As Christmas approaches I find myself reminiscing, reliving the joys of Christmases past.
Several memories come to mind – family gatherings, candlelight Christmas Eve services, and the excitement of a long-awaited gift. Special though such memories are, tonight my mind is drawn to something else, to the bittersweet poignancy of a Christmas more than two decades ago.
Thinking about it now it all comes rushing back and it's nearly as real as it was then. Brenda and I are just "kids" – she's twenty and I'm a year older – serving our first church. It's a small fellowship, numbering less than thirty members, located in the farming community of Holly, Colorado, in the southeast corner of the state. It has been a lean year and financially things are tight for us.
If the truth be known, we are flat broke and there isn't a way in the world we can afford gifts for those we love.
We try to encourage each other. She reminds me that we are blessed with loving families and caring friends. Agreeing, I add that no one has a right to complain who has a roof over his head and food enough to eat.
Still, in-spite-of our brave assurances, self-pity seeps into our spirits, especially mine. More and more I find myself succumbing to lengthy periods of self-pity. I hate it, but I seem powerless to do anything about it.
Moping around the house I nearly drive Brenda to despair.
Finally, she takes matters into her own hands and on a bright sunlit morning three days before Christmas she announces,
"We may not be able to afford to buy gifts, but we can make them."
Though I attempt to talk her out of such madness, citing my artistic ineptitude, there is no reasoning with her. Her mind is made up, and in a few minutes we are bundled up and in the car.
As I drive, hunched behind the wheel like a youthful Scrooge, she ignores me and with childlike excitement describes the arrangement she intends to make for her parents from spray painted wild flowers and driftwood.
"And what," I ask sullenly, trying to bait her into an argument, "am I supposed to make my folks?"
Refusing to take the bait, she continues her Christmas monologue with unabashed enthusiasm. By the time we reach the river bottom south of town I am beginning to warm up to the idea myself. Maybe I'll make my folks a TV lamp. If I use parts salvaged from a discarded lamp left by a previous pastor it will cost almost nothing.
Parking the car we step into a dazzling world of winter beauty. December frost has coated every branch and thistle with a brilliance that glitters and dances against the blue of the sky. Even the unsightly strands of rusting barbwire have been transformed into a thing of beauty.
Frost coated yellow grass crunches beneath our feet as we set out in search of raw materials from which to create a Christmas like none we've ever had before.
Brenda heads downriver while I turn upstream in search of the perfect piece of driftwood. We split up, not because we're angry, at least not any more, but because we can cover more ground this way. From time to time we call to each other and clouds of vapor accompany our shouted words.
After a couple of hours we return to the car to sort our booty. Brenda has gathered spiky Russian thistles, milkweed pods and an assortment of dried flowers that we can't identify. My contribution is a collection of driftwood.
Once our materials are safely packed away she extracts a thermos of hot chocolate from the back seat. As we munch on Christmas cookies, the bright December sun washes the last of the frost from the river bottom leaving it a dull brown. It does nothing, however, to dampen our rejuvenated spirits. As we drive home I find myself thinking that it is finally starting to feel like Christmas.
Back at the parsonage we set up shop on the kitchen table.
Using a variety of supplies left over from her crafts, Brenda creates a dried-flower arrangement of rustic beauty. After cannibalizing the discarded lamp from the cellar, I use the salvaged parts and a driftwood stump to make my folks a TV lamp, which sits in their bedroom still.
Somehow we manage to make it home for Christmas and in the company of family and friends our poverty is soon forgotten. It returns momentarily when it is time to open gifts and we wait with fearful pride for our parents to make over our handiwork. They do not disappoint us.
In truth, they seemed to cherish these homemade gifts above the more expensive store-bought ones of later years.
Nearly thirty-five years have passed since that fateful Christmas and we have had many opportunities to exchange gifts. On occasion they have been rather extravagant, at least by our modest standards. Still, when I think of the joy of giving, it is to that homemade Christmas that my thoughts return. Perhaps it's because love has a way of turning ordinary things into treasures of the heart, and that's what Christmas is all about.
This is Richard Exley wishing you and yours a blessed and joyous Christmas; straight from the heart.
Richard Exley Ministry
PO Box 54744
Tulsa, OK 74155
This article is used by permission From Richard Exley. Visit his website today!