“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
Christmas is a special time of year, when memories are made and when we remember the past, hopefully the best things. It is a time of year when our eyes frequently get misty with sentimentality. What makes you sentimental at Christmas time?
I imagine Mary’s eyes got misty every time she pondered in her heart the events of the incarnation in her life. She was there, but she likely relived it every year or every time those memories were triggered by a particular event. That’s what mothers do. We cannot share her memories, but because those events are beautifully recorded in our Bibles, we imagine what it must have been like. Because of our faith, we share in the birth of Jesus Christ, because He is our God.
The miracle of Christmas is that our lives can be changed forever, then renewed everyday. Christmas is a time of year when we hear and tell stories, a time of year that I find more people willing to pause and share stories that matter to them.
Sentimentality is part nostalgia, but it is deeper. I feel nostalgic when I see a 5-gallon milk can, because it was a part of my past, but I feel sentimental when I think of how my grandfather delivered them to our home on Sundays and on Wednesdays, full of milk just hours from the cow. The things we once took for granted can move us deeply years later. I remember things that I took for granted, now realising how unusual these particular blessings were.
Any time of year can trigger sentimental feelings, but let us look at a few more of the activities of Christmas.
We go to church on Christmas Eve. What a special time of remembering Jesus, born in a stable. Our Lord had a manger for a bed. It was the simplest of men, the night shepherds, that were told of His birth first. Strolling through a live nativity this year brought back many remembrances of Christmases past. We gather in a circle to sing hymns read by candlelight surrounded by the family of God. Deeply touching; my people.
India wrote a song called “Christmas to Me.” The first time I heard it, I wept. Listening to it stirs memories, reminders of Christmases shared with Harry and the girls. I am moved because the song reminds me that those things mattered to my daughters and now they are repeating them in their homes. It is sort of validation to this mother’s heart. I weep today when I hear it.
I am publishing this article today, the 23rd of December because it is the anniversary of a major event in my family’s life. On the 23rd of December in 1999, as everyone was preparing for Christmas and Y2K (Remember that? ) we lost our home in a fire. I was doing the dinner dishes and our little girls were watching Smokey Mountain Christmas while waiting to hear the evening Christmas story.
Virtually everything was lost. One of the losses that night was a red and white hand-stitched quilt that my mother gave me, made by an aunt of hers. I used it as a tree skirt that year. A couple of days after the fire, friends were walking through the ruins with us, looking for anything that could be salvaged, you know, sentimental things. I spied the red and white colors under ashes, soot and debris. Heartbroken once again, I pulled it out, amazed that it had not burned, yet it appeared to be destroyed.
My friend, Sue, asked if she could take it with her to see what she could do with it. Twenty one years later, I drape this quilt over my sofa, lovingly cleaned and restored. How can it be? Not a burn mark or stain on it from that night. Looking at it always brings “warm fuzzies” because I am reminded of what it has been through, what we have been through, all with the grace of God.
Decorating our tree can trigger feelings of sentimentality. I lifted out an ornament that my mother gave to Harry and me for our first Christmas together. I did not hang it, nor did I return it to the ornament box. I stashed it so that I could peek at it from time to time. God created us uniquely different. We react to the things that touch our hearts differently, but if we will allow it, our lives will be enriched by good memories.
Driving around looking at Christmas decorations and lights used to be a common Christmas activity, as was counting the houses that had lights and the ones that did not. Even a single red candle on a great counted as much as a house decked with thousands of lights. This was a friendly competition sisters against brothers, mostly friendly. This week I called a friend to do the same thing, except counting the lights! We reminisced about Christmases past. I remembered doing this as a child, all of us in our pajamas. Home for hot chocolate, then bed! My friend, Cindy and I omitted the pajamas and hot chocolate. But, hey! “Jammies” in public seems to be a thing these days!
Getting sentimental at Christmas stirs emotions and it is our decision whether our emotions will send us into grief and feelings of loss, or if they will be precious memories that linger. In that, we can be women of gratitude. Not everyone reading this will have pleasant memories.
To be sure, I did not live an idyllic childhood; is there such a thing or is that simply a fairy tale? What I have had was training and heart to remember the good things more than the hurtful things. It is from pain that we better rercognize joy. I am thankful that God gives grace for the pain, which can be crazy real. I am more easily thankful for the memories that are triggered by a faded quilt, an old milk can, a tiny ornament of 2 raccoons snuggles into the same shirt and for friends that are willing to jump in the car at a moment’s notice to go look at Christmas decorations!
I feel sentimental when I remember my mother being sick and all she wanted to listen to were the CDs that Lois and India recorded. It was sad, but my daughters comforted my mother. We have sad moments that are enveloped with grace and it is the grace part I want to see more than the loss.
My mother’s favorite Bible verse was Romans 8:28. It is that verse that our memories will have a good future:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I shared a tip on Instagram this week. While trying to get a special meal on the table it can be difficult to keep the children away from the tree and the gifts underneath. I explained how I loaded pictures of Christmas Past onto a flat drive and connected then put the the flash drive into my television. Since I had Christmas caroles playing in my home, I did not add it to the pictures. Very simple, but what a win!
As Lois, India and I finished preparations for the Rasquinha Christmas dinner, I heard was laughing – and lots of it – in the room where the tv is. When I needed water poured into glasses or the duck carved, I found my sons-in-law with the children, enjoying the pictures as much as the children. Truly, from the kitchen, listening to the laughter, I thought, “Okay; this is a win!” A little pat on my own back. I whole-heartedly suggest this!
If you are not on Instagram, you can still see my posts on the front page of this website.
You will also see a picture of the quilt there!
Merry Christmas Ladies!