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As trees go up in the windows downtown and the Lights of the Ozarks creates a fairyland reminding even the most cynical among us of a child's delight in Christmas, my mind drifts back to Christmases of my childhood. Memories of my early Christmases must blend together, because in my mind we had snow every Christmas until I was about 7, and all the gifts I received throughout those years merge into one fabulous mental picture.

I remember all of my family around the table, laughing and talking all at the same time, and the clinking of glasses and silver. I remember sitting on my grandparents' couch with a fire in the fireplace watching as the most delicate ornaments were put near the top of the tree, waiting for my turn to put the plastic bells on the branches that I could reach along with the silver slivers of icicles -- intended to drip from the end of each small branch, but which my brother and I put on in globs that someone had to come back and re-distribute.

I remember being told that there were elves everywhere watching my every action, so that I was as close to an angel as I could possibly be -- given that I was a pretty self-centered little girl.

I remember when I received my Chatty Cathy doll, with her freckled nose and dark brown hair and the string on the back of her neck that triggered her speech when pulled. I can't remember what she said, but I can still remember the smell when I pushed my nose into her hair, wanting to breathe in the moment and make it last forever. I remember the doll-sized white bunk bed that was right beside the tree at my grandparents' house one year and a small piano with a stool that fit me perfectly.

I remember that after seeing what Santa brought on Christmas morning, and taking the time for a special breakfast, no gift could be opened until the Christmas story was read from the Bible. I can just see the worn brown leather cover of the Bible and hear the turning of the pages as we sat and listened expectantly, until Mary treasured all the words that she'd heard and "pondered them in her heart," and the shepherds left the baby Jesus praising God.

I remember that I always knew that we were celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus, which was why we loved each other so much during Christmas -- because God loved us so much that he gave us the best gift ever.

When I look at my grandchildren, I wonder what they will remember. Will they remember only the joy? When I see the children on the Fayetteville square, walking around gazing in awe at the lights, riding ponies or a camel, and eating fried Twinkies and drinking hot chocolate, I wonder if they know that this is all to celebrate Christ's birth. I was blessed with parents and grandparents who brought me up in the church, who could spend time with me baking cookies, and who had the financial resources to get me at least one or two gifts that I'd circled in the Sears Roebuck catalogue. Do those whose families struggled through the holidays have memories of Christmas as a holiday centered on God's love?

My Christmas wish is for all to know the joy of the love of God. My hope is that all experience that love and can feel at peace, regardless of the time of year. Christmas is a very special time, and the memories that are imprinted on us as children are in part pieces of real experiences and in part the overlaying of stories told and re-told through the following years. May we tell the stories again and again -- especially the story of the young woman who rode on a donkey, and how the angels sang, and the shepherds knelt down beside the baby in a manger, and God gave us Jesus because God loves us so much.

NAN Religion on 12/01/2018

Print Headline: For God so loved all of us

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