Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spreading Joy, Part 3 ~ A Goodly Heritage

This is the third in my Advent series on remembered joy - the joy of Christmas Past. Each week I've been writing about a favourite Christmas memory or tradition, something that comes to my mind every year at this blessed time, something the remembrance of which brings me joy.

This week's memory is a bit different from the last two. It concerns a family Christmas tradition I didn't fully appreciate at the time, which has since become very precious to me.

When I was young, our Christmas morning didn't start with a mad rush to the fireplace for stockings filled with treats, or with a special breakfast, or a tinselly scrabbling through piles of presents. It started quietly, with a fire in the fireplace, siblings and parents in pajamas and bathrobes, and a Bible in every lap. Before we opened any gifts, we would read through a series of Scripture verses that spanned the story of redemption. We started in Genesis with the Fall, skipped ahead to the major and minor prophets who foretold the birth of Christ, read passages from the Gospels which pertained to His birth and nature, and concluded with various New Testament verses concerning His return and the future of His church. Each person had a "script" - a list of the verses to be read, with his or her part highlighted in red.

I can't remember how long these readings took - half an hour, or perhaps 45 minutes.You might think that as children we would either resent this practice or be impatient of it, but I don't remember ever feeling that way. Of course we were anxious to get to the gifts, but the readings were accepted as a normal part of the day. I do remember feeling excited (and nervous) about taking my turn when I grew old enough for active participation - much as one would before a school program or the giving of a speech.

As my siblings grew older and married, the Christmas readings were expanded slightly to include the new family members. And as, one by one, we began to move farther from home, the readings eventually stopped.

I don't remember very many of the Christmas gifts I received as a child, but I do remember those quiet Christmas mornings by the fire, and the verses we read every year. Though our family life was not ideal, and my parents made plenty of mistakes in our bringing-up, they were careful to pass on to us what they valued most - their faith. I think that's the most precious gift they could ever have given us.

I'm grateful to my Mom and Dad for teaching us, year after year, to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. I may not have fully appreciated it at the time, but I appreciate it now. (And I called them this afternoon to tell them so.)

An old Christmas morning "script" in my sister's handwriting

Next week, to finish this series, I'll be writing about the best Christmas I ever had (which took place not in my childhood but more recently). Do you have a favourite Christmas memory or tradition? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment, or use the button from the sidebar and write a post of your own about a Joy of Christmas Past (or Christmas Present).

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  1. What a peaceful and refreshing Christmas morning memory.

    Last year the NVO and I made an advent calendar for each of our mothers and placed a scripture in all of the little bags (along with a Lindt chocolate truffle, of course.) They are both still talking about how much they enjoyed this count down. It was a special Christmas for us, seeing how delighted they were.

  2. what a wonderful heritage and tradition-- thank you for sharing this special story. what amazing parents you have. :)

  3. What a wonderful memory! I hope you do it still. I'll have to think hard to come up with a Christmas memory.

  4. Sue, what a wonderful tradition. And I can picture you all doing this together. Last night was our church's annual Festival of Lessons and Carols, which follows a similar path of readings - from the creation story, to Isaiah readings, and finally to Luke, for the eighth lesson -- the nativity. Each lesson is followed by an anthem from the choir, a solo or instrumental piece, or a hymn sung by the congregation. I never imagined that a family would take the time to do all those readings on a Christmas morning, but how very fitting. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. What nice Christmas memories you have! Thanks for sharing them with us!

  6. A fitting way to start the morning.

    Your sister's writing is so unlike anything I expect to see when written by an American person.

  7. When I was growing up my mom's family always got together on Christmas Ever. Her family lived in an old farm house. Everyone brought a dish and part of the dinner was cooked on the wood cook stove and afterwards the women would boil water on the cook stove to wash the dishes in dispans(they had no running water in the house, had to go to the well and get the water). After that we would all gather by the wood stove in the living room and open our gifts. Afterward my uncle would go outside and set off fireworks. After we visited for awhile we got bundled up for the drive back home and get to bed for Santa. That has been many, many years since we had Christmas Ever like that and I guess with age I have gotten sentimemtal about those wonderful country christmas eves

  8. This brought back precious memories for me. We did this only twice, and we did it on Christmas Eve, before opening presents. (Wrapped gifts were on Christmas Eve, and Santa came during the night, leaving unwrapped gifts.)

    I remember best all the kids (a slew of them) trying to make noise to wake my parents. I remember the smallest ones trying to sneak into the living room to see if Santa came. But this story you've shared reminded me of the year I made a tiny stage of a shoebox and finger puppets of yarn to act out the nativity scene on Christmas Eve.


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