Christmas songs from the radio filled the silence as we drove along enveloped in darkness only broken by headlights of sparse oncoming traffic on the four-lane highway and the occasional red brake lights of vehicles far ahead of us.
Last night on our way back home after accomplishing some Christmas shopping at a nearby mall, we were tired and ready to call it a night. Traveling along a blank stretch of highway from the more populated area to our rural place, there wasn’t much to see.
Cloud cover even obscured the brightness of the moon and its supporting cast of shining stars. Suddenly, ahead of us a burst of brilliance filled the dark firmament then left a trail of luminescence downward toward the ground.
We both exclaimed, “Did you see THAT?” at the same time.
A falling star. A shooting star. A radiant spot of brightness in an otherwise dull and mundane night. Despite the song emanating from the radio – that “just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too” – my mind immediately launched into an old Perry Como song from the ‘50’s.
“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away.”
Back once more in our own reveries, I mulled over what I had just witnessed. Catch a falling star. Catch a falling star. Put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day. The lyrics to that song kept playing in my mind drowning out the secular Christmas songs still coming from the car radio.
And I thought of that one star. That star unlike any other. The one that suddenly appeared in the sky over 2000 years ago to show that something remarkable had occurred. Something that would totally change our world. The birth of a baby boy named Jesus. That boy who became Savior, God in the flesh of mankind: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:14-15 (NIV)
And I pondered how fitting that I should see this shooting star to remind me what Christmas is really about, celebrating the birth of my Savior – the Messiah, Emmanuel, the long-awaited One. The very One we sing about during this Advent season in “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
One shooting star blazing across the night sky reminded me of all of this.
Yes, I’ll catch a falling star and put it in my pocket to keep. And then every time I get caught up in the Christmas madness of shopping for gifts and decorating, of Christmas dinner menus and seasonal songs about everything but Jesus, of tinsel and mistletoe, of sleigh bells and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I’ll pull that star out of my pocket to remind me of the true meaning of Christmas and I won’t let it fade away.
“Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.” ~Lucinda Franks
Here at Mama’s Empty Nest,
we all wish every one of our family, friends, and blog readers
a most blessed Merry Christmas
from our house to yours!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” ~Charles Dickens
It happens every year in December. Once Thanksgiving gets pushed out of the way by the onset of Christmas songs non-stop on the radio, we start hauling out the holly, lights, and tinsel, and the Christmas season gets launched at Mama’s Empty Nest.
And just like clockwork, I commence remembering past Christmases. What is it about this holiday celebration that elicits so much nostalgia? My birthdays don’t produce such a foray into the past. I don’t reminisce about Easter or the Fourth of July or any other holiday quite as much as I do Christmas.
Thoughts of Christmas always take me back. To my childhood. To remembrances of family now gone, my parents and grandparents. To my childhood home. To memories of decorating the Christmas tree, or getting that one special present, or riding in the back seat of the car bundled up in hat, mittens, and scarf exclaiming oohs and aahs while our family observed brightly colored Christmas lights decorating houses in our area.
Christmas invokes remembrances of the hustle and bustle of downtown Christmas shopping when the air was brisk and my breath made visible vapor and my parents’ arms were loaded with Christmas packages to take home and wrap.
It reminds me of home baked aromas of goodness filling the house and the scent of pine in the living room from the real Christmas fir tree. I close my eyes and remember how it sounded to hear bells jingling outside your house and how my heart seemed to skip a beat at the prospect of Santa and his reindeer up on the rooftop.
I can envision the old-fashioned glass Christmas ornaments placed on the tree, the tinsel and shiny icicles hanging from the boughs. Christmas time meant carols played and sung at the upright piano. It meant worshiping the new born King at church services. It meant ribbon candy, and candy canes, and a sweet smelling orange at the bottom of my Christmas stocking.
Augusta E. Rundel wrote, “Christmas… that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”
Yes, that’s it. I’m spellbound by Christmas, engulfed in the enchantment of nostalgia. The Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit me, but he never allows the other ghostly visages from A Christmas Carol the opportunity to show themselves.
Here in our little town, a stately Federal style house built in 1842 serves as home for our county’s historical museum/genealogy society.
A weekend Christmas Open House at this house enticed my sense of old fashioned sentimentality enough to want to take a tour and the opportunity to get a glimpse of Christmas from yesteryear.
Each room of the house sported a different Christmas tree and decorations, many of them vintage, sprucing up the antiques and relics on display.
It was a nostalgic wonderland, a trip down memory lane. My husband, being the history and military buff that he is, enjoyed the “military room” immensely.
I loved the parlor with its antique organ, piano, and furnishings bedecked with old fashioned Christmas decorations; the sewing room with its display of hand-made antique quilts; and the kitchen with its homey and familiar cooking utensils from the past all festooned with yesterday’s Christmas flair.
Each room of the house caused my mind to wander with memories of my parents and grandparents. In the kitchen, tin cookie cutters decorating the tree were exactly like those my mother used to bake Christmas cookies. Vintage Christmas greeting cards festooned a pine garland and reminded me of my grandmother as did the old sewing machine and kitchen utensils.
As we departed the house and stepped back into the 21st century, climbed in our car, checked our cell phones for texts or missed calls, and drove back home, I pondered.
What will our children remember about Christmas? Will they wax nostalgic for the traditions and special memories their dad and I tried to create for them? Or will it just be another holiday like so many others?
Each December as they ready their homes for Christmas, will they remember and relive special memories of us and growing up in Mama’s Empty Nest?
Only time will tell.
Pull into a crowded parking lot at the nearest Wal-Mart or whatever store you frequent, cruise the lot for an empty spot, jump out of the car with your long list of must-haves to join the throng of Christmas shoppers.
On the way inside the store, you hear the familiar ringing of a bell and you spy the volunteer bell-ringer with the Salvation Army kettle. You’re in a hurry, but you reach in your pocket or wallet or purse and dig out whatever you can find – some change or a couple of bucks. Throw it in the kettle, accept the “thank you, Merry Christmas” and scurry on your way.
You walk inside your house of worship. There’s an “angel tree” in the foyer. Gift tags with the only identifying items such as “3-yr-old girl wants a baby doll, wears size 4T clothing.” You choose a tag, purchase a few items, and send those off to be distributed to the child in need.
Your civic group participates in Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse. You dutifully find shoe boxes, shop for small toys and school supplies, soap and toothpaste, and cram the boxes full and write a check so the boxes might be shipped to the other side of the world into a child’s eager hands in time for Christmas.
Your favorite hair salon/doctor/grocery store sponsors a food drive to replenish a food pantry and another local business holds a winter coat drive. You pack up some canned goods, drop them off. You rummage in the front hall closet and dig out those still good but unwanted winter coats and donate them.
You might even take your kids for the day to volunteer distributing bags of groceries with Christmas dinner items packed inside to families in need of food.
And you call this charity. You call this good will. You call this helping those in need. You call it whatever you want to call it because it makes you feel like you’ve done something to help. Something to serve. Something.
And this something proves easy when you do this once a year.
It’s Christmas. We think about those who go without during this holiday season and it’s easy to open our hearts and our wallets or check books. Because isn’t that what we should do? Isn’t that what makes us feel like we’re spreading Christmas cheer? Or isn’t that what makes us feel good?
Yes. Yes. And yes. But…..you ask yourself…why do you only perform these good deeds at Christmas time? Where is your generosity the rest of the year?
And what would happen if you actually gave all through the year? In March. Or August. Or every month of the year.
What if you provided a summer picnic to a needy family? What if you purchased a fan to cool off a summer’s day for someone who can’t afford one?
What if you donated food staples to the food pantry all year long because really, are people only going hungry at Christmas time?
What if you helped a child, one who needs food, clothing, school supplies, and a little toy to bring a smile to his or her face, for 12 months or 12 years?
What if you gave your time to spend it with someone who is lonely? Someone who is hurting, someone who is grieving?
What if you prayed every day for God to help those who desperately need Him in their lives and to use you in any way He sees fit to teach them about His saving grace?
What if you focused on the feelings of those in need instead of focusing on your own good feeling when you give?
What if you opened your heart every day of the year and not just once a year in December?
Wouldn’t that be something?