Last Christmas had been a mere blip during funeral arrangements and other adjustments following my husband’s passing. This year, things were more normal, but of course, there was a seat at the table missing.
There was no Grandpa to stick a bow on his forehead during gift time, no mate to share a special dinner with after all the kids had gone off with their own families. But God…
Early in the Christmas season, despite my loss, God provided a smorgasbord of activities for me to celebrate His Son’s birth. It started with an invitation to a chorale concert at my neighbor’s church where glorious harmonies put me in the mood for the holiday ahead.
It seemed that every group I met with had something going on. A pot luck marked our ladies’ Bible Study Christmas break while a brunch and gift exchange for the leaders served as their Christmas celebration after a while.
Not too many days later, my neighbor and I slipped into the last two available seats at the back row of the church next door where we sang and listened to nostalgic seasonal organ music and returned home in good spirits.
Then one of my long-time fellow writers’ group members and I enjoyed a play portraying famous writers C.S. Lewis and Tolkien at the theatre down town. It was a true delight and inspiration.
My work parties came in two phases. The general UGM get-together featured an opportunity to wear our ugly Christmas sweaters while we munched on cookies and appetizers, sang carols and were inspired by the pastor of Sun City Church. Our Anna Ogden Hall staff gathered some days later in a South Hill restaurant for lunch and another gift exchange.
A week before Christmas, I tried in vain to find a companion to go with me to our church’s Carol Sing. I took a chance at the last minute and went alone to the much beloved and over-full event at Life Center. I feared that I would feel even more alone in the huge crowd of people, but God had that handled. In one of the few available empty spaces, I spied a friend who invited me to join her. What a hoot! Besides carols, the huge auditorium competed in sections to see who could land the most Styrofoam balls thrown into bins carried by girls running down the aisles. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” became the hit of the evening as each section took on one of the days with accompanying actions. (You can imagine how we “Lords a-leaping” appeared!) Of course, Christmas costumes sprouted out of every row. The winning sample took the form of a two-headed reveler. I went home that night brimming over with joy.
My condo neighbors assembled several days later at the clubhouse for our version of Christmas cheer. We circled the table until all our favorite seasonal cookies had been shared. I brought my melt-in-your-mouth snow balls (peanut butter and powdered sugar encrusted within white candy bark).
Christ Kitchen’s party where I volunteer featured old-fashioned fun. I passed out my crocheted ribbon corsages (which I’d just finished) and then helped serve the ladies a delicious meal. We did things like guess how many M & M’s were in a large container, played a game figuring out Christmas song titles, tried out our talents, and sang carols.
Christmas morning, became my most meaningful experience of the season. At Anna Ogden Hall, the ladies and their children sat around the Family Living Center with bags of gifts awaiting their perusal by the tree. Even though every child’s eyes kept glancing in that direction, we took time to remember the season’s reason. After advent candles were lit, I read a piece on love with scriptures. We said a prayer and then sang a few carols.
Our song leader played Christmas songs quietly on her violin as children opened their gifts with abandon, mothers directed and took pictures, and singles conversed while they compared blankets, robes and slippers. There was a plethora of generous donations to make the season delightful. Some residents were quiet, aware of the children not there, the losses, but hope of a better future.
As I gathered up wrapping paper and bows and filmed the activities for a time, I felt God’s gentle touch to let me know all these celebrations were His gift to me. Places at the table had been filled multiple times with an amazing variety of Christmas wishes and celebration. Christ is Born!
Sharing the Fruit of Maturity