I could see Holy Hill, the highest point in our part of the state, from my bedroom window at the farm. It was like a beacon when surrounded by the setting sun. At Christmas time, I would lie in bed and look out at it, searching for Santa’s sleigh—my eyes devouring the black curtain of a sky filled with glittering stars. One time, I convinced myself that a string of light was actually him on his sleigh and on his way.
On Christmas Eve, my family would exchange the gifts my brothers, sister and I got for each other and our parents. We had a $5.00 limit. We’d shop at Grants at Ruby Isle, a strip mall that went up a couple miles from our house. Then we would have dinner before the Candlelight service at church and afterwards, set out cookies for Santa and sent to bed. But we wouldn’t sleep.
I can still remember those feelings of anticipation and excitement. I think now about all the traditions surrounding Christmas and long to keep them alive. Though traditions remain, feelings change.
The brilliance of the lights, the sparkle of the ornaments, the angelic sounds of the music all pay homage to the Holy One. It’s so easy to lose sight of that in the midst of things and though the decorations are merry and bright, our hearts may not be.
This past week, I woke up in the night wanting to recapture the way I felt about Christmas as a child and was unable to fall back to sleep. I was hungry for the spirit of Christmas that would run deep into my own spirit. I Googled the Real Meaning of Christmas to see what the Internet was saying about it and found what I was looking for—that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. To celebrate Him is to celebrate Life, Love and Forgiveness which leads to Joy and Peace in our hearts regardless of what’s going on around us. When we say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays—which is pointing to the Holy day of Christ’s birth—that’s what we’re celebrating.
I want to make the cookies my mom made because the tastes remind me of my childhood and that time of great anticipation. I have saved some of the shiny but discolored glass ornament balls from the farm and still hang them because I remember my excitement when they came out of the attic. I will place one of my mom’s taped together Christmas Carol books on the piano because I want my heart to rejoice at the memory of the sound of her music and our voices singing as she played from it. But it’s so easy to focus on traditions and memories, get sentimental and then miss the real thing.
The baby lay in a manger—there were no quilts or a bed, there were no cookies. The cattle were lowing—there was no piano music. There was hay and the smell of animals, no ornaments or scent of pine. He came as Hope for a wounded world and this is how he entered into it. He is the Hope for wounded hearts if we let him in. We don’t need all the rest.
Mr. Kiekhever, who owned the farm we grew up on, hoped to one day build a house on the 10 acres where our farm house sat because you could see Holy Hill from it. He passed away before that happened and Mrs. Kiekhever never went ahead with the plan. Mom and Dad eventually bought the property and the farm house still sits there. I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Kiekhever saw Holy Hill as a reminder of Holiness, as a symbol of Hope and that’s why he wanted the view. We need reminders.
I’m not sure I’ll have time to make the cookies I really wanted to make this year in memory of Mom. I don’t know if I’ll get around to writing cards to those I love.Though our tree is up that may be the extent of my decorating. But I will take time to let Jesus fill my heart with his Love and Light—flowing in to be poured out for others. And once again, I will remember the true meaning of Christmas.
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.
Revered John Henry Hopkins