The Gifts of Christmas
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.
~Christmas by John Betjeman
What is your best Christmas memory? The boy fondly recalls an evening in December 1956, when he stood on his tiptoes to look into the high, lighted window of the toy store on the corner of Campbell Avenue and Curtiss Place, just across from the telephone company building. There in the window were shiny red wagons and chromed tricycles and brightly painted toy soldiers, and an orange, black and white electric train with NH painted on the front. It would take three years of diligent pestering by The Boy before Santa brought him that train.
Christmas Eve was always the same back then: the whole family assembled, the parents and grandparents—they’re all gone now–and the children who sat patiently through dinner while doing their best to stifle their growing excitement. Holiday attire was different in those days: the women wore dresses and the men wore suits and neckties. After dinner, everyone would sing Christmas carols and read Bible passages to help them remember that Christmas wasn’t all about Santa.
A decade changes everything: by 1969, The Boy was now sharing Christmas with the Brown Eyed Girl, and they carefully divided their Christmas time between their two families.
There followed marriage and the child raising years for The Boy and the Brown Eyed Girl, as they did their best to satisfy the Christmas wishes and wants of their offspring, even while working diligently to keep the traditional message of the first Christmas alive in them. And the years flew by, like fence pickets along the highway of life.
How many Christmases have there been? We look back and we count the precious memories. And then we recall those two most important gifts which were given to us by our Creator: The Gift of Life, and the Gift of His Son, who our Merciful God sent to us to teach us, and to save us from our sins.
And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
From The Boy and the Brown Eyed Girl