A Favorite Christmas

A Favorite Christmas

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.

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15. (ESV)

The Gift of Hope

The Gift of Hope

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.

Selfless Love

     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.

About Sandy:

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.

Living Nativity

Living Nativity

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!

Divine Intervention

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.

About Theresa:

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.

How I came to know the Messiah

How I came to know the Messiah

My guest today is Dr. Phil Gigliotti. He is a retired medical doctor, teacher, speaker, and lover of the Messiah. He teaches the Jewishness of Scripture online at the Messianic LAMB Network as well as https://giftofgrace.podbean.com/. He also has class at Calvary Chapel of Cleveland. #OneinMessiah

We had a wonderful conversation about Phil’s amazing redemption story, and how the Lord led him to a Messianic congregation as a Gentile, and we talked a lot about Scripture. You won’t want to miss it!

The Albino Turkey

The Albino Turkey

Today’s special Thanksgiving post is by Eric and Joy McPherson. They are contributors to my and co-author, Starr Ayers’, recent book, Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families. Eric and Joy live in Mid-Michigan and love spending time with their family. They are the parents of two children and a very animated puppy named Ike, who has inspired many light-hearted tales.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

           In my attempt at family bonding, I like to bring crafting projects, yummy treats, and table decorations to my parent’s holiday parties. It doesn’t happen at every get-together, although I try to incorporate it into our yearly festivities.

You see, I lived away from my family for many years, and those holiday seasons brought me an indescribable amount of sadness. When I moved back home, I changed my focus and tried something different during the holiday season — doing table projects.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Craft

Last year was no exception; I spent a good part of thanksgiving week researching the perfect craft project. I perused Pinterest diligently, creating a Thanksgiving board of perfection with all of my top choices for the year’s family holiday crafting projects. There were so many to choose from, and with my son, Eli having autism, this was becoming quite a challenge. He has a limited attention span and it was important to me that everyone at the table enjoyed their time together.

Finally, after hours of contemplation, my husband Eric and I decided we would all color turkey hats together. This was a good idea, of course. I convinced myself everyone would just love it and participate. At the end of the day, we could take a picture of our masterpieces and each other; this was a win, win in my book!

As I reflect on this Thanksgiving day, I love to think about how much fun we all had making those silly turkey hats. Sharing our colored markers and pencils across the long table, helping Grandpa put his hat on correctly. Taking pictures of everyone smiling, laughing, and having fun.

The Albino Turkey

I’m giggling now as I think about my brother Jim and my nephew Sam on this day. They would not color their turkey hats! Telling me their turkeys were special because they were ALBINO TURKEYS—ones that couldn’t be colored.

 It makes me laugh to this day how unique and hilarious the two of them were. They joined forces to remind me how special an albino turkey was, how rare it was to find one, and how being different is not only ok, it’s beautiful. Tears come to my eyes even now as I think about how much those two taught me on my journey toward celebrating and giving thanks for everything. 

This Thanksgiving

This year, Thanksgiving will be at my parent’s house. I looked for a craft on Pinterest this weekend, searching diligently for that eye-catching idea to make a memory last a lifetime.

Things are different this year, as we lost Jim in February.

With an unbearable loss, I only know to reach out to the Lord and hold on to his word. I grasp onto it and repeat it as it sinks into the depths of my troubled heart. I’m reminded of the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 about giving thanks in all circumstances.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to give thanks, especially now when my heart hurts. But remembering God’s promises gives me the strength to walk in faith and try to put one foot in front of the other. Believe me, this is not easy, but all things are possible with God.

So, this year, I’ve decided to do something unique and something a little of the same for our Thanksgiving crafting tradition at the table. I will put those crayons and markers out, and I’ll pull out some paper, and we will see what happens. As we all found last year, an albino turkey is rare and special. This is just beautiful.

You can purchase Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families here.