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The Advent wreath is made up of four candles on a wreath of evergreen, with one larger candle in the center. The circular wreath symbolizes the eternity of God. Every Sunday during Advent, one of the candles are lit. Each one represents gifts Jesus brings us all, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. The Christ candle in the middle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It represents Jesus as the Light of the World.
Can we wait?
As children it seemed an eternity until Christmas Day finally arrived; the longest night of the year was Christmas Eve. Much excitement and anticipation accompanied the long wait.
We had many activities to keep us busy, though. My sisters and I would take turns playing “I got that!” It was played with the Sears Toy Catalog, the Wish Book. All children of the mid to late fifties remember this game fondly. I am sure in earlier years it was played as well. We could hardly wait to get this catalog which promised delightful toys, dolls, bikes, tea sets, and other enticing presents we’d long to find under the tree, delivered by Santa himself!
Neighborhood caroling parties were organized; each home opened their doors with warm smiles and appreciation for our efforts, whether they were melodic or not. Afterwards, we would return to the home from which we started and were treated with hot chocolate and cookies.
Invariably, my sisters and I would create plays about the nativity. To my recollection our church never had a children’s pageant; so we created one of our own.
The Belk Simpson Department store, downtown, had a huge winter wonderland display of movable snowmen, elves, Santas, and other Christmas characters. We stood mesmerized by the window, pressing ever closer to get a better view.
Finished gaping at the scene, we went inside to buy each other books for presents. I remember Daddy standing with two of us at the card department, while Mother took one of us to purchase our two books. One of my favorite books I received was Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women. I do believe that book is still around here somewhere; I hope it is.
Christmas Eve Daddy would tune into the radio to hear the announcer tracking Santa’s sleigh on radar. He was just as excited as we were!
Christmas Morning finally came; our routine was to run into the bathroom to comb our hair and look our best, as Daddy was waiting by the tree with his movie camera that had bar lights, temporarily blinding us as we obliged him by looking towards the camera.
Placing our presents, and coveted box of chocolate covered cherries, on our individual beds, we dressed and made the trip to Mama and Granddaddy’s house, usually an hour or two away, depending on where we were living at the time.
The cousins were seated in the kitchen at the children’s table; the adults were in the dining room with Mama’s best china, glass serving dishes, and usually turkey and cornbread dressing, red apple rings, pickles, sweet potato casserole, biscuits, and at least one or two vegetables Granddaddy had grown in his huge garden the summer before.
The highlight of the meal for everyone, I think, was Mama’s six layer Japanese Fruitcake. This is not your traditional fruitcake. It had yellow cake layers and spice cake layers with a filling made of coconut, pineapple, and a nut mixture; it was decorated on top with maraschino cherries. I am a good cook; however, I have only made this cake once in my life; as it is most difficult to make.
We also had fresh ambrosia with freshly cracked coconut, and peeled chunks of fresh oranges and grapefruit.
All this is to say, that as children, my sisters and I had lots of time to anticipate, but also wonderful things to enjoy during the long wait.
What is most important as Christmas Day approaches is the coming of Jesus, the Christ Child, the baby born to Mary in Bethlehem.
Jesus was a child, and it is his birthday that we celebrate. For a child, at least for me, the second most important day of the year, besides Christmas, was my birthday. I looked forward to a party and hopefully a few presents. We never had the onslaught of birthday toys and games children enjoy today; however, I wonder if too much of a good thing is too much.
Jesus was born. He was and is the Son of God. He received presents from the Wisemen, not on his birthday, but some believe days or up to two years after his birth, as Herod killed all babies two years old and younger. Herod was not sure either, but he was trying not to miss killing Jesus because of his age.
Those gifts were not for playtime, but rather, as some believe, symbolic gifts. Gold, a valuable metal symbolized kingship. Frankincense is a perfume and a symbol of God, a diety. Myrrh, used as an anointing oil, an embalming oil, was symbolic of Jesus’ death.
Can We Wait on Jesus, the Christ Child today?
I know for me, waiting for anything, is hard; I want problems and solutions, to be answered instantly. We are unfortunately a product of our technologically driven world.
Could it be a lesson for us all that our ancestors didn’t know when the Messiah would come. We Christians, have no idea when Christ will return.
I don’t think our ancestors were to know of His first coming; I don’t think we are to know of His second coming. God’s time schedule is not our own. Waiting is part of the lesson to believe, trust, and have faith.
Lord, thank You for letting me travel back to my childhood as I thought of what waiting for Christmas was all about. Help me to relax, let go, and enjoy all the many joys leading up to Jesus’ birthday. Amen
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