would hide the ‘pickle’ ornament on the tree. The child that found it would open a ‘family gift,’ usually a game or movie, one year the promise of a puppy in the spring! Next, PJs on – the really soft fleece ones with feet. And we’d watch The Little Drummer Boy…” Come, they told me pa-rumpa-pa-pum. I played my best for Him pa-rumpa-pa-pum…” Time for tucking in and goodnight kisses.
Early risers Christmas morning, so excited to discover what Santa Claus left for them. But first…Jesus is gently placed between Mary and Joseph, completing the Nativity that sits on the table in the living room. As a family, we sing “Happy Birthday.” And one more song before the gifts are opened, “Joy To the World!”
Melissa is now 24, Alex 21, Rachel 18. We still light our Advent wreath and try to slow things down. I continue to attend the tree lighting at the hospital, now with my mom and mother-in-law. I seek out nativities, whether displayed in front yards or churches, catalog pages or store shelves. Christmas Eve is evening mass, followed by a simple supper and a game or two with my family. And Christmas Day, though a bit less boisterous now, will always be full of joy!