The other day–I think during a discussion of Christmas cut-out cookies–I began to wonder if a person with no children, like myself, has fewer opportunities to experience Christmas. Children are usually the motivation for most holiday traditions…cookies and snow angels and pretty little clothes. Even the Christmas story is geared toward children, with Jesus as a baby and sheep and presents from kings.
I reflected on my own mother teaching me the proper way to frost a cut-out cookie to prevent the flat frosting edge flush with the cookie. There should be a raised border, a ledge of frosting to make it look right, she informed me at the farmhouse table covered with cookies, loose sprinkles, and crumbs. She twisted the tip of her knife through the frosting to form a beautiful edge.
Me? My kitchen is covered with practical, Scrooge-like things: school work and a letter to the insurance company, and textbook receipts from Amazon. When I need Christmas cookies to pass out to my neighbors, like today, I go to the Baker’s Nook and buy an armload of cookies and boxes, redistribute them, and take them to the neighbors. No pleasant aromas wafting from my kitchen.
I purchased the cookies, studied for awhile, and panicked briefly when a virus attacked my computer. With the crisis warded off, I placed the boxes of cookies in a large canvas tote bag, dressed in multiple layers, and began a walk around my slush-covered neighborhood.
When I arrived at my neighbor Mary’s house, I found her in a soft pink bathrobe with a blue wrap around her head.
“I told Lily I’m not working today,” she said with finality, after selecting a snickerdoodle from the box of cookies and pronouncing it to be coconut.
“Good!” I said.
This is the woman who seems to be shampooing her carpet every time I visit.
“I just sat peaceful like today,” she said. “I read the Bible a lot and prayed, and then I said, ‘I’m gonna make me some brown beans’, so I made me some brown beans, and I made me some small little cornbread muffins.”
“That sounds like a day’s work,” I pointed out.
“How is Velinda’s Daddy?” she asked next. Perhaps you know that my dear friend’s father has been diagnosed with a incurable cancer.
Before I could answer she said, “I was praying for him a lot today,” and I suddenly realized the unfortunate predicament of any evil spirits attempting to surround that man. When Mary prays, things happen, and for a split second I envied him. Not his sickness of course, but I tell you, God hears Mary’s prayers. She’s not perfect, but things happen when she prays.
“I was sitting there, and I looked up at the window, and it was like he just fell into my heart,” Mary said. “And I just didn’t let up praying for him. We have to believe God, Katrina.”
The other week, when I talked to her about another impossible situation, she had told me, “Of course God’s working, Katrina. You asked Him to!”
He rules the world… This is Christmas.
I ended my walk of the night by knocking on the door of three dear children who come to my ice cream party in the summer. The child who came to the door was so bundled up in clothes, including a hood, that I wasn’t sure which of the three it was.
“Are you getting ready to go outside?” I asked, knowing that wasn’t the reason, but I guess hoping to be proved wrong.
“Maybe,” the child said with a shrug.
I handed in the cookies.
And I remembered those children telling me that their mom said she would take them away to live in a different place, where she had grown up, a beautiful place with flowers. But they were still here, and maybe that beautiful place was only a figment of her memory now, and for some reason they had to bundle up… inside.
Be near them, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay, Close by them forever, and love them I pray!
Suddenly, I was no longer thinking of the fact that I had no children, nor of my insurance company or my class, but of the fact that my furnace works and even if it quit, I have an electric fireplace.
And I remembered the rest of my week:
the cookies from my pregnant friend, hand delivered at the hospital:
the paper dolls my mom and aunts drew, colored, and cut out as children, recently discovered in storage, hundreds of them at different stages of life….
my “Silent Night” drive through the beautiful city of Elkhart when I didn’t have to work in the morning and decided there was no compelling reason to go straight home…
…my feeling of closeness to my friend in Jerusalem as I filled out a customs form at the post office….
…and Christmas with my friends…
Like Scrooge, I had learned two things– from Mary and the small cold child–that suddenly caused me to count my blessings. First, Christmas comes, not to those who wait for it, but to those who are serving others, even through prayer. Second, Christmas comes, not to those who have everything, but to those who are reminded how much they have when they look into the eyes of someone who is truly suffering.
May Christmas spread through your heart and your neighborhood, whoever you are, wherever you are!