Chris Tomlin O Come all Ye Faithful

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Unlikely Gifts

Today I have been immersed in some memories.  Christmases past.  Traditions involving church and family  Even coming down to "traditions"  such as making a monster sized bowl of popcorn...in an old fashioned artery clogging cooker filled with oil and heated until the popcorn popped...doing that two or three times until a huge washbasin was full....then came the melted  butter and the salt.  GROAN  ...we didn't have many sweets but boy did we have popcorn!  And come Christmas time my mom would put green or red dye into the popcorn and she would drizzle it with melted caramel and quickly (while often burning her hands, ) make popcorn balls ...and she would wrap them in Saran wrap  and we would beg for one time and again...and they were the best--buttery sweet and salty all at the same time.

Here is my childhood home from 1965-1976.

This is me, as I was found from my earliest days, face first into a book.


I was the recipient of a great - and unlikely- gift as a child.  Our TV broke and we decided that since we could not afford repairs or to replace it--we would just go without it.  Our entertainment came from riding our bicycles all over the city of Hackensack NJ.---particularly a steep hill on Prospect Ave.  which we would laboriously ride and then get in the middle of the street and FLY down the hill going at breakneck speed.  My little brother once lost control of his bike and took a bad tumble.  I felt some chagrin that it had not occurred to me that he was maybe too young for such dare-devilish behavior. I was so interested to hear from my daughter's boyfriend who lives on current day Ross Avenue, that that hill is still being conquered by present day dare-devils.

We made friends with all of our neighbors.  And there was a man across the street who would sit on his porch and observe our antics. We would often put together "shows" for his approval....and he would graciously clap his hands acknowledging our silliness...and we were as proud as a Broadway cast.

The other gift which came as a result of having no TV was throwing gasoline on my love affair with books....and it exploded raining books everywhere.  I was never happier than when I was enmeshed in a great book. I read all of Dickens' books, Les Miserables, of course "The Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden", Shakespeare....my grandma had given me the complete works of Shakespeare in two hefty volumes with tiny print.  But I read it. In 6th grade I read Gone with the Wind, to the amazement of my English teacher.  

I was well versed in Elizabethan English-- knowing  chapter and verse of the King James translation of the Bible. I didn't randomly add "eths" to random words as is done nowadays, ignorantly by people who don't know what they are talking about.  I understood the rules of that language merely from a huge amount of contact with it. I understood that "You" was a formal word and "thees and thous" were actually terms of intimacy.People these days do not understand that.  I used the expression "Divers and sundry" in a written report I'd written for Miss Yidi  my 7th grade English teacher ...and she called me up to her desk and asked me where I'd gotten that expression.  I answered "It's in the Bible" and I quoted to her the verse in James 1 from whence I'd drawn that phrase.  She merely shook her head in disbelief.

In 6th grade we were studying the ins and outs of poll or survey taking.  And one of the  questions was "What do you like better, Barney Miller or MASH?"  I had to sit that one out because, having no TV, I was ignorant of both shows.  And while the class hooted and pointed fingers,  the teacher used my answer to demonstrate that some people will not be put into the narrow categories of the pollsters.  I may have been no good at taking polls---but come time to talk about books? I was all over it.

I know this isn't a very Christmasy  type of post for Christmas Eve....but somehow, doesn't Christmas time take you back through your childhood or the first Christmas after getting married?  Kind of like the narrator of the movie "A Christmas Story"?  

I wish you and yours a Christmas comprised of sweet new memories that you will treasure later in life as you recall this holiday and I pray that too it will be a "Holy-day" for you as well.  That the account of that Babe in Bethlehem --the precious gift to a broken world, from a loving Father to put into motion the path to redemption that we now enjoy--would take on new and personal meaning.  That baby was born to die....born with the shadow of the cross over his manger. 
And Mary? She knew that God was up to something big...she pondered all of the events...the shepherds' tale of singing angels...the conception of a child without the need for man's acts of intimacy and she treasured these things as she washed and changed the baby--as he took his first toddling steps,and grew in favor with God and man.  May you worship as God opens your eyes to his  plans for you.
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