Christmas · My Thoughts

Do You Know Mary? Do You Know Joseph?

A young Jewish girl humbly accepted a visit from God’s angel, Gabriel, and puzzled over his message that she would be the mother of the Messiah. At first, she couldn’t fathom the idea. The Jewish world had been waiting centuries for His coming. She was a teenager and single. What a shock!

Being single, Mary questioned Gabriel about how she could give birth to a child. Patiently Gabriel explained the mystery. Her humble response echoes through the ages, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Her answer was “Yes!”

Mary’s song in response is recorded in Luke 1:46-55 and is a celebration of her commitment to do God’s will–read it out loud and celebrate her obedience.

Imagine what those nine months after an angel’s visit were like. Some sort of marriage happened. Joseph protected Mary during this time, knowing that this child she carried was special. Pregnancy outside of marriage during this time in history was scandalous!

As her time neared, they had to make a rush trip to Bethlehem from their hometown of Nazareth. Caesar Augustus required a census, and Joesph belonged to the house and line of David, so they went to Bethlehem to register Mary.

Nine months pregnant, Mary faced a 160 kilometer trip. Did she walk part of the way and ride a donkey the rest? How long did it take? In today’s world, it’s a three hour trip, but their’s had to take hours, maybe days.

Each mounting step jarred this pregnant woman. As she neared Bethlehem, the birth pangs hit. Did her water break before or after they found the manger? As they moved from inn to inn, Joseph realized there was no place to stay–the census had overloaded the small Jewish city. What to do?

Thinking outside the box, he found an empty stable and tied his tired donkey up. Gently, he lifted Mary off of its back and nestled her in a soft bed of hay. The time had arrived. He delivered his child, the Son of God, alone there in their makeshift home.

Mary trusted his judgment and knew that they would be OK. Her screams echoed through the hills. Joseph wiped sweat from her brow, praying for God’s guidance. One last scream and a new sound was added to the quiet night–the cry of a newborn baby.

Joseph wrapped his newborn son in clothe they had brought with them and placed him in the manger. God directed him on how to cut the umbilical cord and tend to Mary’s needs. His heart burst with pride–a son to carry on his business, his own son, but wait! This was God’s son! What did that mean for Joseph and Jesus?

Mary’s eyes focused on the baby, Jesus–her baby. Tears welled up in her eyes as her heart burst with joy! Her baby boy was here! She savored the serenity of the moment. Then the quiet stable changed as the twosome noticed an angel appear. The trumpet blast from the angel announcing the birth of Jesus shattered the silence. The cows and donkey in the stable woke up and joined the chorus of angels in celebrating this birth. Shepherds with their sheep drifted in the door and bowed to the newborn King. They shed tears of joy in the fulfillment of the promise! They moved aside but lingered, as three wise men laid gifts at the feet of this amazing baby. This mixture of Jew and Gentile surprised Mary and Joseph.

Mary and Joseph looked at each other in amazement and smiled–it was true! The message from Gabriel nine months ago was true! They were now the parents of the Son of God!

Copyright ©2018 Larada Horner-Miller

These are my thoughts about a familiar story–have you ever thought about what happened that night so long ago in Bethlehem? I challenge you to do so this Christmas.

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Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Are Holiday Traditions Important?

I’m a tradition-based holiday person–I love the familiar and the repetitious. As a child, our home-spun traditions centered on our family. We cut our own Christmas tree on our family ranch when we used to have lots of snow, so it was cold and messy but joyful and an adventure. I often had sap all over my hands.

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, presents were few and heartfelt. I wrote letters to Santa and dreamed about my gifts, looked at a Monkey Ward’s catalog and dog-earred pages so I could revisit it often.

I dressed up in my Christmas outfit, and we ate Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparent’s house across town. When we got to the car, often Dad forgot something and went back inside to retrieve it (later I realized that’s when Santa came!).

My grandparent’s house filled quickly with our family and my aunt and uncle’s family. Often our two great aunts from Tulsa, Oklahoma joined us and gave us $2 bills because one of them worked at a bank. The highlight of the evening was Granddad leading a parade of children from the front door to the back after he shouted, “I saw Santa Claus!”

We would return home after eating a savory dinner and opening our presents to see that Santa had visited our home, and I realized my dreams.

Christmas Day was low-keyed and filled with hours of playing with my new toys.

This scenario repeated itself most years, so you can see the deep family traditions I love.

As an adult, the magic of Santa changed, but Christmas continued to be a magical time for me with my new grown-up traditions. From my first husband, I added Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at an Episcopal church to my Christmas traditions, and church became a regular part of my celebration.

After my first husband and I divorced, Dad and Mom joined me in this tradition, and we drove to Trinidad, Colorado each Christmas Eve to the Lutheran church for Midnight Mass–some of our most memorable conversations happened on those late night 50-mile drives home.

As a middle school teacher for twenty-seven years, I put together a wild collection of holiday t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants and jewelry that I started wearing the Monday after Thanksgiving–I’m still adding to this collection today.

I love writing our Christmas letter that features what we’ve done for the year. This is my 30th year of writing this, and I enjoy the process of looking a back and summarizing the activity of the year.

I cherish baking Christmas candy and goodies because it reminds me of Mom and all the fun we had in the kitchen–I use a lot of her delicious recipes. And I love sending Christmas cards–I don’t receive that many anymore, but as I address each card, I’m flooded with memories of each person on my list, and it’s a celebration of my family and friends.

The last tradition I will share is one my Mom started in 1988. I was going to codependency treatment on December 22 and wouldn’t be home for Christmas. She put together ten Advent gifts–one to open each day before Christmas, starting on December 15th. I packed the remaining gifts to take with me to treatment but had the shock of my life. They went through my bags, opened each of the unopened gifts, thought a bag of potpourri was marijuana, and confiscated it.  Even though I lost the opportunity to open the remaining Advent gifts, I felt Mom’s presence in a special way that Christmas in those gifts.

We continued that tradition until she died, and I joined in the gift exchange and gave her little nonsensical gifts. We added Aunt Willie and Lin–they enjoyed this tradition.

For me, the various traditions have blessed me deeply and shaped me into the person I am during the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Are traditions important to you? Share your thoughts with me! I’d love to hear from you!

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Christmas · Memoirs · My Thoughts

My Hair on Fire! Oh, my God!

As a child, the Branson Community church played a big part of my life. As I remember, it was the people who loved and nurtured me that I associate with that quaint little church.

Each December, the Christmas program at the church was a big deal for our small ranching community–we anticipated it as a major part of our holiday festivities. We put on pageants, songs and plays.

For one of the productions, I was an angel–I felt heavenly for sure. Being an angel can be dangerous! Here’s what happened–safety wasn’t the focus back in the 50’s.

Historic photo of Branson Community Church


Branson Community Church


The Branson Community Church
small and quaint.
 
People that touched my life
Maynard Bowen,
Walt Graham
Ministers of God, who took the time for me.
The Loudens
The Gilstraps
The Smiths
The Warners
The Cummins
Mabel Survant
Mrs. Jamieson
 
Sunday School teachers
and family friends who let me sit with them,
singing my songs out loud
when I couldn’t even read.

Beautiful old hymns and singing.
They loved me, taught me,
and encouraged me.
A safe place to be on Sunday morning,
and a nice place to meet God.
 
Youth group on Sunday night
games and talking about God
Youth group picnic and campouts at the Gilstraps
and the annual Christmas programs.
 
One year, at the Christmas program
I was an angel
with the other young girls.
Donned in our white robes, wings, and haloes,
we walked in a straight line
carrying lit candles.
The girl behind me got too close
and caught my hair on fire!
Our teacher quickly handled the situation, and
I wasn’t burned.
The program went on.
 

Did you participate as a child in Christmas programs at your church? Any exciting happenings? Let me know.

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Christmas · family · Gratitude · Memoirs · My Thoughts · Travel

A Christmas Memory–Sad & Precious!

My sick brother cut wood to sell!

It was in the late 1960’s. My Mom, Dad, teenage brother and I arrived in Poway, California for a special Christmas celebration. My brother-in-law had recently been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and the future was bleak. This was only the second time we’d traversed to California for Christmas, and this trip had such a mixture of emotion.

As newlyweds, my sister and her new husband and two stepchildren came to Colorado a couple years before and we had a enjoyable time getting acquainted with my sister’s new family. Being from the city, the children delighted in a trip to our ranch to cut down our Christmas tree, and they enjoyed a truly country Christmas with snow.

My new brother-in-law immediately started picking on me, and we bonded deeply even though he forced me to try cranberries–I had never tried this dish before. With his humor and persistent influence, I grew to love cranberries!

My sister knitted beautiful Christmas presents!

Sunny California appeared gloomy and heavy. The festive atmosphere of Christmas felt tinged with a deep sadness and fear. My sister greeted us warmly, knitting like a crazy woman–she shared with me that all of their gifts this year were knitted.

The man we saw on arrival was a shadow of the man we met a few short years ago. The disease had ravaged his body, and he had lost so much weight, his clothes hung loose and limp on his frame.

But his spirit of love and laughter prevailed. Mom tried her hand at making homemade pie crusts, forgetting the affect of being at sea level on a recipe usually done at 6100 feet above sea level. She clamored about the gooey mess she kept trying to roll out, and my brother-in-law teased unmercifully. As he ducked out of the kitchen with his latest quip, she slung the ball of dough at him, hitting him in the eye–a magnificent bull’s eye. Our laughter filled the kitchen with joy in the ridiculous.

Christmas Eve morning came, and my brother-in-law slipped into our bedroom and whispered his plan for the day to Mom and me, “I’m going to go sell some wood so I can buy my loving wife some Christmas presents. Don’t let her know where I’ve gone. Can you help me wrap the presents when I get home?”

Mom and I both choked back tears, nodding our heads.

The impact of my brother-in-law’s health had destroyed their finances. He hadn’t worked regularly in months; my sister had a good job, but she was so busy and overwhelmed being a caregiver, too. Living in the wooded area of Poway, he did cut wood whenever he could and sell it to make some extra money and to keep active–this was not his nature.

Christmas Eve day went by uneventful except for my sister’s repeated refrain, “Where is my husband? What is he doing?” Her distress weighed on me during the day, but I couldn’t ruin his surprise. She continued to knit on the last project she was trying to finish.

Daylight slowly faded into darkness. Mom and I exchanged worried glances all day–Dad, my sister and brother kept wondering about the where-about’s of my brother-in-law.

Mom and I went to the bedroom to talk about what we should do–it was dark. He had been gone for hours. What if something went wrong? Quietly he opened the door of our bedroom with a couple bags of gifts in hand. He looked exhausted but pleased with himself. 

We wrapped the small collection of gifts–all kitchen utensils for my sister. We placed the gifts under the tree, and my sister was contrite in her reaction to her husband’s day-long absence.

I  knew deep in my heart that this was the most precious exhibition of love and gifting I’d ever seen. His generosity and spirit graced the rest of that holiday.

Forty-some years ago, and it still bring a smile to my heart as I remember his mission of love and the true spirit of Christmas.

Have you had a Christmas like this–sweet and bittersweet at the same time? I’d love to hear your experiences!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ME TO YOU! I have posted something from my 3 books. Download a free Christmas story or poem from my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Christmas

Cutting Down Our Own Christmas Tree

hometree Growing up in southeastern Colorado, we could choose any tree on our family ranch to become our star Christmas tree every year. We never bought a Christmas tree when I was growing up. Why would we? We could cut our own–free for the selection and lots of fun.

Mom and I would start looking for this year’s Christmas tree during hunting season in October.

“There’s the perfect one,” Mom pointed to a small three foot piñon pine tree that she wanted to put up on the coffee table. She went on and on about the virtues of a small tree. Dad, Bub, my brother, and I moaned and groaned. Oh, not this again, but we knew her–she always wanted a small tree.

Driving a little farther near the canyon, I spotted a regal six foot piñon pine tree and exclaimed, “Here it is! Let’s mark this one. This is it for sure–our Christmas tree for this year.”

Dad and Bub shook their heads in agreement. We continued our back and forth about small trees and big trees. Then we would continue our task of hunting for a deer to have venison meat for the winter.

This routine repeated itself throughout the months of October and November and into the beginning of December. Mom lost most often with the three of us outnumbering her on the big tree.

One year, the three “big Christmas tree lovers” overdid ourselves though.

The time had come to go to the ranch to cut down our tree. For some reason, Mom didn’t go, so the three of us knew there would be no argument and that the tree would be big this year. We scouted out familiar ones that I had mentally marked throughout the fall, but Dad and Bub spied one they wanted. The saw came out, and they cut it down as a team, laughing about how Mom would reacted. Yes, it looked fabulous out on the ranch against the deep blue sky. We admired our tree and laughed about Mom’s possible response.  What added to the joy of our selection was it was our first year in our new home with higher ceilings, so the taller the better.

We prepared for Mom’s comments–rehearsed our answers to her probing questions. We drove up out front of our house and backed the pick up into the driveway so it would be easier to carry it in.

I hurried up the walk to talk to Mom. She stuck her head out the door, quizzing me about the size. Kidding her, I replied, “It’s your size.” Her laugh told me she didn’t believe it.

It took both Dad and Bub to carry the tree up the walk and set it on the porch. Already I realized we were in trouble. The tree seemed to go on forever.

Dad took out the hacksaw and cut the bottom of the stump off evenly and slid it into the stand and tried to get it in the door. Bub and Dad wrestled with the tree and the door, trying to carry it up upright in the stand, but it wouldn’t fit, so they laid it out lengthwise and finally shoved it in the door.

Mom had cleared the area in front of the front window to showcase our tree to the world. Dad and Bub set the stand on the floor and raised the tree.

All four of us gasped at the same time–the tree reached the ceiling and curled down at least a foot! What do we do now?

Dad took control, “That’s easily fixed,” so he and Bub took the tree out on the porch and cut a foot off the bottom of the tree and brought the shortened tree in and set it up. The top of it brushed the ceiling but fit.

We stood back and admired our beautiful six foot plus tree and laughed. Mom said next year I’m for sure going with you three so we can get a smaller tree.

We all laughed, joyful at our selection and adjustment.