It had been a very different year for our family. With the holidays in full swing, my spirit sagged under the weight of the extremely difficult and unique circumstances our family had endured. While I’d never created a Norman Rockwell Christmas, I had always enjoyed decking the halls with simple decorations, shopping for gifts, and serving traditional Christmas fare. We celebrated with our extended families, sharing long held traditions we experienced as children with our boys. But one Christmas will always be remembered as our “It’s Not a Wonderful Life” Christmas. Once a Christmas-y wife and mom during Christmases past, I felt more like The Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge. Bah humbug! Thankfully, the four of us did something so simple, yet very meaningful one night during Christmas week of 1994.
We dressed for the wintry temperature, packed some campfire goodies and headed to our camp in the forest. Daddy carried a lantern and led us down the winding trail to a clearing surrounded by towering oak trees. Up above, the stars shined so brightly as if the Creator had tossed sparkling diamonds on the black velvet sky just for us. One star seemed unusually bright this night as we pondered that miraculous event 2,000 years ago.
“O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining…”
Daddy built a roaring campfire perfect for roasting wieners and marshmallows. The boys, ages 6 and 9, loved spending time at the camp and listened intently as Daddy shared The Christmas Story.
“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”
We sang Christmas carols as we hiked back to the house.
“Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright”.
With the boys tucked snuggly in their beds, I reflected on our woodsy experience. No tinsel and festive decorations; no glitzy party dress; no fancy food at a swanky venue; but a wonderful Christmas memory of all that really matters.
Faith. Our faith in God’s promise He will never leave us or forsake us, sustained us through a most troublesome year.
Family. Our marriage suffered from the stress, but our commitment to God, to each other, and to our children prevailed. Our extended family provided hands-on support. Our church family offered encouragement and prayer.
Fun. Spending time together as a family is so much fun! Sadly our culture dictates if we are not running to-and-fro spending time and money we don’t have, then we are not “having” Christmas. Through our woodsy Christmas night I recalled simpler Christmases of my childhood and was reminded we don’t need constant entertainment and stimulation to have fun as a family, or to celebrate Christ’s birthday.
Because of the pandemic, we live with a new normal in all areas of our lives. Many families have endured dramatic losses, with losses of loved ones being the greatest. Some have experienced loss of personal financial security. Some have lost meaningful relationships. Such changes bring overwhelming sorrow and stress, anxiety and depression. These feelings intensify around the holidays when we are bombarded by unpleasant memories of previous Christmases, our own unrealistic expectations, or through social media and entertainment by scenes of others making merry in grand style. Consider the Hallmark Channel!
“Peace on the earth, good will to men, From heavn’n’s all gracious King”
As I prepare for this year’s holy season, my prayer is my focus will be on the Nativity, not how many presents are under the tree; that fostering healthy relationships will supersede fretting over the menu; that creating a warm and inviting home for our children and grandchildren is more about the condition of our hearts and the fond memories made, than about the food served and elaborate decorations. Well, except for the star that tops the tree, pointing us to the One for whom we celebrate.
“A star, a star, dances in the night,
With a tail as big as a kite, with a tail as big as a kite.”
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! Matthew 2:10 NLT
Merry Christmas, y’all.
Freelance writer Vicki Davis hails from northwest Georgia and is a part time resident of Port St. Joe.