Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christmas Reflections

The countdown to Christmas is nearly complete! The planning, shopping, baking, cleaning, and gift-wrapping will soon give way to hugs and laughter as families gather to make a new set of memories. We have asked our National Women of Worth Committee to reach back into Christmas past and retrieve a personal tradition or story to share with you. Go ahead and fix yourself a cup of peppermint hot cocoa, grab your favorite plush throw, and spend a few moments reflecting with us.

Reva Campbell - Loveland, Ohio
During our ministry time to students from God's Bible School, the Lord began to give me a special burden for the Asian students. It wasn't long before the door of opportunity opened. Every weekend our home was filled with international students from GBS, the University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University.  
It was the Christmas of 1992, and as usual our home was open for those who could not return to their own homes for the holidays.  Our twenty-one guests were from Taiwan, South Africa, India, China, Bahamas, and Grand Cayman.  Our home was full, or so I thought.  Then Ivy, one of our Taiwanese girls, came to me and said, "Mom, my friend from Hobe Sound wants to come for Christmas.  Can she come?" "Why sure," I replied.  What was one more in our already crowded quarters? Soon the day of her arrival came, and much to my surprise four girls showed up! They were an amazing group. They were content with all the inconveniences we shared. 
I had already purchased two gifts each for the girls.  I began asking the Lord for another gift for each of them. On the Saturday before Christmas, I went to a local flea market. There was the third gift - red blouses for $2 each. I bought a blouse for each girl and one for myself. 
One of the Christmas traditions at our house is that we read the Christmas story while the children act it out. Then we open our gifts beginning with the youngest and moving to the oldest.  When the time came for our oldest guest to open her gifts, she was awestruck and couldn't move.  All of the girls were overwhelmed.  They had never been given Christmas gifts! It was truly a "God moment." What a blessing it was sharing Christmas with those whose heritage involved ancestral and Buddha worship! What a privilege it was to lead several of these young people to Jesus! Serving Jesus is an awesome journey! 
P.S. We all wore our red blouses and went for lunch at the revolving restaurant in the Cincinnati area (At that time, lunch was affordable there).

Missy Miller -  North Lawrence, Ohio
Christmas baking is one of my favorite traditions! I've loved this age-old tradition since Gerald and I were married in 1998. Over the years, it has become much more than just "baking." It has become a way for our family to say, "Merry Christmas." 
On the weekend before Christmas, we package up many containers of homemade cookies, bars, and candies to deliver to Gerald's tenants.  Some of them are in heartbreaking, hopeless situations and have very little love in their lives.  When we began the tradition years ago, we thought we were just giving them Christmas treats. Over the years, we've realized the impact of this act of kindness.  One just never knows what a small gift of love will mean to a lonely heart at Christmas!

Ruth Nichols - Lima, Ohio
One of the greatest Christmas traditions we have enjoyed for many years is our family gathering. My parents had six children, and three of the six got married during the summer of 1974. Two others were already married by that time, and the youngest was still living at home. My parents were living in Florida at the time, and we knew we were really going to have to put forth an effort to make the family reunions a reality. We agreed to work with our in-law families for a rotation of alternating the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  For the past 45 years, we have carried that tradition.  Our first holiday was held in Florida with mom, dad, six children, five in-laws, and five grandchildren.  When our parents moved to Ohio, so did the reunion.  
This year, Mom is in Pennsylvania, and the family has grown to 19 grandchildren, their spouses, and over 60 great-grandchildren! Although the reunion will still happen this 46th year for those who can attend, some of us will not be able to make it due to distance and employment duties. We cherish the memories of decades of family fun and laughter and watching the cousins bond with one another.  When we taste the sweet glaze of a Honey Baked ham or take a slice of cranberry ring with an extra spoonful of cream cheese filling, we will remember the warmth of family tradition and long for the time when we are together again.

Lorena Glick - Massillon, Ohio
Thinking about a Christmas to remember, my mind goes back to the 1980's in Papua New Guinea.  We were back in the bush, and my Sunday School children had never done a Christmas drama. When I told them we were going to do the Christmas story, they were so excited! They were to come to the mission station on Saturdays when the sun was straight up in the sky.  Remember, they didn't have watches or clocks! 
We started our practices and excitement was running high. Even the boys that were home from Bible school were joining in! We had no props, no fine costumes, so I did what I had to do.  I gathered my towels for headpieces, my sheets for angel costumes, and my housecoats for shepherds outfits. 
Finally, it was presentation Sunday.  The kids were all fancied up in their "nice" costumes. My heart was so touched as I started to read the Christmas story. All in the congregation were so attentive and the children were doing a splendid job acting. I looked over at the shepherds as the angels were coming to announce the wonderful news, and to my surprise, the shepherds had built a fire in the middle of the wooden floor in our church! Smoke was rising!  By this point in the Christmas story, I was so touched that I let the fire go and trusted that the church wouldn't burn down as they acted their part.  Then they put the fire out and quickly took off to see the Savior! I'm sure the charred spot was in the floor for many years, and it is probably still there! I have fond memories of the Christmas where a group of precious young people from Baiyer River gave the most wonderful story ever told.

Debra Gaskins - Shelbyville, Indiana
Several years ago, I heard about Operation Christmas Child, a ministry led by Franklin Graham and Samaritan's purse. Operation Christmas Child delivers shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts to children in impoverished countries, and as they deliver gifts, they offer the Gospel.
I shared the project with my nephews, and we packed a few shoeboxes the first year and dropped them off at a participating church. As I learned more about the ministry, I involved my Jr. Sunday School class and our number of shoeboxes grew.  The teens soon joined in, and for the last few years, the entire church has participated! Our highest number of boxes packed so far is 167!
Our church's shoeboxes have been delivered to Mexico, Burkina Faso, Togo, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.  This year's boxes are being shipped to Benin and Ukraine.
In preparation, we shop for bargains all year, looking for special gifts to bless children who we will never meet.  Our church loves this outreach and looks forward to the "Shoebox Packing Party" each year.  The boxes are packed by every age group!

Cheryl Watters - Cincinnati, Ohio
My favorite Christmas memory quickly comes to mind, and is centered around the Christmas tree.  My sister's birthday is December 11th, so our tradition was to go out on her birthday and cut down our Christmas tree. My favorite was when I was a teenager and we drove out toward mid-Michigan and found a tree farm that had a team of horses pulling a wagon.  My dad would get a saw from the office, and we would all pile on the wagon and the horses would pull us out to cut down our favorite tree.  Dad would cut it, then we would all have to pull it back to the path where the horses and wagon were waiting to take us back up to the front of the farm. 
Taking our tree home and setting it up was always so exciting! We loved our tree, and we were faithful to make sure it was watered.  Mom always hung our favorite, homemade ornaments.  In the evening, we would turn off all the lights and have devotions by light of the tree. We always dreaded taking the tree down because of all the pine needles that would end up in the carpet. Mom was very wise and gave each of us a little bucket.  She paid us a penny for every needle we would pick up!  She made out pretty well on that deal, but it got the job done!

Valorie Quesenberry - Cincinnati, Ohio
One of the Christmas memories that comes to mind is one that took place when I was a preteen and my family was in evangelism. This particular year, we were in meetings in the fall and the Christmas season was approaching.  My mother was very staunch in her commitment to keeping Christmas music and decor for after Thanksgiving, but this year as the weather chilled and we kids were so excited, she relented just a bit and let us play one of our eight track cassettes (remember those?) and also let us purchase and display a small ceramic tree in our travel trailer. My brother even scrounged around in his little treasure stash and wrapped a small gift for each member of the family!
My mother was the master designer of Christmas at our house.  When the time was right, she would go into the attic and pull down boxes of things we only saw once a year, including all our childhood Sunday School tree ornaments and other bits she had saved through the years. Our home was awaft in the delicious smells of Christmas cookies, peanut brittle, divinity and other good things.  I learned early about the gift of Jesus that God gave to the world, and, because my parents were very focused on making Jesus the center of everything, this wonderful knowledge was the anchor of all the festivities and gave them all meaning. As I have grown and had my own family, there are traditions that my husband and I have instituted.  Stories we like to hear again and again and requisite recipes that we love to munch and shopping and gifting traditions. 
And why is Christmas so centered on tradition and memory? I think it's because Christmas and home are closely melded. In our modern understanding of this holiday, we can't imagine one without the other. Yet, Jesus left His home to come to earth so that one day we may share His. The mystery of this event continues to wrap everything we do with the warmth and love that we so cherish!

Stephanie Burley - Lima, Ohio
My earliest and most favorite memories are of the holiday season. I grew up in a pastor's home, and although I loved our church family dearly - and still do, I often missed being with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Thanksgiving and Christmas were two of the high points of my year.  One year we would spend Thanksgiving with my paternal grandparents in Greenup, Illinois, and Christmas with my maternal grandparents in Cincinnati, Ohio. The next year, we would alternate. Each family gathering had its own uniqueness, but I loved each of them so much!  
While in Cincinnati, the cousins would often take walks from my grandmother's three story house on Erie Avenue up to Hyde Park square. As little girls, we'd sometimes dash through the boutiques and act like we had the money or the maturity to be a shopper. We always performed a spontaneous Christmas play on the landing of the entry staircase before a grand audience.  And we played and ate so intensely that one or more of us usually ended up sick.  
While in Greenup, we loved to walk the streets in the village and visit the general store.  We'd take a trip to the family farm and reminisce about the generations before us that worked the soil and created a living under the harsh midwestern sun.  And we would often have the opportunity to worship and fellowship with the little congregation whose prayers were effective in bringing my father to Jesus.
As I mentioned, each celebration was unique, but I am forever grateful that both of them had Jesus at the center.  What a heritage I have to pass on to my children!

We hope you've enjoyed sharing in the committee's Christmas traditions and memories. We trust you will have a wonderful, meaningful Christmas.

"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."
II Corinthians 9:15