As a child, Christmas was a time of tradition. In the weeks prior to Christmas, my family attended the Christmas Cantata at church, visited the giant Christmas tree and lights on 5th St. and went shopping at the El Camino Real mall. At the Christmas Eve service, we would listen to Pastor Joe read the story of Jesus’ birth and then head home to open our Christmas pajamas. After dinner we gathered around the TV to watch the Nutcracker and eat decorated cookies for dessert. We were excited to go to bed so that Santa would come!
Christmas morning started early with opening gifts from my parents, and stock-ings from Santa. The toe of the stocking was always filled with a giant naval or-ange. We then rushed off to Grandma’s house close by for breakfast and more gifts with the cousins. The kids opened their presents first and then my cousin Christie and I played “Santa” for the adults, delivering them their gifts. Christmas evening, we were back at my house with my dad’s side of the family. In many ways it was like a Norman Rock- well Christmas; or at least that’s how I remember it.
As an adult, and a Navy wife, the idea of Christmas traditions has taken on a new meaning. I remember moving into our sixth house, just days before Christmas and thinking, “where in the world will we put a tree… but at least my husband will be home.” His birthday is Christmas Eve so after going to church, we always watch his favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.
One year in North Carolina we spent Christmas Eve with an electrician who stayed until midnight, ensuring that we would have an oven on Christmas Day. Another year, while my husband was in Iraq, I packed up the kids and spent Christmas in California with my recently widowed mom. We maintained traditions like going to Candy Cane Lane and drinking hot chocolate while putting lights on the house, but truly the sweetest part is just getting to be together, whether in person or via Skype. What an amazing thing that now we can see and talk with each other from across the world!
I’ve come to realize that my childhood Christmas experience was probably not the norm. A Norman Rockwell Christmas is nice but there is something precious about experiencing hard things that cause you to focus on what really matters.
Jesus came, born in a stable amidst animals and hay. While this may have not been Mary’s ideal place to give birth, I have a feeling that her surroundings faded when she saw her newborn baby. My prayer today is that God will open our eyes to the beauty of what he has in store. It may not be what we expect, but if we are open, it will be the most precious gift.
Women’s Ministries Director