The Legend of the Christmas Tree

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Credit: Sapan Patel on Unsplash

Due to Christmas schedules, this week’s Perspectives comes a few days earlier than usual.

Lucy Wheelock (1857-1946) was an American early childhood education pioneer, influencing the American kindergarten. She was founder and head of Wheelock Kindergarten Training School, which later became Wheelock College in Boston, Mass. Lucy wrote this legend:

Two little children were sitting by the fire one cold winter’s night. All at once they heard a timid knock at the door, and one ran to open it.

There, outside in the cold and the darkness, stood a child with no shoes upon his feet and clad in thin, ragged garments. He was shivering with cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself.

“Yes, come,” cried both the children. “You shall have our place by the fire. Come in!”

They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their supper with him, and gave him their bed, while they slept on a hard bench.

In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music and, looking out, they saw a band of children in shining garments approaching the house. They were playing on golden harps, and the air was full of melody.

Suddenly the Stranger Child stood before them, no longer cold and ragged, clad in silvery light.

His soft voice said: “I was cold and you took me in. I was hungry, and you fed me. I was tired, and you gave me your bed. I am the Christ Child, wandering through the world to bring peace and happiness to all good children. As you have given to me, so may this tree every year give rich fruit to you.”

So saying, he broke a branch from the fir tree that grew near the door, and he planted it in the ground and disappeared. But the branch grew into a great tree, and every year it bore wonderful golden fruit for the kind children.

This somewhat fanciful little legend is a simple reminder to enjoy the blessing of giving to those with little or nothing to satisfy their needs, as taught by Jesus in Matt. 25:31-46.

Last week our family and a few wonderful neighbors joined hands and hearts in blessing two families with special needs. Terry and I also sent our end of year gifts to a number of charitable causes near and dear to our hearts. Both were meaningful ways of living the spirit of Christmas.

Terry and I pray for each of you a very blessed Christmas! Welcome to our hearts, Baby Jesus!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a tradition observed by many Christians. This celebration begins with the birth of Christ on December 25 (Christmas) and concludes with the coming of the Magi, the wise men, on January 6 (Epiphany).

You’ve heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and probably know most if not all the words. It begins “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a partridge in a pear tree.” The song continues with the second through twelfth days of Christmas, identifying each of the other gifts “my true love gave to me” on each of those days.

A popular theory is that the song’s lyrics are coded references to Christianity and that the song was written to help Christians learn and pass on the tenets of their faith while avoiding persecution. Though the myth-debunking Snopes website disagrees with that theory, the spiritual connections are interesting enough to share. So here we go:

The Twelve Days of Christmas

A partridge in a pear tree = Jesus Christ
Two Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens = Faith, Hope, and Love
Four Calling Birds = the four Gospels and/or the four Evangelists
Five Golden Rings = the first five books of the Old Testament, aka the Pentateuch
Six Geese A-Laying = the six days of Creation
Seven Swans A-Swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight Maids A-Milking = the eight beatitudes
Nine Ladies Dancing = the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten Lords A-Leaping = the Ten Commandments
Eleven Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
Twelve Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

On another more serious note, some of you might remember that this will be the first Christmas after my dear mother went to heaven January 10 of this year. The following words are most meaningful to our family and I hope to yours as well:

The first Christmas after you lose someone you love is hard.
You won’t feel like celebrating, but you’ll go along with it. For the kids. For the family.
It will hurt. The presents not bought. The chair not sat in.
The memories of past Christmases that threaten to suck the joy out of the whole day.
But you will get through it. You may even smile through the tears. It’s OK.
If you can, thank God for the Christmases you had with your departed loved ones.
Start a new tradition in their memory.
And remember the love you shared through the holidays.

Terry and I pray for you and your family a joyful and blessed Twelve Days of Christmas!

Life

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Credit: Pexels from Pixabay 

These brief statements about life are attributed to Mother Teresa:

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it.

To those statements I add these from Jesus:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. John 3:36
Life is not measured by how much you own. Luke 12:15
I have come that you may have life, in all its fullness. John 10:10
Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Luke 12:23
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matt. 10:39
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

And here are a few more statements. From me:

If you love someone, say to him or her “I love you.”
If you appreciate someone, express that appreciation.
Life is a blessing from God. Thank Him for that blessing.
Don’t just send flowers for a person’s funeral. Send flowers to the living while they’re living.
Spend each day is if it were the first day of the rest of your life, because that’s exactly what it is.

God bless your day! Every day! And thank Him for your life!

A Time to Give

It’s hard to believe December is already here. Thoughts of giving gifts to loved ones and friends are on the minds of many. Anticipation of receiving gifts creates hope and expectation.

We just finished “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” In addition to ordering stuff online, massive crowds of people spent billions of dollars shopping in a real old-fashioned building called a store. Some of you may remember those places where we used to do all our shopping.Not everyone loves to shop, but my dear Terry surely does. In addition to planning and cooking special festive holiday dinners for family, friends, and even people she has never met, Terry loves to decorate our home and shop for special gifts for our family members and friends.

Not so much with yours truly. It’s always been difficult for me to come up with creative ideas for Christmas gifts. It’s pretty easy to choose the wrong size or color. And did I mention that I really don’t enjoy shopping? For me. For you. For anybody. I like to give. I just don’t like to shop.

That’s why for the past decade or so my Christmas giving has consisted of a personal letter to each member of our family, with a reasonably generous check in the same envelope. It’s always the right color and at least fairly close to the right size!

The spirit of giving is contagious. This week a neighbor asked if I knew of needy folks his family could support in a special way this Christmas. I called another neighbor who serves on the board of directors of a social service organization I helped start 34 years ago. They will suggest a family in need. My friend’s gesture of generosity has prompted our family to do the same.

It’s hard to talk about giving without mentioning the wisdom of planning to give gifts to loved ones and favorite charities when our shopping days are over. Someday the good Lord will call us home. That’s the time the plans we establish now to make final gifts later will be implemented.

For ideas, suggestions, and assistance with planned giving, go to www.legacydeo.org.

Whether giving now or in the future, Christmas is a reminder to celebrate the greatest gift of all, the birth of our Savior Jesus. He gave himself for us. In a spirit of love, it’s time for us to give.