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Christmas fun – December 8

After an early morning appointment, I went to Little Flock to help set up chairs, music stands, and lights for the orchestra.  The music department and media are gearing up for the annual  Christmas Choir concert.  This year’s “Gloria” promises to be glorious.  I can’t wait to hear the drum line march in and play during “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Afterward, I picked up the three grandchildren to help me with a little Christmas decorating.  Pulling the multiple boxes from their storage area, I was amazed again at how much there is.  The children and I looked at some of the items and remembered them from years before.  I told them the story of the ceramic carolers I painted before I was married and the small village their daddy gave me to go with the carolers when he was old enough to buy a gift himself.  They carefully placed them on the piano.

Celeste found one small box and exclaimed, “The Snow Man Tea Set!  I love the Snow Man Tea Set.”  She took it immediately and set it up in their room.  Later, Celeste took a thow-away box and created a stable.  She set up a manger scene in it.    

Ethan pretended to be a puppy, dressed up like an egyptian sheik, then became Robin Hood with a mask I made him from an old Christmas card.

Elyse got on line to search for a Christmas tree for our house.  No, I don’t have a tall tree this year for all the beautiful ornaments I’ve collected through the years.  But Elyse and I are still looking for the perfect one.

All of us decorated the Jesus tree.  Only two feet tall, it holds small ornaments like a lamb wrapped in a red ribbon, a star, a heart, a tiny Bible, a cross, and other things that remind us of Jesus and tell his life’s story.

We took a break with hot Tazo Apple Red tea steeped in a pretty new green teapot given to me by one of my piano students.

I unpacked the Candy Cane mugs my mother gave me the last Christmas she was with us.  The children already know that story.  The mugs are treasures to me, and I think of her when I look at them.  It just isn’t Christmas until those mugs are hung on the little rack and sitting on the kitchen counter.

After the children left, there were boxes and greenery strewn about.  Dishes needed washing.  Stuff was in stacks here and there.  The house was rather a shambles.  I had to rush off to church for work, piano lessons, and choir practice.  No time to pick up and put things in order.

Back home, I looked at the mess that still waited for me.  I thought about the good time we had today, the memories we had made, the food and laughter we had shared.  This mess represents a little Christmas joy.   And I am so glad for it.

A personal note . . . in anticipation

     Today, I worked from home finishing some last-minute details for yet another recital.  This one will include the eleven piano students I teach from my home.  They have worked hard to prepare and I know their songs will be beautiful as they play with skill and confidence.

I anticipate a beautiful Christmas Recital tomorrow night, a fitting beginning to my Christmas season.

The melody of Christmas, the song the angels sing . . . Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

“The earth has grown old with its burden of care but at Christmas it always is young, The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair and its soul full of music breaks the air, when the song of angels is sung”   –Phillip Brooks

Anticipation

My sweet William and I attended a Hanging of the Greens service recently.  It was traditional, solemn, and beautiful with readings and songs related to the symbols with which we surround ourselves at Christmas time.  The Hanging of the Greens is typically done about a month before Christmas, an admonition through Scripture and song to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Advent, the first coming of Jesus to earth as the incarnate God.

For me the service was a debut to the Christmas season.   You see I’m one who likes to enjoy Thanksgiving all by itself with the colors of fall, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.  Christmas comes afterwards.

Those of us who call ourselves Christian know Christmas is not about Black Friday, or when the tree gets decorated or which house on the block has the most holiday lights.  It’s not about getting the best deal at the store or how much money we spend on the kids.  It’s not about the beautifully wrapped packages nor the perfectly decorated home. 

I can so easily get caught up in the paraphernalia of Christmas – the decorating, the baking, the buying, the attending of events, and on and on.  Before I know it, I’m stressed to the max just anticipating the holidays.  Where’s the “joy to the world” in that?

That special service created an anticipation in my heart for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the One and Only Reason there even is Christmas.  I look forward to reconnecting with the eternal truth of God’s wonderful plan for saving the world through the gift of a baby.

Pondering my own anticipation, I wonder about those in another time and place and what were their concerns a month before Jesus came into this world over 2000 years ago.

Mary, being 8 months pregnant surely felt like I did at 8 months pregnant – huge!  She probably wasn’t sleeping well and was cumbersome when she tried to move about doing her daily tasks.  She was anticipating delivering this child soon and praying for all to go well.  Little did she know that the birth would be far from home in an animal-crowded cave.

Joseph, perhaps, was anticipating a trip to Bethlehem, the land of his lineage, possibly scrounging for coins to pay the tax that was suddenly thrust upon him and all of Judea.  Was he wondering how in the world he could take Mary on such a trip?  But could he leave her in Nazareth with the wagging tongues of the townspeople who already had their opinion of this unusual pregnancy?

In Jerusalem, there was one named Simeon who was looking for a Messiah, “the consolation of Israel,” Luke 2 tells us.  But he was aged by now, and the promise had not yet come.  Was his faith strong as he waited in hope?  Or did he waiver sometimes, like I do when I try so hard to hold onto the promises of God?  He  was told he would not taste death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Perhaps there was something stirring in his soul, something akin to anticipation.

Then there was Anna, a prophetess.  She also was old but still a faithful worshipper at the temple at Jerusalem.  She had done it for many years since her widowhood.  Her simple servant heart must have been looking for ways to serve, a moment where she could help someone in the busy activity surrounding temple worship.  Her anticipation of daily worship would soon bring her face to face with the I AM!

Dear Father, I pray that my heart will anticipate this Christmas Day with remembrance of the miraculous moment You revealed Yourself in flesh and blood to the earthlings You longed to love.  May I anticipate Your presence every morning as I arise.  May I anticipate ways to serve others and ways to give from my heart.  May I anticipate moments of worship, whether I’m all alone, with two or three, or with the congregation of believers.

And may I anticipate that You will come again and gather your bride to be with you for ever and ever.  Amen.

Legacy

Sunday morning finds me at Little Flock Baptist Church where my Sweet William and I are members.  I love the worship, Pastor Rodney’s sermons, our Sunday School class, and getting to see so many precious Christian brothers and sister.

This Sunday, however, I went to first service at 9 am, then slipped out to visit Shepherdsville First Baptist Church, where my son and his family are attending and serving.  Travis plays percussion, and my two granddaughters, Elyse and Celeste, occasionally sing with the praise team. 

Elyse, the elder granddaughter, was going to play the keyboard for the worship songs, then sing a solo for the first time.  I did not want to miss it.  She was delighted to see that I had come to hear and support her efforts.  The day before, I told Elyse that I was her age, 13-years old, when I began to play regularly in our small church.  It was that experience as a young girl that set the course of a life of music ministry for me.

When it was time for the special song, Worship Minister, Sheila Lamonte, went to the keyboard, and Elyse stood close by at the microphone.  After a melodious introduction, Elyse began to sing My Everything.  If you will bear with this Grandmother and give me bragging rights for a moment, I will tell you it was beautiful!  Her voice was true and clear.  She sang with confidence and feeling.  I was moved to tears.

Do you know the feeling of being part of an experience while your mind goes to another time and place?  That happened during Elyse’s song.  I thought of my mother who died in 1983.  She had an astounding alto voice that bellowed and lifted the rafters.  She was anointed to sing, and hearts were touched when she did.

I’m not one who speaks to the dead or goes to the cemetery to talk to those who have gone on.  They aren’t there anyway.    But this morning in the pew at First Baptist, I spoke silently to my mother.  You see, I believe the saints in Heaven, that great cloud of witnesses, are aware of some things on earth, especially those involving their families.  So my mind said, “Mother, do you hear your great-granddaughter?  This is your legacy.”

Legacy.  It is what we leave behind when life is all said and done.  

My mother blessed others with her gift of music.  She traveled to little country churches to sing, and she faithfully served her own church for years. 

Mother wanted music to be part of my life.  She was determined I would have piano lessons and made me (yes, she made me) practice.  She encouraged me to play for others though I was a shy, backward child. 

It was only natural that I took that same path with Travis.  He took piano lessons which turned him toward a snare drum in fifth-grade band.  It eventually led to his high school’s marching band and the amazing percussionist he is today.

The beauty of my legacy is not just God’s gift of music to my family but that by His mercy we have come under the shadow and refuge of the Almighty, the saving grace of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The legacy goes on.  Gifts from God are honed into skills that are then used to worship the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. 

The Lord has given us great and precious promises.  His Word is filled with them.  One of my promises is in Isaiah 44:3b and 4.  I believe it and trust God will fulfill it in my family.

 . . . I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.  

Legacy can be a beautiful thing.  No matter your background or heritage, a new legacy begins with one individual who choses to follow Jesus and surrenders his life to the glory to God.