Holding On to Christmas

The twelves days of Christmas have passed, and retailers have quickly moved on to Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (April 1). Only a tiny offering of discounted broken and picked over Christmas merchandise remains. As I was removing our lighted nativity set from the front yard yesterday, a neighbor called out, “Leave it till next year.” By the end of the day, though, our block was devoid of lawn decorations with just a few wreaths and window candles remaining. Another dead Christmas tree had been dragged to the curb. Any day now, our city’s festively illuminated downtown  will return to blocks lit by functional street lights alone.

Owners of artificial Christmas trees have been making hard decisions about when to store away their seasonal living room centerpieces. Ours was disassembled and boxed over almost two weeks ago. I’ve been gradually carrying decorations up to the guest room closet, while strategically leaving some in place: the “winter” village that we both love, the whimsical reindeer plates that look so nice with my wallpaper, and the little evergreen tree, now trimmed with Valentines.

In late November, I was reluctant to rush into the season, while in mid January, I’m happily holding on to the holidays. A friend who is still enjoying her Christmas tree was glad to find some decorations in my home today. With the exception of folks who leave trimmings up all year, most of us will soon be ready to move unencumbered toward spring.

Seasonal norms aside, we can still focus on the Christmas experience as more than decorations and delicacies. I smile as I turn on remaining lights, remembering rushing around the house to get them all plugged in before son Kyle arrived on December 21. Seeing those reindeer plates reminds me of the sweet Saturday morning before Christmas when our sons and daughter-in-law each chose a plate for our brunch of S’mores Pancakes* and bacon. And, while we’ve removed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby from our yard, a small nativity set still graces our dining room, bringing to mind the blessing of being back in my childhood church on Christmas Eve, holding my lit candle and singing Silent Night alongside all of my siblings.

December 24 was a snowy night at Emmanuel U.C.C.

The carols have ceased, gifts are being used, and homes are returning to their everyday look. Still, I wonder if the spirit of the season can remain.  I’ve noticed folks at our mall continuing to be friendlier, at least for now. Sadly, we seem to slip back into our more self-absorbed state as the new year grows older, not taking the time to visit friends or to reach out into our communities as often. January newspapers contain pleas from local help agencies that see a surge of goodwill dwindle after Christmas.

People who do believe in God’s gift of peace and goodwill through the coming of Jesus have a responsibility to show love for Him every day by loving our neighbors. I’m one of those people. I pray that even as the last candles are put away, His light will continue to shine through me throughout the year.

My brunch plate – Vixen

*To make S’mores Pancakes, after pouring your pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over each pancake. Turn and finish cooking. Remove when cooked and spread some marshmallow cream on the graham cracker side of a pancake. Then place about 8 milk chocolate chips on top and cover with another hot pancake with graham cracker side down for melted goodness.

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Memorable Memorials

It was a little strange pulling into the empty parking lot of Toland-Herzig Funeral Home and Famous Endings Museum and then walking in to do some sightseeing.  Some on-line searching for attractions in Dover, Ohio, had unearthed the museum where John Herzig displays his extensive and fascinating collection of funeral memorabilia. My husband and I were planning an anniversary get-away and I thought he would like the historical aspect of Famous Endings.  Dave and I were both amazed by the memorial that honors “those who have touched our lives”, including actors, astronauts, presidents, inventors, singers and writers.  Some honorees died centuries ago and many during our lifetime.  Mr. Herzig keeps the display up-to-date, already having photos of Justice Scalia and Mary Tyler Moore included.  We gave the very tasteful Famous Endings Museum two thumbs up while realizing that some would find entering a funeral home as a tourist difficult to even consider. (I may have been more tentative to go inside had a family been gathered to say good-bye to a loved one in another part of the building.)

Just a couple of weeks ago, Dave and I attended the memorable memorial service for a quiet man who touched our lives.  He was not famous or wealthy.  He was constrained to a wheel chair during the decades that we knew him.  We only saw him during family celebrations such as birthday and graduation parties.  His funeral lasted less than thirty minutes, but his legacy was evident as his grandsons spoke of the impact he made on their lives.  His physical limitations sparked creativity resulting in little inventions that helped him take care of himself and his family.  Every person who spoke of him, including his pastor, marveled at how he handled the difficulties of his life without complaining and was quick to help anyone in need.

The only music played during his service accented the hope of Heaven and the appreciation for a simple country life.  The uplifting message that his pastor shared with the roomful of grieving family members and friends is one that I won’t soon forget.

After relating that the last words spoken by this man who died on February 15 were “I love you”, the pastor presented the message of John 3:16 as a Valentine from God. He then described three ways that God loves us.

  1. God loves us as a father.  Stating that he was not raised by his biological father, but by his step-dad, the pastor recognized that we do not choose our parents and that it can be difficult for some to relate to God as a father.
  2. God loves us as a spouse or companion.  While a comforting thought to many, this idea can also be tainted by the difficulties that some experience in marriage.
  3. God loves us as a friend.  He chose to show his love for the world by reaching down through his only son, Jesus, and we can enter the friendship by reaching up in faith.  In this one way, we can have eternal life with God.

During his message, the pastor shared a famous ending, telling of Joe DiMaggio’s love for Marilyn Monroe.  Their marriage was short, but DiMaggio was a friend until the end and handled Marilyn’s funeral arrangements. During the years that followed, he saw that fresh roses were placed on her crypt two times a week.

Finally, the pastor stated that God expresses His love for each of us in the same way, seeing that beautiful wildflowers bloom each spring to remind us of how much we are loved.

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