Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas is always today’s gift.

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For Christmas decor, I give you these lighted redwood trees in my town.

Because at my house, there is a wreath on the front door, and one on the playhouse door, and that’s it! I am so busy planning and packing for a long trip, starting with Christmas at Pearl’s in Wisconsin, that I had no room in my mind or schedule for more than that.

I’m not even baking! Soldier and his family were just here for a couple of days and I found a Sugar Plum Cake from last Christmas in the freezer, to eat for breakfast. It’s a stöllen sort of bread, the recipe for which was handed down from my Aunt Bettie; the grandchildren particularly liked the little colored bits in it.

If I were going to be home this year, I’d certainly find a new cookie recipe in this book which was gifted to me by one of the children:

But I’m not, so I’ll share a few cookies and cookie stories from the past:

Two recipes from my cookie tray

A traditional seedy one

I don’t think I love Christmas as much as my late husband did, but I enjoyed all the aspects of preparing and shopping better when he was still around. And his voice leading us in carol-singing! Oh yes.

For almost twenty years I’ve been learning about the riches of the Orthodox Church, which include an appreciation for the Incarnation on a level I never found elsewhere. It’s thrilling to focus on Christ’s Nativity this month, but the story of a baby in a manger would become boring after a few years if it were merely a historic event to think about. The soul requires more than thought, more than history, and this holy feast is an event that we can abide in the way the branch abides in the Vine. It makes possible our participating in that Life, in the ever arriving Today.

What happens in the present is connected in lovely and helpful ways to the past by what we retain and remember. Here are two more articles from the archives, on Christmasy things:

What Christmas trees teach

Reading the Nativity icon

Tradition is a word that comes up a lot during holiday seasons. Some people find great comfort in keeping customs like baking cookies and visiting Santa, but at the same time try to craft their own individual version of fundamental human personhood. I found this little Facebook posting to be thought-provoking:

Every human being born into this world starts as a traditionalist. What we have, what we begin with, is handed down to us from everyone and everything that has gone before. The rejection of that tradition is not only absurd, it is ungrateful. [Tradition is] also inescapable. We cannot become self-created. What we have is a gift. What we are is revealed as we fulfill that gift.

Be thankful. You are God’s gift to the world.

-Father Stephen Freeman

From each Christmas to the next, and every day in between,
“God is with us!”

Not heaping on the wood.

Heap on the wood.
The wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

-Sir Walter Scott

Larsson tree

Today is the eighth day that we have been forbidden to burn wood, and the eighth also of freezing outdoor temperatures. It’s always this way – when we most feel the need, we are deprived. Any day now I will break down and have a gas fireplace installed so I can sit in front of it… but for this moment, I give you these images that are only comforting because I just turned up the thermostat. Instead of a crackling fire I am hearing the roar of the blowing furnace, but the truth is, I am very thankful for that. I hope wherever you are, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, that you are cozy, too!

A star has been born in it.

THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST ~ A MEDITATION

…The greatest mystery of the Incarnation is that, having happened once in history, it recurs  in every person that comes to Christ. In the deep silence of the night the Word of God became incarnate on earth: this is how the Word becomes incarnate in the silent depths of our soul, where our mind lapses into silence, where words run out, where our spirit stands before God.

Christ was born on earth unknown and unrecognized, for only the Magi and the shepherds went out to meet him. In the same way, quietly and unrecognizably to others, Christ is born in a human soul, and it comes out to meet him, because a star has been born in it, leading to the light

We mysteriously recognize Christ in us during prayer, when we discover that our prayer has been accepted and heard, that God ‘came and abode in us’ and filled us with his life-bearing presence. We encounter Christ in the Eucharist, when, having received his body and blood, we feel that our own body is penetrated by his divine energy, and the blood of God runs though our veins.

We encounter Christ in other sacraments of the Church, when through union with him we are renewed and revived unto eternal life. We encounter Christ in our neighbors, when we gain sight of his innermost depth where the image of God shines. We encounter Christ in our everyday life, when amidst its noise we hear his beckoning voice or when we see his manifest intrusion into the course of history.

Precisely so — unexpectedly and suddenly — God intruded into the life of humanity twenty centuries ago, when by his birth he turned the course of history. Precisely so is he born again and again in the souls of thousands of people, changing, transforming and transfiguring their lives, making believers out of non-believers, saints out of sinners, saved out of dying.

When, around two thousand years ago, the Divine Infant was born, the angels sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ (Lk 2:14). In our days the world yearns for peace and good will. In the very place where Christ was born there is war, and Bethlehem itself is under siege. The Christian Church prays for peace in the Holy Land and in other countries for the forces of good to triumph over the forces of evil. May the Divine Child born in Bethlehem grant peace to the entire world, and good will to all its people.

—Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokalamsk