Who doesn’t love Christmas and the memories it brings?
As you think of your favorite Christmas, what makes it memorable for you? Was it where you spent it, who you spent it with, or the gift you received? Maybe it was unforgettable because of the gift you gave to someone special.
My Favorite Christmas
My favorite Christmas was the time I put my name on every gift under the tree. I have a large family with five sisters, plus my mom and dad. My aunt and uncle came over on Christmas Eve to stay the night with us. While everyone was busy preparing for Christmas Day, I sat on the floor by the Christmas tree with wrapping paper, scissors, and a pen, making new gift tags with my name on each one. I added those to every gift under the tree. The next morning, while my uncle handed out the gifts, the pile in front of me grew larger and larger as I got most of them. The expressions on everyone’s faces were priceless. My mom knew something was not right and as she looked around the room, her eyes stopped on me. I confessed my deed, and she gave the packages, unopened, to their rightful owners. We all laughed, and my family still reminds me of that Christmas. It is a fun memory for us all.
God’s Favorite Christmas
Have you ever thought about God’s favorite Christmas?
Which parts do you think He most fondly remembers?
God created us to have fellowship with Him. But sin penetrated His perfect world and separated us from Him. We could no longer experience life with God, only death without Him. Alone. Heaven must have been lonely with only the Godhead and a mere myriad of angels, and not one human being in sight. He wanted us to live with Him in His home.
God knew the Way to make that happen.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (ESV)
The Father entrusted a young girl with His only Son—a human-carrying deity. She wasn’t the richest or the most experienced or even married. But Mary loved God, and she was the perfect mother for His Son. Even knowing His people would threaten His Son’s life before He was two; God sent Jesus to be born and laid in a manger of hay in the company of sheep and shepherds. Imagine how proud He must have been on that day and how bittersweet it was when Heaven became even lonelier.
The Angel’s Favorite Christmas
God watched as the angels rejoiced in His perfect plan. Their instructions were to proclaim the good news to the lonesome shepherds in a field guarding their sheep that night. God didn’t tell the wealthy or the well-known. Instead, He sent His angels to the shepherds, the ones who protected their sheep and looked for the lost lamb.
They would understand His King.
How the Father must have loved the expression on their faces when His angels ignited the dark sky! I imagine His eagerness for them to behold His Gift.
God looked forward to the day His Son returned Home ushering men, women, and children to live with Him forever. Yet, how grievous the sting God felt knowing what Jesus must endure so He could welcome us into Heaven.
God’s Favorite Gift
God put His name on His present, too—Immanuel, God with us.
All He wants is for us to accept His gift. Don’t leave this precious One unopened. God’s favorite Christmas is the most unforgettable because of Who He gave us.
I have another guest post this week by Sandy Scarboro. Sandy is also a contributor to Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families. She is mother to Miles and Grace, and a retired English teacher turned writer. Thank you, Sandy, for your thoughtful and relevant post on Christmas. We all need Hope!
Why do we Love Christmas?
People love Christmas–for Christians, it is the ultimate gift of Hope.
We all notice how it seems to come a bit earlier each year. The White House turkey pardon and the arrival ceremony of the grand presidential Christmas tree happened on the same day this year.
According to www.statista.com, the average American spends almost a thousand dollars on Christmas expenses. They report most shoppers begin hunting for the perfect gift in October. This site also claims 85% of Americans plan to celebrate Christmas and these merrymakers include “an increasing number of non-Christians”.
Some radio stations play Christmas tunes soon after Thanksgiving. Christmas decorations and parades are everywhere. And let’s not forget the Hallmark channel’s stocking full of sugarplum-sweet movies of love and really good hair. Finding love during the season of carols and mistletoe is even more thrilling than usual.
Why do we love Christmas time so much? Oh, let me count the ways. Presents. Who doesn’t love receiving a surprise, bought with love and wrapped in colorful paper topped with a bow? We love the food and the chance to overeat with others and for it to be okay. Because today is Christmas. Christmas grants everyone a respite from work or school. We get to use this time off to travel and see our family. The season offers us a fun intermission into our mundane lives.
Christmas Expectations and the Gift of Hope
I believe another reason the Yuletide season is so loved is that there is an underlying feeling of hope. If I decorate every room in the house, we’ll have a grand Christmas. We put our aspirations in gifts, ones given, and ones received. The diamond necklace will make my wife love me more. If I get a blender, I’ll make smoothies every day and lose weight. This party will be the best one I’ve given, and people will talk about it for years. If I attend my boss’s party, I may meet someone who can help me in my career. When I march in the parade, my picture will be all over social media. I just know my boyfriend will propose and give me a ring.
Every year Christmas comes and goes, leaving our bank accounts slimmer, our waistlines bigger and our homes overstuffed with stuff. The Christmas blues have come to town. We’ve spent months planning for the special day and now it’s over. In a 2015 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “64% of people report experiencing the post-holiday blues.” I feel it’s even higher in today’s post- covid, politically divided world.
The Gift of Hope at Christmas
The hope and joy of Christmas are real, but it doesn’t come in a gift bag. Christmas is a birthday, and we should celebrate it by singing, having parties, and presents. It is the birthday of hope. God sent his son Jesus, the ultimate gift, to live and die as a man. Jesus’s death paved the road for our eternal life. You can’t buy that at Walmart. This is where our hope lies, not in the painful, difficult life on earth, but in the anticipation of heaven.
Before retiring from teaching, I spent several years teaching fifth grade in a Christian school. We were doing a unit about heaven as a new girl enrolled in my class. Unlike most of the other students who had grown up in the church, it soon became apparent this girl had almost no knowledge of God, the Bible, and Jesus. For example, I asked the class to turn to John 14:2. She raised her hand and asked, “What page is that on?”. The other students gasped. Yes, a gasp of sheer unbelief.
A few days later, we were continuing our study of heaven. I noticed she was exceptionally quiet. I discussed biblical descriptions of heaven. She jumped out of her seat and said, “I want to go to heaven. How do I get there?” I spoke to her about confessing your sins and believing in Jesus. She later spoke to the pastor as well. It was pure, childlike faith combined with hope.
Two years ago, God gave me the chance to experience Christmas in a very different way. I was suffering from diverticulitis (infection in the colon). I had surgery and stayed in the hospital for three weeks. Between the infection, lack of food, and recovery from the surgery, I felt awful. Surely, I’d be out in time for Christmas. But every day the doctors would say, “a few more days”. It was during COVID, so no visitors could come. It was not a holly, jolly time.
I learned a lot about selfless love during that hospital stay. My older sister had organized my friends and family into what my father would call a platoon ready for battle. It’s her superpower. I’m divorced and my daughter, seventeen, still lived at home. My son, Miles, was home from college for his Christmas break. Why did I need a fighting platoon? My daughter, Grace, is autistic and needs constant supervision. Between my family and Grace’s regular staff workers, the days were covered, however, we needed someone to stay with her at night. Miles stepped up to the task. Most evenings were uneventful. My mom would bring over food for supper. Miles would give Grace her medication, spend some time with her, brush her teeth, and tuck her in at night. He only complained once. A few days before they released me Miles called my hospital room. “Hey, mom. I hope you’re feeling better and I’m not rushing you, but when do you think you might come home?”
Love and Kindness at Christmas
He seemed relieved when I told him only another day or two. I asked how things were going. He said everything was going smoothly. But apparently the night before, Grace had an issue with going to the toilet. Her stomach was upset and afterward, Miles said our bathroom looked like a crime scene. He was the only one there to clean it up. And he did.
A less foul-smelling memory occurred a few days earlier. I was so tired of the hospital and missing all my people. I turned on the camera in Grace’s room just in time to catch Miles tucking her in. He read her a book, said prayers with her, and covered her with her favorite blanket. It was such a touching moment.
The nurses in the hospital also showed me compassion and brought as much cheer to my room as they could. I understand they were doing their job, but several of them did more than they had to and did it with such a loving spirit. One young nurse stands out in my mind. After weeks of lying down, your hair gets matted. She helped me get a bath, washed my hair, and then braided it into a French braid. Yes, it looked better, but I felt like a new person. Other nurses told me about their Christmas plans and about the world outside the hospital. They made me laugh. Some even prayed with me.
My church family also came together. They started a meal chain, which lasted for weeks. Even when I wasn’t home or still could not eat, the food was manna from heaven. Miles, my mother, Grace, and the caregivers had wonderful meals. Made with love.
Christmas is all about selfless love and hope. This year, as you prepare to celebrate the birthday of the King, our gift of hope, remember to share that love and kindness with someone who isn’t expecting it and maybe doesn’t deserve it. God did.
Sandy Scarboro is the mother of two extraordinary people. She retired after twenty-eight years of teaching English to middle schoolers. Retirement has given her time to devote to writing. She’s contributed articles to the newspaper and local magazines. Sandy self-published a Christian romance, “Cotton Candy Sky” and a Bible devotional for teen girls called, “Two are Better Than One”. She is currently working on another Christian romance entitled “Waiting for the Sunset” and a women’s devotional called “Life Lessons “. Sandy enjoys walking and exploring local, historical places. Sandy is a member of Serious Writer and she’s currently looking for a new group of aspiring authors to create a new writing group.
Today’s blog post is by Theresa Pierce. Theresa is a contributor to our book Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families, where Theresa writes about living with her brother.
My favorite Christmas memory was being part of a living nativity scene at Spilman Baptist Church in Kinston, North Carolina. The living nativity of Spilman Baptist Church was epic! Everyone in town rode slowly by and many families filled the churchyard to take a closer look. That is what they told us, but to tell you the truth, I was always in the spotlight and could not see the record crowds. Every year, for as long as I could remember, I was an angel, literally.
An Angel in the Living Nativity
I was an angel next to Mary, the mother of Jesus. One year, I remember trying not to laugh as the donkey kept trying to eat my momma’s scarf while my dad swatted his efforts. They tried not to laugh. Eventually, they promoted me to the roof, where we crawled precarious ladders to position ourselves as angels who appeared to hover over the lowly manger. When the Halleluiah melody belted out, it was our angelic responsibility to raise our arms for the entire chorus. It felt like an eternity. Our arms ached, but we did not dare to let them drop. We took our duty seriously. Even our Sunday School teachers reminded us that our ministry mattered. And it did!
I was fortunate to grow up across the street from the church, what I believe to be divine intervention. My best friend and I got to watch the church men build the nativity set from the ground up. We watched farmers deliver sheep and a live donkey. I must admit there was slight disdain on our part because the portrayal of Christ’s birth took up the space where we usually played kickball for two weeks. We were children with limited space for our daily play. I know God understood our childlike innocence.
We worked in thirty-minute shifts as angels and shepherds. When our hands felt like they might freeze, we changed places with opposing actors. Just when our hands thawed, they offered us hot chocolate and cookies. The chocolate burned our tongues, but the marshmallows had to be eaten before they lost their foam. We traded burned tongues for frozen hands for about three hours and loved every minute of it.
I vividly remember how the wise men rotated bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds knelt with their sheep. My big brother wore a bathrobe and headdress. The manger was in the spotlight, and I remember worshipping in my own childlike way. “And He shall reign forever and ever.” At such an impressionable age, it was a privilege to portray one of the angels who witnessed the birth of Jesus.
Theresa Parker Pierce lives in Historic Salisbury, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has thirty-five years of experience teaching reading and history. She has a Master’s degree in education and is National Board-certified. two-time Rowan Salisbury Teacher of the Year, Theresa enjoys storytelling about her childhood in eastern North Carolina and the history of life in Rowan County.
Her manuscript, Up Dunn’s Mountain, won first place for Young Adult Literature at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in 2020. The sequel, Miss Clairmont’s Christmas, won third place for Novellas in 2022. Most recently, her poem Mrs. Claus Bakes was published in Christmas Spirit. The sales of this collection will benefit Samaritan’s Purse.
Theresa is a member of Word Weavers International, Blue Ridge Christian Writers, Room at the Table, and the 540 Club. She writes monthly for Senior Savvy magazine. She shares her volunteer time between the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer and the Rowan Museum in Salisbury.
Today’s post is from my friend Cherrilynn Bisbano. She is part of my weekly Christmas posts. Her story is precious and amazing. It is truly a story of God’s love for us–working through a child. Please enjoy her story!
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.
“Your son saved my life,” my friend whispered to me after the church service.
A few days earlier we were at a Christmas Dinner together and my then eight-year-old son ran to her and gave her a big hug. Bonnie welcomed his interruption. I was curious why he clung to my friend because he did not hug strangers. Bonnie held tight. I deduced it was because I was standing with her and, after all, it was Christmas.
“What do you mean, my son saved your life?” I touched her arm.
My friend shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Remember the party when your son ran hugged me?”
“Yes. Is that the first time you met him?”
Placing her hand on top of the table to steady herself, she shared.
“Yes, that was the first time. My life is horrible—my daughter and grandchildren don’t want me around for Christmas, and I am devastated. I was seriously thinking of ending it all. When your son hugged me, I felt the love of Jesus. I knew I would be OK. He truly saved my life”
I was speechless. We hugged, cried, and parted ways.
While driving home, I asked my son if he had met my friend before.
“No mommy, I like her; she is nice.”
“So, Michael, why did you run to hug her? I know you don’t hug people unless you know them?”
“Oh Mommy, God told me to do it!”
Tears of joy wet my cheeks as I praised God for my son’s courage.
The angel Gabriel interrupted Mary’s wedding preparation. He told her not to fear. He proclaimed she would conceive the Messiah.
“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”
Luke 1:30 NASB
She revealed courage when she declared,
“Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”
She did not question the angel about the consequences of her holy pregnancy. The results could have lifelong ramifications if no one believed her. Her marriage could end, and people would have labeled her an adulterer and a liar.
Bravery led Mary on a spectacular journey.
God calls us to be courageous. The word in the original language is: ‘amats confirm, be courageous of good courage, steadfastly minded, to prevail.
I learned from my son that listening to God and believing is life-changing.
What is God calling you to do today?
Meet Cherrilynn Bisbano
Cherrilynn is an award-winning writer, speaker, and coach. She loves encouraging her brothers and sister to stand firm and shine for Jesus. She is an expert in Book Proposals and memoirs. Her book Shine Don’t Whine is helping many women overcome fear, anxiety, perfectionism, and worry. She considers it an honor to be published twice in Chicken Soup for the Soul-; Award-winning books, Kiss Guilt GoodBye, Heart Reno, Breaking the Chains, and Get to the Margins Author’s
Anthology. She is a monthly contributor to Arise Daily Devotions, Blue Ridge Writers Blog, and VineWords.net.
Cherrilynn proudly served in the military for twenty years, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. She lives with her seventeen-year-old son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 23 years, Michael, Sr. She loves Christ, chocolate, coffee, and cats.
For the month of December, you will see more posts than usual in your email. This month I wanted to celebrate Christ’s birth by getting some friends to share a story or posts this month.
I have six guest posts for the month of December. I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I did.
This week’s post is from Sharon Beth Brani. She writes a beautiful story of adoption–after many years of waiting for a child, she gets a Christmas miracle. Please enjoy her story.
I spun the globe as I sat on the living room rug. “Where do you want to go?” the social worker had asked.
The question puzzled me. Where? After many, many years of longing to hold my own sweet-smelling baby, it almost seemed foolish to think about. A broken marriage and, along with it, dashed dreams of that happy family. Where? That wasn’t the question. It was more if God would choose to bless me. Up till now, the answer had been no.
“Lord, I’m willing to go anywhere,” I whispered aloud. With that, the adoption wheels rolled and now I was sitting in a small room upstairs in the Russian orphanage with three other couples. Waiting. Longing. Simply.
The clock ticked slowly on this Christmas Eve.
My thoughts wandered back to my family in the states. I knew they were praying for me as I completed the adoption of my 6-month-old daughter. The tension was great. We waited for the signal to quietly get our little ones and slip them out of the orphanage into the frigid cold—waiting to catch the overnight train back to Moscow—waiting to get everything completed so we could bring our children home.
On this Christmas Eve many years ago, the waiting was painful—the longing even more so. Would disappointment win again?
The clock ticked slowly, and I watched as the hands moved to 11:00 pm. When would they give the signal? Would this be the Christmas I’d remember for always?
Many years ago, Jesus was born into this dark and hurting world. He came. Quietly. Simply. While the world slept, all the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest.” The long waiting was over — Hope was fulfilled.
Many years ago, Jesus was born into this dark and hurting world. He came. Quietly. Simply. While the world slept, all the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest.” The long waiting was over — Hope was fulfilled. #ThisSideofHeaven #SharonBethBrani #LongExpectedHopeFulfilled
I rubbed my hands together and caught the anxious eyes of another mom-to-be. We were all tense.
Suddenly, the door opened, and the Russian facilitator gave a simple nod. My heart jumped.
Joseph knew when it was time. He never forgot it.
Mary knew and leaned in with all her trust in her Lord.
And I knew.
I followed the others up the darkened steps to the baby room. Then the nurse stepped out into the hall and put the warm, sleepy body of my baby girl in my arms. Quickly, I removed her Russian clothes and dressed her in a new pink traveling outfit. Wrapping her in a soft pink blanket, I picked her up and walked down the hallway to the door. The door that led to life. And love. And a whole new world.
The cold hit my face as I carefully walked down the steps into the night. And my heart kept saying, “Thank you, God. Thank you for this amazing gift. Glory to God.”
Suddenly, the wonder of what was happening filled my soul, and I glanced heavenward. It seemed at that moment as if I was all alone with God. Snowflakes circled me and pure joy overcame my soul.
Then I heard the softest sound that seemed like music. I listened carefully as more snowflakes fell around me. Then I heard it again. It seemed like the sound of angels singing. Once more, God had broken into the darkness, giving hope. A hope that would forevermore change not only my life but the lives of many around the world. My heart overflowed and still does with the wonder of His faithfulness and forever love.
Meet Sharon Beth Brani
Sharon Brani is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia, a Board Certified Coach, an educator, published freelance writer, and speaker whose life is committed to helping people discover the way life is meant to be.
She gets excited teaching people how to develop a greater sense of purpose, peace, and passion in their lives.
Sharon is the mother of two daughters whom she adopted from Russia. As a nurturer, she is well equipped to coach parents at every stage of the adoption process. Her personal experience as a single parent as well as her career as a teacher for over twenty years gives her a rich foundation from which to counsel, coach, and consult.