Christmas Time!

Riding through town, watching the traffic lights turn from red to green. Walking into store after store, striding past throngs of people, noting the expressions on their faces. Some happy. Some sad. Some harried. Some perturbed. All hurried.

It’s Christmas time.

Driving down Main Street, the older part of town, seeing all the shops closed. Lights are off, doors are locked, and only the traffic lights are working the holiday. Even the police and fire stations are quieter than normal. On the front lawn of the police station, a sign wishes all passersby, “Merry Christmas!” No one objects.

It’s Christmas time.

Tomorrow, the children will be up early at the Crain household. Have you ever known a child to sleep past seven AM on Christmas morning? 😉 They’ll tumble down the stairs, pell-mell, intent on reaching the stockings stacked along the steps. We always open our stocking presents first thing in the morning, and then open our other presents later, after breakfast and other traditional happenings.

One of our family’s traditions is apricot braid bread, made from scratch, rolled, shaped, braided, baked, and glazed by my dad and sister. When it’s finally ready, we all pull up to the table and set to with a good will. After demolishing two large loaves of the wonderful Christmastime treat, we all gather in the living room.

Perhaps my favorite tradition is the reading of the First Christmas Story from Luke chapter 2. All the kids, Mom, and Grandma sit in the large great room and listen as Dad reads the sacred text in his rich baritone voice. I’ve always loved reading, but I particularly enjoy hearing a good reader read aloud. There’s something magical about the cadence of a well-constructed story being read aloud, and this account is one of the best-written true stories I’ve ever read. Instantly, I’m carried back to the rocky traces of Galilee and Judea, seeing in my mind’s eye the couple making their weary way toward Bethlehem. I see the crowded streets, the bustling crowds of census observers, the packed inns and hotels. I see Joseph asking at hostel after hostel for lodging, a corner for he and his weary wife. Innkeeper after innkeeper turns him away altogether. Finally, perhaps at the last hotel in town, the innkeeper offers the stable. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing…

They turn the weary donkey toward the stable.

There, in the comfortably warm atmosphere of a cattle stall, the most important baby ever born comes into the world. His mother wraps him in swathing bands and places him in a manger full of hay. A brightly-robed angel brings the news to a group of shepherds outside the town that a special child has been born. Overhead, a bright new star shines; and, a thousand miles away, wise men notice this star and set out to seek the one of whose birth it speaks.

It’s Christmas time!

Tomorrow, the stores will be open again. People will be in Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and countless other places, standing in long lines to exchange the things they got but didn’t want for the things they wanted but didn’t get. Workplaces will be open again, and those who have not taken vacation time will be back in the ranks, working hard to make a living and get ahead. Christmas will be forgotten…or will it?

It’s Christmas time!

Merry Christmas!

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