I’m standing at the table, unwrapping all my Christmas ornaments. As they are opened, they will be rewrapped and placed in another box for Jenn, who will be the new family Official Keeper of The Ornaments. The box was not opened last year, as I had just moved to my present situation, so this will be a real treat.
First to come out of the box, and then be placed in Jenn’s box, are the multi-color twinkle lights.
About 30 years ago, my parents bought a decorated Christmas tree from Treasure Island. The store held annual contests and charity auctions. My parents bought two strips of tickets and placed them all in the collection box of a tree decorated with colored lights and hand-made angel ornaments. Angels were prominent in mom’s decorating scheme. Although Mom had won the chance to purchase (for 50 percent off!) the tree of her dreams, it could not be removed from the store until Epiphany. Five years later, my parents decided to switch to clear lights and the drama that followed is a treasured family memory.
The first ornament I touch is clear. Inside it are ribbon strips and a photo of Gwen taken three months before her first and only Christmas. A thin strip of rose-colored ribbon covers the bale at the top of the ornament. I give a tearful smile as I remember Father Tommy Allen, the priest who officiated at Gwen’s funeral, said that sometimes God was selfish, taking His most perfect creations Home at an early age. This deprives their loved ones but also allows the newly arrived soul to remain in His Kingdom, free of life’s vicissitudes. Gwen was interred in a family plot where a small evergreen tree stands. Gwen’s Christmas tree is decorated with her special decorations. A new one is bought and added to the collection each year.
Next is a cranberry colored ornament. It is one of nine that I purchased at the former Eckerd’s in Havre de Grace. It features a sketch of SMA by Anne Bates which used to be on the cover of the service bulletins. On another ornament from this set, I placed a Tome School picture of Jenn. Seeing it always gives me a nostalgic smile remembering her at the young age of six.
One ornament is a rabbit, sitting in a rocking chair knitting. She’s wearing her robe and her own bunny slippers. It was a gift from Hank, because I used to knit a lot. However, I now have mild arthritis in my hands, causing them to ache after a half hour of knitting.
The last ornament, which I’ll specifically describe, is from a series called The Fabulous Decade. It depicted a series of cats, with thin brass numbers worked into each ornament. This one is from 1975, our 20th anniversary. It depicts an orange tabby lying on a green box. We had a brown tabby then, so this is fairly close.
Each of the ornaments remaining is equally memorable and I treasure the entire collection. Now it’s time for Jenn to take over. This has been a nostalgic afternoon.
Rick grew up in the Baptist Church, so the Season of Advent was foreign to him. His family’s yearly observance of Christmas began whenever the Christmas toy catalogs arrived in the mail and the local shopping mall set out their decorations to start their pitch for the holiday spending spree. This started to change when he met Julie and began attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Westfield, New Jersey during college weekend visits with her family.
The church’s Advent wreath, and accompanying candles and readings, gave Rick a new perspective on the remembrance of the coming of Jesus, four or five weeks away. After church, Julie’s parents had a gathering around their own Advent wreath in the dining room of their house: artificial greens on a Styrofoam base, but with all the heart of a fresh version. They read the weekly readings and prayers, as they lit the appropriate candles. This became a happily- anticipated yearly tradition. When Rick and Julie moved to Cecil County this tradition continued at St. Mary Anne’s. Though they did not faithfully set up a wreath at home, they and Jonathan and Lauren looked forward to the lighting and readings at church and the accompanying hymns and choir anthems that began the preparation for Christmas Eve services and the start of the true Christmas season.
As the kids grew, they became acolytes and did their part each year with the lighting of the Advent wreath candles. Though they still find themselves pushed into the Christmas season before it is time, Rick and Julie enjoy the respite from the secular hustle and bustle provided by the Sundays of Advent!
Rick and Julie Waterhouse
Waiting for Christmas!
As a child growing up in Unionville, PA, I remember Christmas “waiting” with my 5 siblings as a time that took way too long and might never get here. But mom and dad were poor and they made it a time for Santa wishes, stockings (real, not fancy ones) hanging by the fireplace, a nicely lit and decorated tree, visits to and from family, and a special occasion in many ways. They loved us, and Christmas day included the opening of a couple of gifts, retrieving the orange, nuts and candy from our stockings, and a special dinner.
I lived with my parents in the village until I graduated from Goldey Beacom College in 1954, at which time l moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for the FBI for two years and decided to follow my sister, Ruth, back to Unionville. I attended Unionville Presbyterian (one that was within walking distance from my home) until 1960. I was baptized, became a member, and still never experienced Advent.
In 1960 I married George Ulary, moved to North East, where I had spent long summers at Red Point Beach in my family’s cottage, and became a member (where I was married) of Harts Methodist Church. George had been a member of this church since being carried to services on a pillow as a baby. We attended with our three girls until the Hills moved in as neighbors and Father Shand became the priest at St. Mary Anne’s. We enjoyed amazing adult Bible lessons from Emma Wood, Ethel Leverdge, and Florence Ulary, but still no Advent. We began letting our three girls go to youth group meetings with our neighbor, Melissa Hill, after her confirmation with Father Shand. All three baptized and confirmed as Episcopalians. We took turns attending church as a family, sometimes one of us would go to SMA — mostly me!
I became an Episcopalian in 1982 and was introduced to the season of Advent. Thanks be to God!
I found my Christian family and home. Christmas Eve service was smells, bells, and all the pomp worthy of a birthday celebrating a king. It was awesome! The waiting was worth the best gift everyone should have. God lit up my life when he sent the Lord Jesus Christ to me. It is the only hope for each of us, and it is the only gift I wish for you all! No more waiting is necessary! Merry Christmas!
I love the story of Mary and have read many books about her but recently for some reason I’ve started to think about Joseph. Perhaps it’s because I have a good husband, sons, a son-in-law, grandsons, a grandson-in-law, and my sweet great grandson Henry that I wondered how difficult that time must have been for Joseph. He was, from all accounts, a good Christian man who was a carpenter by trade and engaged to a younger woman when she tells him she is expecting a child and that he is not the father. Not only that but an angel appeared and told him God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. Can you imagine his thoughts and his heavy burden of deciding what to do? I’m sure he had many questions and doubts about what Mary and his future would hold.
Wow –that was a lot to handle!
He could have publicly shamed Mary and broken their engagement but he didn’t.
Mary and Joseph were married as planned – perhaps a little sooner than planned. Sometime after the wedding and before the birth of the baby they had to travel to Bethlehem for the census and to pay their taxes. They walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem and along the way Mary goes into labor – they don’t know anyone, there were no rooms to be rented and Mary gives birth in a barn! I wonder if he had to assist in the birth? And still Joseph is by Mary’s side. Eventually they are able to return home and raise their family.
There isn’t a lot more we know about Joseph and there is no mention of him when Jesus was crucified so I think he died prior to Jesus death or we would have read of his being at Mary’s side.
What a wonderful love story and what a good man! Joseph certainly loved and trusted God and Mary.