5
Dec

The Christmas Bird

The days grew shorter, the air crisper, the nights longer, and the whisper of leaves on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird in their tissue paper in the attic. Something sang to them, called to them, until they wiggled with joy, crinkling their crepe paper walls. Soon, each Christmas bird ornament would be lifted from his crinkly paper bed where he slept since last Christmas.

As the year neared its end, the Christmas birds felt a thrill from their springy wire clips and gold porcelain bodies to their bright feather tails. The littlest Christmas bird lay warm and snug beneath Gold Bird. How he anticipated the coming holiday season. Soon he would be on the Christmas tree with his fragile glass friends and the others…the round ones with bright colored paint. They were not nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their springy wires, delicate glass and pinchey clips that clasped them firmly to each branch. And though all his friends were lovely, he felt he was the most beautiful Christmas tree bird in the attic.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed about Christmas Eve. From the top of the tree, he would look down upon the family gathered by the fireplace. Being part of the Christmas celebration made him feel truly alive. “I’ve been thinking,” he whispered in a trembling voice filled, “You are lovely, Gold Bird, but, in truth, I am the most beautiful Christmas bird.”

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? Blue glass bird is made of hand-blown glass from Germany, with a fine blue feather tail. Antique bird is missing some tail feathers but he is so fragile, you can see right through him. We all have unique qualities, and all are as beautiful as you.” He fairly shook as he scolded the young bird wrapped beneath him in pink tissue.

“It may be true what you say,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree won’t be nearly as beautiful if I’m not right near the top.”

Gold Bird, being older and wiser, turned his head. “You obviously don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to be included in the holiday events. You conceited fellow, it would serve you right if you got left behind this year.”

The Christmas bird trembled. The idea of being left behind scared him a bit. With a slight tremble, he said, “That couldn’t happen, could it? It’s not that you aren’t handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and…my…paint is much shinier.”

Tut tut,” replied Gold Bird. “Not…another…word.”

For several uncomfortable days, the little bird lay silent in his cocoon of crinkly paper. Gold Bird’s warning haunted him. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” Not to be there on Christmas Eve? He could not bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and a soft sprinkle of snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled past the attic and the dark days edged toward December. Early one morning, footsteps on the attic steps awakened the Christmas birds. They held their breath, as their box was lifted from the shelf and carried down the stairs. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree,” the little Christmas bird whispered to Gold Bird.

One by one, the Christmas birds were lifted from the box. The young Christmas bird lay wrapped in his soft tissue wrapping. He heard the squeal as his friends were hung on the tree. He faintly heard music and children laughing. He even smelled the cookies!

“It’s almost time,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “It’s nearly my turn.”…but Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. The ornament box was tossed into the corner; empty, except for the little Christmas bird. “Wait! What happened? I’m still here.” Overlooked in mother’s haste, he was left behind. His comfortable bed, now a prison, his beautiful body still swaddled in crinkly tissue paper. Muffled Christmas sounds reached his ears. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. “I was conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.”

Christmas Day approached and he missed the entire Christmas season, alone in the box in the corner. On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird lay in his box, imagining the tree with his friends hanging on its branches. Even the scorned round ones were part of the celebration. “The round ones may not be as beautiful,” he lamented,” but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”

After supper, the family gathered by the Christmas tree. The little girl read from the Bible. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

Christmas bird thought, “I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus,” and he imagined the tiny baby sung and warm, lying in a manger, warmed by the breath of the surrounding animals. He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby, and if we loved and trusted Him, He would take us to heaven and we would never be left behind.  The Christmas bird sniffed, “I know what it’s like to be left behind. How much worse it would be, to be left behind from Heaven.” Then, his box jiggled, the crinkling tissue paper lifted away and the warmth from the fireplace touched his cheek.

The little girl lifted Christmas bird from his box. “Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. He has a red tear in his eye. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”

Daddy lifted her and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. Looking down from the tree, the joyous Christmas bird felt the love in the room as the family shared gifts with one another. Carols played on the stereo. The spicy aroma of gingerbread drifted in from the kitchen. The family laughed and sang. Christmas bird wiggled with joy. At last, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Gold Bird swung around from a nearby branch and gave him a tender glance. “Welcome to Christmas, little bird. Did you learn anything?”

The light from the fireplace reflected the tear in his eye, shimmering like a drop of gold. “I understand,” he whispered. “Christmas is not about who is most beautiful, who is round or who has the brightest springy tail. It’s not about carols or turkey dinner or gingerbread, or even about presents under the tree. The true meaning of Christmas is God’s love for us with the birth of Jesus. When we accept His love and believe in Him, we will never be left behind.”

 

25
Dec

Remembering The YEAR OF THE CHRISTMAS STICK

Christmas Stick
This is a reprint of a post I wrote several years ago:

In the early 1980’s, when my kids were young teenagers, we had to close our business, leaving us in considerable debt. Collection agency calls were daily occurrences. One month, I had to pay my house payment with the Visa card. We gave up a 1972 Cadillac convertible to settle a business obligation. The IRS emptied our meager bank account (without notice) to pay the overdue California sales taxes, resulting in bounced checks all over town.

These days we would say we were financially challenged. We said we were "broke." No way was there extra money for a Christmas tree.

My husband brought home a beautiful manzanita branch, mounted it on a base and decorated it with red Christmas balls. Not the traditional Christmas tree, to be sure, but pretty. We set our few presents underneath.

Hubby and I were prepared to deal with the substitute tree, trusting that things would be better next year. The kids hated it, calling it the Christmas Stick. They were embarrassed when their friends, who had lovely trees with presents, came to visit.

We muddled through that financial disaster, took a second mortgage on the house at 14% interest (true) and paid off all the debts. Over the next few months, we borrowed from a family member to pay off the mortgage and by the next Christmas, we were back on our feet. The kids had toys and we had a real Christmas tree.

I was thinking the other day that sometime in our life, we should all have a Year of the Christmas Stick. A year when we can’t afford to buy the children expensive gifts that break before New Year’s Day. A season where we do without the luxuries we’re used to: Christmas trees, lights in the front yard, presents and expensive holiday outings. A year when we walk in the footsteps of folks out there, by virtue of unemployment, natural disaster or illness, who are without a tree and without gifts. For that matter, maybe some are even without a home with a chimney for Santa to slid down, such as this year, following the dreadful fires in L.A. and northern California.

It’s been over fifty years since the Year of the Christmas Stick. This Christmas Day, as our family stumbles from the table loaded down with ham and cookies and all the fixings and we gaze at our ten- foot- tall Christmas tree with gifts piled high,we might remember the Year of The Christmas Stick and it's humbling message.

We are grateful for the important things. We are blessed with our families, our health, our faith, all gifts from God. We remember to share our bounty with those who are in need. We remember that there are some folks who might think they were blessed to have a Christmas Stick with a few presents underneath, even if it was just sweaters and pajamas and sox, like my kids got that one Christmas so long ago.

I remember how hard things were when we closed the business and struggled to make ends meet, wondering how we could make good on our business debts, keep our home and feed our kids. We struggled and persevered and made do with a manzanita branch for a Christmas tree. Looking back, I remember and can't help but thank God for the opportunity to experience the Year of the Christmas Stick. We all learned lessons that I hope we will never forget.

23
Dec

Revisiting: Was There Ever a Real Santa Claus?

Saint Nicholas: During the 4th century, in Asia Minor, lived a Bishop of Myra named Nicholas who secretly gave his possessions to the poor. According to legend, St. Nicholas wished to provide dowry money for three daughters of a poor merchant. To keep his identity secret, he tossed bags of gold down the merchant’s chimney. Accidently, it fell into the girls stockings hanging by the hearth to dry. Thus, began the custom of hanging stockings by the fire filled with gifts, fruit and candy. Three gold balls used to decorate pawn shops, as a sign of merchants honoring their patron saint, Saint Nicholas.

St. Nicholas and his Reindeer: Originally, St. Nicholas rode a white horse in his native country of Turkey. As his popularity spread rapidly across Central Europe to the Scandinavian countries, having no horses, they gave St. Nicholas a reindeer-drawn sleigh instead.

Reindeer are relatives of the wild caribou, but are different from any other type of deer in that both male and female reindeer have branched antlers. Their habitat is now concentrated in Canada, Alaska and in the Arctic.

The Night Before Christmas: Both St. Nicholas and his reindeer became famous when Dr. Clement Moore published his famous poem in 1823, “A Visit from St. Nicholas, or The Night Before Christmas.”

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet. On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!

St. Nicholas was also given some of the characteristics of the Norse god, Thor, who rode through the sky in a chariot wearing a red coat.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot

In 1866, the political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, (who drew the characters of the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey for Harper’s Weekly magazine), drew a picture of St. Nick with his pipe, twinkly face and fur trimmed coat that has served as the model for the jolly old elf ever since. Thomsas NastHarpers Weekly

He was chubby and plump, a jolly old elf
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself
A stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth
And the smoke encircled his head like a wreath
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.…

FatherChristmas: In the 17th century, a very old grey-bearded gentleman called Father Christmas also gave gifts to the poor. In the USA, the character of Father Christmas merged with the Dutch settler’s patron, St. Nicholas. He was called Santa Niklaus, then Sinter Klass and finally Santa Claus.

So, whether you call him Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas, the exchanging of gifts at Christmas dates back to these legendary characters. The Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus. We all give gifts to our loved ones. This Christmas season we must not neglect sharing our good fortune with those who are in need, as was the original intent of St. Nicholas and Father Christmas.

As we look around the world and around our own country, there is no shortage of people in need. My family gives to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that responds world-wide, bringing relief and the story of God’s love wherever disaster strikes. At Christmas, we donate money to Samaritan's Purse to send a goat and chickens to families in third world countries.

How does your family celebrate the season? What ways do you acknowledge those less fortunate?

31
Dec

Remembering the YEAR OF THE CHRISTMAS STICK

Christmas Stick

In the early 1980’s, when my kids were young teenagers, we had to close our business, leaving us in considerable debt. Collection agency calls were daily occurrences. One month, I paid my house payment with the Visa card. We gave up a 1972 Cadillac convertible to settle a business obligation. The IRS emptied our meager bank account (without notice) to pay the overdue California sales taxes, resulting in bounced checks all over town.

That Christmas, we were financially challenged (as they might say now). We said we were "broke." No way was there any extra money for a Christmas tree.

My husband brought home a beautiful manzanita branch, mounted it on a base and decorated it with red Christmas balls. Not the traditional Christmas tree, to be sure, but pretty. We set our few presents underneath.

Hubby and I were prepared to deal with the substitute tree, trusting that things would be better next year. The kids hated it, calling it the Christmas Stick. They were embarrassed when their friends came to visit.

We muddled through that financial disaster, took a second mortgage on the house at 14% interest (true) and paid off all the debts. The next Christmas we were back on our feet, the kids had toys and we had a real Christmas tree.

I was thinking the other day that sometime in our life, we should all have a Year of the Christmas Stick. A year when we can’t afford to buy the children expensive gifts that break before New Year’s Day. A season where we do without the luxuries we’re used to, Christmas trees, lights in the front yard, presents and expensive holiday outings. A year when we walk in the footsteps of folks out there, by virtue of unemployment, natural disaster or illness, who are without a tree, and without gifts. For that matter, maybe some are without a home with a chimney for Santa to slid down.

It’s been over fifty years since the Year of the Christmas Stick. This Christmas Day, as our family stumbled from the table loaded down with ham and cookies and all the fixings and we gazed at our ten- foot- tall Christmas tree with gifts piled high, thought about the Year of The Christmas Stick. And we remembered its message.

We are grateful for the important things. We are blessed with our families, our health, our faith, all gifts from God. We remember to share our bounty with those who are in need. We remember that there are some folks who might think they were blessed to have a Christmas Stick with a few presents underneath, even if it was just sweaters and pajamas and sox, like my kids got that one year so long ago.

I remember how hard things were when we closed the business and struggled to make ends meet, wondering how we could make good on our business debts, keep our home and feed our kids. We struggled and persevered and made do with a manzanita branch for a Christmas tree. Looking back, I remember and can't help but thank God for the opportunity to experience the Year of the Christmas Stick. We all learned lessons that I hope we will never forget.

16
Dec

The Christmas Bird

christmasbird.1

The air grew crisper, the nights longer and the whisper of leaves falling on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird from their yearlong slumber. They wiggled with joy, crinkling the crepe paper walls of their divided cubicles in the ornament box. Soon, the Christmas bird ornaments would be lifted from their crinkly crepe paper beds where they had slept in the attic since last Christmas.

As the special day grew nearer, the thrill of the season crept through their springy wire clips, their porcelain gold and silver bodies and their fluffy feather tails.

The youngest Christmas bird lay in the middle cubicle under Gold Bird, wrapped snugly in soft white tissue paper. “Christmas is coming!” He shook with excitement. Soon, he would be high on the tree with his Christmas bird friends and the round ones, who weren’t nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their feather tails and pinchy clips.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed of Christmas Eve. From the top of the Christmas tree, his family would gather by the fireplace. He could almost hear the music and smell the cookies.
“I’ve been thinking that I am the most beautiful Christmas bird,” he whispered to Gold Bird, who lay wrapped in tissue above him.

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? What makes you think so? Blue glass bird is made of hand blown glass and has a lovely feather tail. Antique bird is missing his tail feathers, but he’s so fragile, you can see through his porcelain body. Most of us are much more beautiful than you.” He shook as he scolded the young bird.

“I don’t care. The Christmas tree wouldn’t be as beautiful if I wasn’t right near the top.” The little bird twitched all over.

Gold Bird huffed. “It would serve you right if you were left behind this year. You don’t know anything about the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to hang on the Christmas tree.”

The Christmas bird trembled. That he might not celebrate the season scared him a bit, but not quite enough. His voice trembled. “I didn’t mean to be conceited. It’s not that I think you aren’t very handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and… my… paint is much shinier−”

“Tut tut,” Gold Bird said. “I won’t listen to hear another word.”
For several days, the young bird lay in his cocoon of crinkly paper, haunted by Gold Bird’s words. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” and he would shudder. Unthinkable! Not to be on the Christmas tree? Not to be part of Christmas Eve? He couldn’t bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and the nights longer. Snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled through the trees, their bare branches just visible through the tiny attic window. The long days of November edged into December.

One morning, the Christmas birds awoke to footsteps clunking up the attic steps. The Christmas bird held his breath, not daring to wiggle. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree!”

One by one, his friends were lifted from the cubicles beside him. He heard them squeal as they were hung on the tree. Beneath his tissue coverings, he faintly heard the music. He could hear the children chattering; he could even smell the cookies.

“It’s nearly my turn,” he whispered. But, there was no answer.
Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. He waited. The box was tossed into the corner; empty except for the littlest Christmas bird, hidden under the tissue in the middle cubicle.
His comfortable box now a prison, his beautiful body and fluffy tail lay beneath the crinkly tissue paper. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. Gold Bird was right. I’ve been conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.

He lay alone in the corner through the entire month of December. The faint sounds of Christmas filtered through his tissue paper. The Christmas season was nearly over and he had missed everything.

On Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree bird imagined the tree with his Christmas bird friends hanging with the others, the ones he had scorned. They may not be as beautiful as I, but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.

He heard the little girl’s voice. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like baby Jesus. He imagined the tiny baby wrapped sung and warm, lying in the straw, surrounded by the cows. He imagined the shepherds bringing their sheep down from the hills to worship the babe. He thought of the Wise Men who brought gifts to welcome His birth.

He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby and if we loved and trusted Him, He promised to come again and take us to heaven and we would not be left behind. The Christmas bird blinked back a tear. I know what it’s like to be left behind. How terrible to be left behind from Heaven.

Then, the tissue paper lifted. “Look, Mommy! Here’s another Christmas birdie, all alone in the box. Oh, he looks like he has a tear in his eye! Can I hang him on the Christmas tree?”

The Christmas bird was whooshed up to the top of the tree where his hook fastened to a branch next to Gold Bird. Looking down from his lofty perch, he saw the family gathered around the tree. There was such love in the room! He even smelled the Christmas cookies! At last, he was exactly where he needed to be.

Gold Bird gave him a stern but loving glance. “Did you learn anything, my little friend?”

As he swung from side to side on the pine branch, the light from the fire reflected in the gold tear in the little bird’s eye. “I understand,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “Christmas is not about who is more beautiful or cookies or even the gifts people give to one another. The true meaning of Christmas is God’s gift to the world, the birth of Jesus Christ. When we accept God’s Gift of love, one day He will come back for his children and we will never be left behind.”

Gold bird swung around on his hook. “Welcome to Christmas, Christmas bird!”

30
Nov

The Year of the Christmas Stick

Christmas Stick

In the early 1980’s, when my kids were young teenagers, we had to close our business, leaving us in debt. Collection agency calls came almost daily. I paid my house payment with the Visa card. We gave up a 1972 Cadillac convertible to settle a business obligation. The IRS emptied our meager bank account (without notice) to pay the overdue California sales taxes, resulting in bounced checks all over town.

Christmas came and we were in a bad way, financially. No way was there money for a Christmas tree.

My husband brought home a beautiful manzanita branch, mounted it on a base and decorated it with red Christmas balls. Not the traditional Christmas tree, to be sure, but pretty. We set our few presents underneath.

Hubby and I were prepared to deal with the substitute tree, trusting that things would be better next year. The kids hated it, calling it the Christmas Stick. They were embarrassed when their friends came to visit.

We muddled through that financial disaster, took a second mortgage on the house at 14% interest (true) and paid off all the debts. The next Christmas we were back on our feet and had a real Christmas tree.

I was thinking the other day that sometime in our life, we should all have a Year of the Christmas Stick. A year when we can’t afford to buy the children expensive gifts that break before New Year’s Day. A season where we do without the luxuries we’re used to, Christmas trees, lights in the front yard, presents and expensive holiday outings. A year when we become one with folks out there, by virtue of unemployment, natural disaster or illness, who are without a tree, without gifts, for that matter, maybe without a home with a chimney for Santa to slid down.

It’s been over forty years since the Year of the Christmas Stick. On Christmas Day, as our family stumbles from the table loaded down with turkey and all the fixings and we gaze at our ten- foot- tall Christmas tree with gifts piled high, we’ll laugh about the Year of The Christmas Stick. But we remember its message.

We are grateful for the important things. We are blessed with our families, our health, our faith, all gifts from God. We remember to share our bounty with those who are in need. Folks who might think they were blessed to have a Christmas Stick with a few presents underneath even if it was just sweaters and pajamas and sox, like my kids got that year.

I remember how hard things were when we closed the business and struggled to make ends meet, wondering how we could make good on our business debts, keep our home and feed our kids. We struggled and persevered and made do with a manzanita branch for a Christmas tree. Looking back, I remember and thank God for the Year of the Christmas Stick. We all learned lessons I hope we will never forget.

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