I woke early this morning, memories of past Christmas mornings causing me to expect to hear the sound of our sons talking in low whispers as they pick through their Christmas stockings. Instead I hear the silence that comes with the gentle rise and fall of my wife sleeping, and not a peep from the living room that sits beyond the closed bedroom door.
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Yes, I know it is for many (or at least we say that) – but for me it really is. But even with all of the anticipation, I’m still a purist and want to wait for the season to arrive for things like not playing actual Christmas music or wanting to see Christmas commercials on TV until after the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And yes, it bugs me that the big stores put their Christmas stuff out before Halloween these days, when you used to wonder why you’d see it just before Thanksgiving! But this year I’ll have to admit that I was ready very early for the joy that comes with Christmas – and I broke a few of my rules when it came to those traditions. I’m chalking it up on such a long political season that just put such a damper on the country, added to working a ton of overtime to make things work. Whatever the reason, I was eager to experience that Christmas “magic” earlier than normal.
Even with my strictness about most things surrounding Christmas, one thing you’ll hear from me throughout the year is Christmas carols! Well, not me SINGING them, but WHISTLING them. There is just something fun about whistling a Christmas carol! I don’t know if its the variations in tempo or all the note changes, I’ve just always loved to whistle them and you’ll hear songs like Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls from me as much in the month of June as in December. But again, this year has been a different one… and it’s not just a tune to whistle that has gripped me – but a single phrase from the song O Holy Night that keeps ringing over and over not just in my head, but deep within my spirit.
This past weekend marked one year since my first post on this blog. At first I was writing every few days, now it seems I’m good if I get something every couple of weeks. It’s not that I don’t have stuff to write about, it’s just about finding the time – actually being disciplined to make the time to write. I think most bloggers would tell you the same thing, but my wife is actually pretty disciplined with her site – and she covers some pretty deep stuff, too.
If you’ve read my first post (or can tell by the name of my site), the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” means a lot to me. The lesson it carries is a powerful one, and even though I’ve seen it probably 50 times, I still get choked up watching as George Bailey’s eyes are opened in the end to what truly makes his life so wonderful. And since the movie does a lot of looking back over his life, I’ve been thinking back over all of the things that have happened in our lives since I started blogging last year. And of course, if George learned a lesson – I’ve got to see if I’ve learned some, too.
For as long as I can remember I have liked to watch war movies. Maybe it is because my dad served in the Air Force during WWII (he was a belly-gunner on a bomber in the Philippines) or that my oldest brother did two tours of duty as a Green Beret in Vietnam. Now, neither of them ever really talked about their experiences, but for whatever reason I’ve always been drawn to these types of movies – especially the old ones. The first battle-type of movie I remember seeing was when I was a child and my dad took another brother and I to the historic Proctor Theater in Schenectady, New York. We drove the 25 miles or so from our home in Delmar one Saturday morning to see the 1939 classic film “Gunga Din”, starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling). Maybe it was something about being in that big, old theater, or eating popcorn out of the square box instead of the typical tub… or maybe it was just the memory of sitting next to my dad as the story played out on the screen. Whatever it was, from that moment on I was hooked. Continue reading
It was 1976 and I was 6 1/2 years old that Christmas. I remember laying in bed on Christmas Eve in the top bunk as my older brother slept quietly in his bunk below. Our family had come home from the Christmas Eve service at our church a few hours before, and we had already made it through a family tradition of opening just one simple gift before going to bed. After seven kids my parents had learned that giving us that one gift was like slowly turning a pressure valve that probably gave them at least a little more sleep on Christmas morning. As I lay there it was like something out of Clement Clarke Moore’s story “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, you know with children nestled in bed and visions of sugar plumbs dancing in their heads – but for me it was toys. I was thinking about all of the stuff I had wanted and wondering what would be waiting for me under that tree. That’s when the most amazing thing happened. Continue reading
That same year (2008) that God used someone to bless us with all of those gifts that were left on our doorstep, we had another encounter that I know was from Him. To be honest I don’t remember if it was before or after the gifts arrived, but it was another surprise on those same steps – this time in the form of a young man needing help. It was about 5 o’clock or so in the evening, and we were rushing around the house getting ready to leave as we had to be at the church at 5:3o to practice for the Christmas program and we didn’t really have any time to spare. That is when the knock came at our door.
Now, you’ve got to understand that house we lived in… it’s pretty far out of town, and it was way back off the road. Nobody would just randomly select our house to stop at, which is what made the knock on our door that night so strange. Continue reading
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
Back in 1992 my wife and I were poor. Maybe not in the world’s standards, but I was only making about $11,000 a year working at the hospital evenings and going to Bible school during the day. We had a 5 year-old and a one-year-old, and we had no money for Christmas. Continue reading