(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2014.)
It happened while I was trimming the tree.
I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it.
Each one brings back memories. The ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years. The ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes. The antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home. And the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.
I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task.
The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle.
And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss.
I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor. Okay, no problem. But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”
Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor. Oh, not this one! This one was irreplaceable.
It was a clear glass ball with a likeness of the face of Jesus inside. This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree. This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.
Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought. Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?
But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament.
Broken. Jesus. He was broken.
And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us. He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you. Broken for me. Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.
Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind. That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body. And to do that to remember Him.
“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV
Just last week, I read a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”
Yes! That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.
So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior. I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us.
But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken.
I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.
And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.
Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.” ~ Vance Havner
“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.