Coming Home for Christmas

A Little Christmas Shine

Like I Never Left

My husband Rich lugged the boxes up from the basement and I unwrapped the familiar adornments, easing off wrappers of crinkly tissue paper as if I was helping an elderly friend out of her winter coat. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we were decorating our home in anticipation of Christmas.
Here were the beautifully clumsy ceramic Christmas trees his children had made, years before. Another box yielded the porcelain candle sticks that spell “J-O-Y,” a chubby cherub clinging to each letter. They’d belonged to my grandmother. I collected five packets of ornament hangers and resolved that this year I would not buy another package “just in case I couldn’t find them in the Christmas boxes.” 
I festooned garland from the stair rail, fastening each sweep of greenery with red velvet bows embellished by a trio of jingle bells. Out on the front deck, Rich strung twinkling lights on the eaves. The ceramic trees took their places on the mantel. I placed three burgundy candles in Grandma’s candlesticks. I removed the collection of decorative boxes that sits on a secretary in the corner, making way for our nativity. 
When we stopped for a leftover-turkey lunch, I looked around, satisfied. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” I said, pulling out the same corny line I dredge up each year just as if I’d stowed it in tissue alongside the angels and stars. 
Driving to church on Sunday morning, I wondered what we might find there. We’d joined a new church in January, so we couldn’t ransack our stock of Christmas memories made there.  
We arrived at church to find the little sanctuary graced by wreaths, garland, and a magnificent tree. She shone, this home of the bride of Christ, made beautiful as if she were ready to recite her vows. Our pastor greeted us, wearing a red necktie. “Merry Christmas!” he said. 
“The church is gorgeous,” I told him. 
“Usually we decorate the Friday after Thanksgiving,” he said. “This year our youth group kids put everything up on Tuesday night.”

“They did an amazing job,” I told him. 

As we settled into the pew, I gazed about the room, enjoying the gold star glittering atop the tree, the wreath hanging above the pulpit, the merry garland traipsing along the perimeter of the sanctuary. And then I saw it.
Sitting on the table before the pulpit sat a wreath. It held three purple candles and a pink one. 
Advent! Our new church home celebrates Advent! I remembered my childhood church, its spacious sanctuary made enormous by my six-year-old perspective. I remembered wrapping cans of food in white tissue paper, walking shyly up the aisle to place them on the chancel steps when the minister invited us to give our “white gifts” for the needy.
And I remembered the wreath holding three purple candles and a pink one, sitting on a table, presiding over a growing heap of canned goods donated by the children of the church to serve those in need. 
Later, our Sunday school teacher told us that the candles were to help us remember to get ready to welcome the baby Jesus. She helped us to make paper chains of stiff construction paper, one link for each day until Christmas, the sticky paste coating my fingers as I glued strips of paper and thought about a baby, born in a manger. 
All those memories made the advent wreath in our new church more precious to me. 
See, it’s hard to prepare when I can’t remember. Those three purple candles and a pink one are a touchstone.  They fill me with memories.

And so I prepare. Not just my home, but my heart. 

2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” 3 Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. 4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.  

Micah 5:2-4 (NASB)

I’m linking up today with the Advent writing project hosted by my friend Charity Singleton for The High Calling. I hope you’ll stop by and read more perspectives on Advent. 

Comments

  1. Carolyn Counterman :

    Beautiful. I'm waiting. Selfishly hoping he gets here soon. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Carolyn. I know what you mean.

  3. A Joyful Noise :

    My cozy beautiful church has shone brightly the past two Sundays with added decorations each week. Next Sunday the members will bring poinsettias to add to the front, each in honor of a loved one.

    As a child, our church did not celebrate Advent with candles. My present church does and we have those lovely purple candles and one pink with a larger white candle in the center. The ceremony is lovely and I am enjoying the pageantry of it all.

  4. Oh, Hazel, I love that idea, of the decorations building as we wait, and wait, and wait….preparing, indeed!

  5. Kaye Swain - SandwichINK for Grandparents and Caregivers :

    What fun! Both your decorating delights and the rediscovery of an old favorite custom. I grew up in the Lutheran church and enjoyed their Advent wreath. When I was an adult and young mom, newly walking with the Lord, I re-started that tradition with my kids. They are still doing, as am I, although currently my actual wreath is in storage. But I usually set up candles to light at least a couple of times when the grandkids are over, plus I enjoy doing Christmast and Advent devotions, music and activities for the kids throughout the month of December. It's a lovely way to help them learn the Reason for the Season.

  6. Those traditions we build with our children….they're something, aren't they?

    This year my daughter and I will enjoy our Silver Anniversary of Christmas breakfast cinnamon-roll baking.

    And she's only 29.

    Thanks for coming by, Kaye!

  7. Laura Boggess :

    I love your Christmas shine, Sheila! And I'm with you: the Advent wreath is a sweet tradition. I'm glad you are enjoying your new church. Happy waiting, sweet friend.

  8. Sheila Seiler Lagrand :

    Thanks, Laura. My little vase of shine pushes the limits of my craftiness. Martha Stewart has nothing to fear from me!

    Happy waiting to you, too! 🙂