Friday, December 24, 2010
In the frosty mountains and on the snowy fields of Norway, there is a legend that draws children to all kinds to stables and stalls throughout the country on each Christmas Eve night. They are hoping to hear a miracle. They are waiting to hear the animals talk.
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. This was no abandoned place, but was a working stable, filled with animals of all kinds. Into these humble surroundings, encircled by the innocent creatures of God, the Savior of man came into the world.
Now according to legend, at least, Christ's birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the new-born babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave voice to the animals and immediately they began to praise God for the miracle they had just seen. This went on for several minutes and, just before the entrance of the shepherds -- who had hurried to the stable because angels had told them the Christ had been born there -- the animals again fell silent. The only humans who had heard them were Mary, Joseph and, of course, the Christ child.
The legend of the talking animals persists to this day in Scandinavia. And every Christmas Eve, wide-eyed children creep into stables just before midnight to hear the animals praise God for the wondrous birth of His Son. Of course, adults scoff at this. "Old wives tales," they grump. "Those children should be home in bed, not out in the cold waiting for the family cow to preach a sermon."
But the children know -- or at least believe -- that animals really do praise God at midnight every Christmas Eve. And who of us -- those who believe in an all-powerful God -- can say that it really doesn't happen?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I find that the past year and the event of my Fifth Season of turning 60 (a few weeks ago) has found its way into many nostalgic thoughts. They bring to mind memories of Christmas past, quite long ago now, and the season's reason. One lovely memory that I quite often reflect on is a simple one. Nothing profound, nothing super outstanding but touches my heart deeply.
I remember one December afternoon after school (high school ... many years ago ... ok, we're talking about 43 plus years ago) and my girlfriend and I walked downtown to do some Christmas shopping. Did you catch that - we walked! How far? I would say a few miles. We did that then, didn't think much of it. Pounding the pavement, most generally, that's how we got around. The main thoroughfare, of course appropriately named Broadway, was where the department stores were; the main shopping district ... Sears and Robuck, Fishmans, Woolworths - the original five and dime, lots of small shops, two movie theaters, restaurants. The street was decorated with lighted garland strung across the street at each lamppost or pole, a wreath on each side, for the entire length of the street. A few years ago the city started decorating again but not to the degree of earlier days. It was so festive, so beautiful, so Christmas.
A few doors before Sears and Robuck was Texas Weiners. I don't think there's a person for miles around that didn't know Texas Weiners. They has the most amazing hot dogs and chilli sauce. As soon as you hit downtown the aroma of that sauce was in the air. You could not go shopping without stopping for a weiner ... the scent filling the cold air just sucked one right in. It was all part of the holiday, it was part of our Christmas. One thing I do not remember is what purchases we made, there must have been something because gift shopping was what we were doing, but that's not what I remember.
I remember the crisp, chill of the air, the twilight and then the darkness coming making the Christmas lights so bright and bold and cheery. I remember the bell of the Santa at the corner and people stopping to chat with him. I remember hearing over and over again the words "Merry Christmas" ... in the stores, on the street. The hustle, the bustle, the chatter among the shoppers. I remember being able to walk the streets, just the two of us and there was no fear.
We walked back up Broadway almost as far as we had come down to where my father worked. It had begun snowing as we started back. It was almost magical, the waterglobe like snow, the lights, the sounds of the season. It was like a scene out of a movie. It was a long time ago, a time that was quieter, a time where two highschool girls without a care in the world but to notice the beauty of the season and not knowing then that some day those moments would so reflect the blessings of Christmas.