Christmas was Mom's favorite holiday, and she outdid herself every year. Traffic bottlenecked in front of the house as people slowed to admire the twinkling extravaganza gracing our yard. That was just a prelude to the inside decorations we enjoyed each year.
It started with the tree. Mom had several themes she chose from annually: color-coordinated compositions, such as silver and blue, or mauve and burgundy; a Victorian ensemble, complete with her hand-crocheted ornaments; or a child's paradise with Disney characters dangling from each branch, Santa climbing a ladder perched on the side of the tree, and a toy train endlessly making its way around the tree's base. The tree topper was always an angel - one that shimmered and glowed with luminescent wings.
The mantelpiece sported stockings stuffed with delightful surprises. There was a lighted ceramic village inhabited by porcelain figure skaters on a mirrored pond, which was nestled amidst high snow banks - actually a fluffy white sheet. Garlands accented with candy canes and mistletoe hung over every doorway.
The top of the television set - a big, decorative floor model - was always reserved for the nativity scene. The snow-white figurines depicted the birth of Jesus inside a handmade wooden stable covered with clear twinkling lights - stars - that enveloped the whole scene in a holy glow. From beneath this reverent scene, traditional holiday favorites played: White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Dickens' Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life.
If these surroundings didn't fill you with the warmth and joy of the season, the tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchen would coax you from your neutrality. Homemade fudge and freshly baked cookies were always available for your munching pleasure, along with a tempting assortment of ribbon candy or mixed nuts waiting to be freed from their shells.
Mom did it all for us - and to celebrate Him. It would be meaningless if we weren't there to share it. She told us often enough. That's why my sister and I and our families traveled home year after year to spend Christmas with Mom and Dad. It was tradition, the family heritage our parents had sown into our hearts.
The year 2000 began as any other, but took a sad twist right before Christmas. The cancer Mom had been battling claimed her life in November, and we were left to celebrate the holidays without her.
We could imagine Mom: "Don't you dare be sad for me! I'm up here with my Jesus. You'd better be celebrating His birthday!"
Dazed and grieving, we carried on, with as much joy as we could muster. A single strand of lights outlined the roof, instead of her annual extravaganza. Though no one stopped to admire our handiwork, we knew we had tried. The tree twinkled merrily in the corner, even with its haphazard array of mismatched ornaments. Our dogs sported Christmas collars with jingle bells. We even baked cookies and tried to chuckle while sharing the usual family anecdotes. But something was missing. Our acute loss dimmed the sparkle in our holidays and in our hearts.
Only the nativity scene seemed unchanged by Mom's absence. It occupied its customary place on top of the TV. Of all her holiday treasures, this had been Mom's favorite. The birth of Christ was the 'reason for the season' and the source of her joy and celebration of life.
I gazed absently at the manger scene, missing Mom, and contemplating the faith she and I shared. I thought about the letter she left me when she died. One particular part tugged at my heart: "Thanks so much for helping me come closer to God. I know it was He that brought us closer. Please help your dad and your sister. They too will find the Lord. I will always be watching over you and your family. Until later, I love you. Mom." Suddenly everything became crystal clear. Though I missed her, I knew I would see her again.
Lord, I prayed, forgive me for my blindness. Let this Christmas be one of many seeds planted in my dad's and my sister's lives that will eventually lead them to the harvest of salvation, to lives given to You. Help me to sow seeds of hope, faith, and love into their hearts, that they too might know they will see Mom again.
Renewed by His grace and filled with fresh vision, I broke from my reverie. I had work to do, seeds to sow, and a birthday to celebrate!
Knowing both the freedom of surrender and the pain of resistance, Cheri desires to bring God's hope to others suffering in life's deserts. She and husband Wayne have been blessed with four children and three grandchildren. Contact Cheri at firstname.lastname@example.org