This Christmas, may we each remember home, and some of the foundational attributes learned there that have made you and I who and what we are today.
I learned the important lesson of sharing with others at home at Christmastime. My early childhood was spent in the throes of the Great Depression. My farm family was hit by this 1930’s blight on the American economy, but I do not remember that we suffered immensely from its impact. We had shelter, food, clothing and the basic needs that made us comfortable enough. But through that time, I learned that one toy from Santa on Christmas morning might be the extent of my gifts, and whatever that was, whether homemade doll with clothing to change her, a checkerboard and marbles, or a homemade “fox and geese” board, these were to be shared unselfishly with siblings and cousins as we played together. Indeed, many happy hours were spent around a winter fire enjoying simple games and story times.
This concept of sharing learned as a child grew with me into later life. At Christmas we are made very aware of places to share and people to assist. We hear the ring of the Salvation Army kettle keepers, smiling in their cold posts beside stores in the mall. Their “Merry Christmas” is a reminder to help many less fortunate than we. Maybe our donation is too small in comparison to the great needs. But with gifts from many, the extent of help can be multiplied. This could be said of helping in soup kitchens and with holiday meals for the unfortunate. Taking a name from the “Angel Tree” to fulfill Christmas wishes from those depending on social services and many who assist can make someone less fortunate happy on Christmas Day.
“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” We can light a candle, figuratively, in the homes and in the lives of people and help them go home happier this Christmas by sharing through a generous heart.
Then Christmas reminds us of our reasons for giving. It was at Christmas that God “split time apart” (literally, into BC—Before Christ, and AD, Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord) and visited mankind with the greatest gift ever known, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Because God gave, we too can give with generous hearts to help others.
America is a composite of many cultures, many practices observed at Christmas. But even with the “political correctness” that would tear down our tried and true observances of this most holy season, I find it encouraging that people are finding a way to assert their allegiance to Christmas and its true meaning. From the many who came to our shores in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—yes, and even to the present day—we have the sense of “going home at Christmas.”
In our Southern colonies, settled by people from England, Ireland, Scotland and many other European countries, we have the traditions of making our homes festive and beautiful at the Christmas season. Evergreens are a silent symbol of everlasting life and giving is an active motivation from hearts of gratitude and love.
With the Moravian settlers, most from Germany, came the tradition of agape, the love feast, a time of traditional food, music, candles and gatherings to celebrate the Christ Child’s birth. These centered around going to church to celebrate the flame of love from white candles with red ribbon bands, representing purity, the Light of the World and the blood of Christ. After the candlelight service they go home or to the homes of friends to joyously partake of a bountiful meal.
And we can’t neglect the gift of music. From caroling groups moving from house to house to great massed choirs in cathedrals and churches to spontaneous singing wherever Christians are gathered, music is a gift to the world at Christmas. Stories behind the carols make the words even more meaningful as they fall gently on our ears at Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, I will be at church for the Candlelight Lord’s Supper, and as we light our candles, as many of my family members as can gather on one pew, surrounded by our friends and neighbors worshipping with us, we will be reminded that we have the light of our lives to share in a dark world. Wherever and however you celebrate Christmas this year, may you rejoice that the spirit of this holy season has found a home in your heart, lifted you to new heights and to genuine joy.
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 24, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.