“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” ~ From the Gospel of Luke
Dearest Family and Friends,
Christmas is a time of miracles! Having been raised by Christian parents, the real reason for the season was ever-present in our home and in my heart. Yet, the arrival of Christmas in the year 1955, opened my eyes to the glorious miracle of our Savior’s birth as one who sees the light of the world for the first time.
It was the Christmas of my first year at college – my first homecoming. In my mind’s eye, I can so clearly see my gloved hand on the knob, as I pushed opened the door of my parents’ house. Warmth enveloped me as I crossed the threshold for the first time as a young adult – it was a sharp contrast to the wintry Oklahoma cold outside. The door shut behind me, as my dad and mom received me into their loving arms; I was embraced by their hugs and the incredible fragrance of mom’s homemade fudge and cookies, fresh out of the oven. That feeling – those aromas – that place – all held the memories of a lifetime, yet I experienced them as if it was the very first time.
I spent the year that spanned 1955 and 1956 as a freshman at Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasaw, 120 miles from home. That was a year of noteworthy world change: Coca-Cola made its debut in cans; Elvis Presley took the music industry by storm; Polio vaccine became available to the public. And, for me, that year was a rite of passage – childhood had slipped away and I now donned the mantle of adulthood.
The significance of gift-giving changes as we grow up. Though I clearly recall many splendid details of that Christmas, I cannot remember what was inside the wrapped present for me under the tree! Perhaps, it’s because perspective is the gift of maturity. What I do remember receiving that year – and still hold dear – is friendship.
Braving the cold weather, our neighbors visited from the nearest farm, a mile and a half away. They arrived with tins full of home baked candy and treats. I can still taste the melt-in-your mouth divinity – chock full of pecans that were no doubt hand-picked and shelled to make these dollops of holiday heaven. Most significant about that memory is how I opened to a new depth of understanding about the value of community. In fact, the importance of friendship would impact my relationships for the rest of my life. Like Magi, our neighbors had arrived with treasure chests overflowing with the greatest of all human gifts, love.
“Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king? They saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” ~ From the Gospel of Matthew
Holidays don’t slow down the pace of farm life. There is comfort in knowing that some things don’t change when you leave home – so, I didn’t mutter any complaints when dad woke me before dawn to help with daily chores. I had made the trek to the barn with dad since the age of six, when I took on responsibility for milking cows. What had been mundane and routine for most of my life, was exciting and stimulating that year! As I stepped into the barn, golden sunrise appeared like angelic beams illuminating a scene reflective of the manger that held Christ on the first Christmas. Why had I not seen it before? Understanding penetrated my heart transforming our lowly barn into a symbol of God’s great love given in the form of His Son. Mary’s humanity, service and sacrifice – our Creator’s omniscience and power – can be found on a bed of hay.
Dad and mom were thankful to have extra hands to help with more than just milking. Animals needed to be fed, stalls needed to be cleaned and the lambing season arrived a little early that year, ahead of the spring. The precious new born lambs required warmth to survive the winter, so we brought them indoors. Separated from their mothers – dad, mom and I bottle fed the bleating babies. So tiny and fragile, it was heartwarming to cradle them in our arms. What a marvel to bear witness to the miracle of life! The symbolic metaphor of the moment did not escape me. With the veil of childhood lifted, I beheld anew, the Cross – the blood of the Lamb shed to wash away our sins making us white as the snow that blanketed the ground that year.
These profound and potent thoughts gripped my mind as I sat in a chair near the old coal-burning stove gazing out of the window at a white Christmas. Like a snapshot of memory, I can still see a bunny hopping over a snow drift and the trailing tracks left by a handful of birds, who must have made a detour on their southbound journey for the winter. The image of their footprints – impressed upon the pages of my mind – were a tangible reminder of His glory found in the creation of our world.
The Christmas of 1955 held the realization that God loves us so very much that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer for our sins that we may live eternally in His arms. I think the truest miracle of Christmas is bigger than the fact that a virgin gave birth to the King – instead it’s found in the fulfillment of the Father’s promise that was hung on the Cross.
Our three beloved grandchildren have now all stepped over the threshold of adulthood – all have left home, entered or graduated from college, and have begun the journey of independence and maturity. I find myself wondering how the rite of passage is shaping their hearts, minds, and souls. How incredibly blessed I feel to open the door of Stonemill each year to welcome them home.
As I sit, poised on the edge of a new year, my heart overflows with joy. I pray for you every day. I pray for your greatest happiness, deepest fulfillment, and the cover of His protection wherever you journey. I pray for you to press into your relationship with our Lord. It is my sincere belief that this singular request to know Him can fulfill everything the human heart desires.
May you have a very Merry Christmas and joy-filled New Year.
With love and God’s blessings,