Steve and I had a fabulously memorable trip to Germany, Austria and Slovakia, but I have been sick since we got off the plane. Terrible, contagious conjunctivitis in both eyes, sinusitis and even a touch of pneumonia have had me quite literally "down for the count." I've missed parties, baking and shopping I had counted on. I even had to turn down a chance for a hot air balloon ride (a long-time Bucket List item). Most of all, though, I missed the Christmas program at church which had been rehearsed since September. That was a HUGE disappointment. But, finally, in the last day or so, I've noticed the clouds lifting, and I believe I'll be able to regain some of the Christmas celebration atmosphere in my heart and home. As I've thought about it, I believe four things are giving me back the Christmas I was about to lose, and each of them begins with the letter A.
I am grateful for my doctors and for the medicines they've prescribed -- drops, pills and injections. Where would we all be without them? None have been overnight wonder drugs, but they are doing what they were designed to do, and I'm glad to feel myself improving.
We have a 19-year-old granddaughter who is a freshman in college. Yesterday she came over and spent three hours with Steve and me, and it was a wonderful gift to us. We ate lunch and a yummy dessert, but mostly, we talked. She described her first semester of college and the accompanying independence. She talked passionately about her new friends and her chosen major. She asked us questions about missions, because she's considering a short-term mission trip. She sought our opinions. We laughed, but mostly we just enjoyed being together. As you know, we have 13 other grandchildren who we adore. It would be so wonderful to live long enough to have such an afternoon with each of them as they grow to this stage of their lives. For now, I will just acknowledge what a lift Allie's visit was to our hearts.
This coming Sunday afternoon our children and grandchildren will gather at our house from Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama for presents, supper and lots of hugs. I can hardly wait!
My extensive grocery list is made. Most of the gifts are wrapped. I believe I'll be ready for a cooking marathon soon. Things are definitely looking up!
Christmas Eve we'll join with our church family for a candlelight service, and Christmas night we'll gather with a large group of relatives for a delicious potluck dinner together (a tradition I've been part of as long as I can remember). Those who know me best understand that I thrive when I have something to anticipate. This next week fills my need very nicely.
Growing up as a Southern Baptist, I was not exposed to the celebration of Advent season until fairly recently. I think I'd heard the word and knew it involved lighting candles, but I just dismissed it as "something the Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians or Catholics did." I'm really glad that a growing number of churches are embracing this tradition, because its meaning and ability to set my heart toward the coming of Jesus is adding a fresh depth to December. (Here is a large advent wreath I spotted at the entrance to a cathedral in Salzburg, Austria).
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and helps us to gain a sense of expectation and anticipation, both for the holiday season but also as we await the Second Coming of Christ. I think it also encourages patience while we remember God's promises. Inside the advent wreath are four candles, 3 purple ones and one pink one, and each brings a specific theme to mind. In our church, the first purple candle was lit on December 1 to represent hope. On December 8, the hope candle was lit and another one representing peace. Last Sunday, all three purple candles were lit: hope, peace and love. This coming Sunday, the pink candle will glow representing joy, then on Christmas Eve a white candle will be set in the middle of the wreath and will be the Christ Child candle.
The song "All Is Well" by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Michael W. Smith has words that are so fitting for Christmas Eve.
"All is well, all is well. Angels and men rejoice!
Christ is come, go and tell that He is in the manger.
Sing alle, sing alleluia.
All is well, all is well. Lift up your voice and sing.
Born is now Emmanuel. Born is our Lord and Savior.
Sing alleluia! Sing alleluia! All is well. All is well."
Another A word -- Alleluia.
I pray that all is well with you this Christmas, and I hope it will be a meaningful and joyful time for you and your family. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
Luke 2:11 - "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."