Monday, May 21, 2007
A Brief Christmas Devotional
At our church the Ladies' Christmas Fellowship is one of the highlights of the Christmas season. We have a lovely service, festive refreshments, and an activity such as a craft or Yankee Swap. Ladies invite their friends and loved ones. It's always a really nice time, and is held usually at the beginning of December. This timing helps us all to focus on what the holiday is really all about. This past Christmas, we did somethig a bit different for a devotional. We asked three different ladies to each share a Christmas memory and to give it a spiritual application if they wished. I was one of those who shared, and so I'm going to post my devotional here. Maybe someone else would like to use this idea during the coming season. As you will see, I incorporated my Christmas memory book into this devotional.
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY
I have so many wonderful Christmas memories, both from my own childhood and from my children's growing-up years, that it was hard to think about choosing just one. Two years ago, I spent quite a bit of time thinking back on my memories of Christmas past. I did something that some of you with grown children or with grandchildren might like to consider doing, if you haven't already. I wrote down every Christmas memory I could think of and typed them up. Then I made copies of family Christmas photos and other memorabilia, and gathered up all of the recipes I use at Christmas, along with recipes my mother and grandmother used. What I ended up with was a wonderful Christmas memory book to give to each of our children and their families. (Show the book.)
In fact, when I lent my copy to my parents for them to look through, they were so taken with this book that last year I made them one of their own. Then two of my aunts saw the book and enjoyed it so much that I ended up making each of them a copy, too.
It was interesting when I really started to think about Christmas memories, how many things came back to me that I thought I had forgotten. The memory I'm about to share with you tonight, however, has stayed sharp and clear.
Before I do that, though, I should give you a little background. Christmas cookie baking was a BIG tradition for us. I had grown up in a home where lots of baking went on, especially at holiday time. My mother would be in the kitchen for days before Christmas -- not making just cookies, but yeast breads and fudge and other treats -- and she would make up goodie trays for all of our neighbors and friends. So when I had a home of my own, I very naturally carried that on. (Turn to page in book) Let me read to you from my memory book:
I had always seen my parents' holiday gifts of baked goods to friends and neighbors as a very important part of Christmas. So early on, I began doing the same sort of thing by baking dozens and dozens of cookies and then freezing them for later use on cookie trays to give away and also for our own enjoyment. I started by baking the ones I was familiar with from my own childhood, like Russian Teacakes, Molasses Crinkles, Date-Oatmeal Cookies and Chocolate Spritz. Then, gradually, I
began branching out and trying different recipes. I made a point each year of trying at least one or two different cookies. Many of these recipes would become favorites and go into the file of "must-make" cookies for each year.
When the kids were young, we always, always set aside a day to bake cut-out cookies. We didn't go the route of icing the baked cookies, but did things the easier, possibly less messy way by sprinkling on colored sugars, nonpareils, silver dragees, and the like before baking. I had these marvelously detailed red plastic cutters that produced wonderful designs. I was also fortunate to inherit some of my grandmother's aluminum cookie cutters with the faded green metal handles. For a couple of years our elderly friends Sue and Margaret would join us to make cutout cookies. I think they may have had more fun than the kids! I will never forget how Sue invariably perched on a creaky old
wooden youth chair that we had. I held my breath every time, but it never gave way.
So that gives you a little background into how much of a tradition cookie-baking was at our house. You need to know that to really appreciate the memory I'm about to share with you. (Turn to page in book)
In my book, I've titled it:
HOW THE THIRD-GRADER SAVED CHRISTMAS
(The cookie tradition part of it, anyway.)
It was a busy year. Our kids had changed schools. Sean was away at boarding school for his first year; Carrie and Joanna were at a small local Christian school. And so was I. I was working at the school as a teachers' aide. I enjoyed the work and it was great being able to be with the kids all day. But oh, it was a long day and often meant not getting home until nearly 5 p.m. I was doing well to get a meal prepared each evening -- and sometimes I would start that the minute I came in the door, still wearing hat, coat, and boots. (I did take my mittens off.)
It really looked as if no cookie baking would take place at our house that Christmas. There were going to be two disappointed little girls who had grown to love the cookie tradition. I don't know who came up with the solution in the end, but it was decided that Carrie could make all the dough and we could bake the cookies in the evenings. She was in 3rd grade and could easily read and follow a recipe. Being in an ACE curriculum, she easily finished her schoolwork each day and seldom had homework. She could do this! So we looked over the recipes and decided which ones we simply had to make. Carrie made up a batch or two of dough each evening and we would bake as many cookies as we had time to before bedtime. I have never forgotten and never will forget the sacrifice of time and effort on this little girl's part. The tradition went on! (Close book)
As I thought again about this memory, and how this little girl gave up hours of after-school play time to make sure a family tradition could go on, it reminded me of the attitude that God wants each of us to have toward one another in His family.
In this, as in all things, Jesus is our example. At this wondrous season, when we consider how Jesus left His home in glory and came to earth to be born as a Baby in a manger, we are again reminded of why He came. As the Ron Hamilton song so clearly puts it, He was "Born to Die" -- to pay for the sins of each of us. Listen to Jesus' own words in Mark 10:45 -- "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Someone has written, "Think of it! He came at His miraculous birth. He ministered throughout His life. And in His vicarious death He gave His life."
When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior from sin, then we become part of His family and are expected to live accordingly. There are many verses in God's Word that remind us we are not to live our lives selfishly, but to be willing to sacrifice our time and talents to serve God and minister to others.
Proverbs 3:27 says, "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it."
Romans 15:1 reads: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." This is so contrary to the world's thinking! But as Christians, we are not to live to please ourselves. We are here to serve God and others.
Galatians 6:10 instructs us: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." John Wesley had a saying: "Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
2 Corinthians 12:15a shows us the heart of the apostle Paul toward his fellow believers in Corinth. He wrote: "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you..." . Paul was not only willing but glad to give of himself in tireless service and sacrifice for these believers in order to help them grow and prosper spiritually. Paul's attitude can and should be our attitude as well -- not just in a burst of good will at Christmas time, but all the time!
As we conclude this special time of sharing our Christmas memories, I'd like us to think for just a moment about the special memories of another mother -- Mary, the mother of Jesus. At the end of what we refer to as the Christmas story in the book of Luke, chapter 2, we read in verse 19: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."
Yes, the Bible says that Mary “kept” the words the shepherds shared about this wondrous, miraculous night and “pondered them in her heart”.
As with all good things, the story of the Savior’s birth grew dim in the minds of people with the passing of the years. But Mary did not forget. In fact, many scholars attribute Luke’s Gospel account to Mary’s memories.
May Mary’s response be true of our lives as well! May we continue to humbly “ponder” the things of God and to respond with adoration and wonder God's unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ.