Merry Christmas! What a wonderful time of the year!! A time to fully bask in the hope, peace, joy, and love Jesus, the Christ brings. No matter what we are going through or what we have been dealing with, it is still good to know we have a loving God who sent His Son to not only show us how to live, but came to pay the penalty for our sin (John 3:16). How amazing is that?, that Jesus would give up all His glory and squeeze Himself into the tininess of a man (Philippians 2:1-18) and choose to live among us to let us know that He has experienced life with all it’s ups and downs (Hebrews 4:14-16). We have such a loving God that did not want to leave us in our sinful, lost condition, but out of His great grace, love, kindness and mercy provided for us the greatest gift ever, yes the gift of salvation, but also help as we forge through the difficulties of life.
Much like in this Christmas Story that I read at the Community Christmas Concert this past Sunday night, but here it is again for your enjoyment and possibly your encouragement and challenge as well.
A Most Unusual but Inspiring Christmas Celebration
Each year the family, extended family, and friends of Lester Archibald Tapscott would gather to exchange gifts, enjoy the reconnection of relationships, sample some great food, for Grandma Rowena TapScott or “Granny Roe” as she was called, was the best cook around and having mentored her children, all prepared the most delectable savory tasty delicacy’s you could imagine. This was a highlight of the party, along with the reading and acting out of the Christmas story as someone read it from the TapScott Family Bible.
Each year had its favorites. Like the year Uncle Lars from Sweden taught everyone to say “Gud Yule” and to try at least one bite of ‘sil’ (that’s pickled herring). Little Juan ate a whole bunch and while he was playing one of the Angels announcing the birth of Jesus, got sick all over cousin Lucy and started a hole chorus of puking Angles. Grandma Ro then took the opportunity to turn it into a lesson of how our overindulgence can make us sick and how it has an Affect on others.
Then there was the year cousin Kristine wanted to be Mary the Mother of Jesus so bad that long before the reading and reenactment of the Christmas story she would not put down the baby Jesus. She even kept a hold of Him as she lit the candles on the dinner table and some how ignited the blankets on fire and ran through the house yell, “baby Jesus is on fire”, “baby Jesus is on fire”…and jumped in the pool. Good thing this was NOT the year we had one of the newborns play the part. But Grandma Roe again turned this into a life lesson that Jesus was a man on fire, passionate to do God’s work and will and maybe we should notice and do the same.
Grandma Roe would do things like that all the time, making some life lesson out of a funny or awkward situation…like she did with food, making something so delicious out of normal ingredients
That’s part of what made that one particular Christmas so amazing. See, that Christmas the TapScott family had gone through some great difficulties; Grandpa Archie who had been a rock, started to not feel so well and just after his 85th birthday the cancer took him. Not only that, Lester’s company was struggling and he was now bringing home about half of his normal salary, uncle Lars had been in a terrible accident, cousin Lucy had gotten into drugs and no one knew where she was, Uncle Joe’s wife had had an affair, Uncle Alex’s house had been robbed, and old Auntie Thelma was a victim of identity theft. As a matter of fact, most everyone at that years Christmas celebration was not celebrating at all but more struggling through their adversities
The evening went on as usual, yet more reserved and not as much laughter except when great uncle Ormie entertained the kids with his funny faces as he rolled his bushy eyebrows and made bird whistles. Dinner was not as elaborate but still had that Grandma Roe edge. Then it was time for the reading and reenactment of the Christmas story. Everyone had their part from the shepherds to Angels to Mary and Joseph and the three wise men, but this year there was a scramble for the gifts. They used to use Grandpa’s gold watch, but that was sold to help pay the mortgage, the frankincense was expensive perfume, but no one could afford that and the myrrh was usually some spices from the kitchen. But as people where clamoring to find suitable substitutes, Grandma Roe handed each of the people playing the wise men three gifts with strict instructions to open them at the appropriate time and when it all was over to bring them and everyone into the kitchen. With questioned looks everyone obeyed because if it’s one thing you learned in this family you don’t cross Grandma Roe!
As the time came the gifts were presented and as each gift was opened. Everyone had confused and wondering looks about them, some with a few snickers and little Sammy burst out with uncontrollable laughter. For the gifts were not anything like the original; gold, frankincense, myrrh…they were carrots, eggs, and coffee beans.
Stunned at Grandma Roe’s choice and thinking maybe her sharp mind and quick wit had started to slip, the whole lot crowed into the kitchen. Grandma Roe stood by the stove at the center island of the large kitchen with three pots of boiling water. Without any words of explanation she asked for the three gifts. Each gift was placed in a separate pot. She then asked for the singing of some Christmas carols, she let the littlest one pick their favorite, it was “Silent Night”
After a few more songs Grandma Roe took the pots off the burners. She drained the water from the first pot as she asked what the harsh water had done to the carrots. Someone said it made them softer. Grandma Roe said harsh times can humble and soften us with Jesus’ help and she quoted Matthew 11:28 – 30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” She talked how Jesus humbled Himself to be a human and He wants to walk us through our trouble if we would humble ourselves and turn to come to Him.
She then took the eggs out of the water and asked what the heated environment had done to the eggs. Someone said it hardened them. Grandma Roe said difficult and intense times can strengthen us if we follow Jesus and she quoted James 1:2-3. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. She talked that Jesus knows our struggles and if we trust in Him, lean on Him, and follow after Him we will be strengthened.
Lastly she poured some the water from the pot with the coffee beans into a cup and had Lester take a sip. He said, ‘coffee’, and with a smile took another long sip.
Grandma Roe asked, “what did the adversity do with the coffee beans?”, and someone said ‘it released the flavor.” Grandma Roe said tough times like we have faced, and she took the time to list most of the trials looking lovingly at each who had been suffering as she recounted the struggle. She said God uses these times to refine us and bring out our best like a good athlete who struggles through the discipline of training, and she quoted Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. She stated that life is difficult but with Jesus’ help the adversities of life can bring out our best and help us be who God created us to be…in a right relationship with Him. She also quoted 1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
As they all stood in the silence of thought, mulling through the object lessons and words of wisdom, an unspeakable joy began to rise within each…joy of why Jesus came to this world, joy knowing that Jesus cares about them, and joy in the importance of Christmas. It was the most incredible Christmas Celebration ever.
Kristi and I do pray you will experience all the love, joy, peace, and hope Jesus our Savior and Lord can bring. May you worship Him fully this Christmas. Thank you for the privilege to serve the Lord along with you. Kristi and I love you very much and appreciate the time we share.