This year, Janet and I actually starting putting up the Christmas decorations the week before Thanksgiving. Now this is in direct opposition to what we believe in – but we didn’t see any possible way to get it all done unless we started a little ahead of schedule. We still have many boxes from the move earlier this year that have yet to be opened. In addition to everything else, we really didn’t have any idea where most of our decorations were going.
When you live in a place for years, as we did in the last house, you kind of know where each of the decorations usually goes. Not so in a new home. It’s pretty much a labor of trial and error. And the boxes don’t necessarily have the right room names on them. Stuff that was in the library in the old house is in the hearth room of the new place. We really don’t have a great room, but more of a regular living room, so boxes that contained decor for both the kitchen and the more casual way we lived in the last place all have to be put in the proper places in this house. It’s a much bigger job than we had anticipated.
Since Janet really loves Christmas, we have collected things since we were first married, back in 1973. We generally put up several tress including one that has ornaments from the various vacations that we have taken and memorable places that we have visited.
There are certain things, as I am sure is the case with all of us, that have special significance. I have always loved a particular music box my mother had and several years before her death, we found another one just like hers. We bought it and it has become a staple of the Christmas season in our home. And Janet has glass ornaments that belonged to her mother when Nancy was a very young girl. Each year, the lady on the bicycle has a place of prominence on the front side of the tree.
Of course, there are the handprints on the paper plates that our children made when they were all very young. And that same tree includes a number of ornaments that Mom either made or gave to us during the first years of our marriage. All this is a way of saying that “stuff” has become important to us. But the most important Christmas items in our home are the handmade stockings that both Janet and I have. My stocking was made by my Great Aunt Lucille back in 1953 when I was born. Janet has a similar stocking that was handmade for her by a family friend of her mother’s the year Janet was born.
When we were married, we each took our stockings and they became the cornerstone of our Christmas morning celebrations. Janet’s is much larger than mine and she has kidded me for years about that. It takes much more stuff to fill her stocking than it does to fill mine! Anyway, with hundreds of boxes that made the move, wouldn’t you know that the only box we couldn’t find was the one with our stockings? We looked everywhere and found almost every other thing we have ever acquired – but not those handmade stockings from our youth. We looked everywhere.
Needless to say, I was a little sad at the prospect of not having those Christmas items in our new place. In fact, Janet went online and started to investigate ordering new stockings for the whole family – as they were all together when we last had them – all gone. I was resigned to the idea of placing an order and, in fact, was rather surprised at how calm I was. We have had a number of things happen lately that are far more important than “stuff.” And as Janet said, we have had more than 60 years of enjoyment with those stockings and we will still have the memories. It may be time to move on and order a new one – something I never thought I would ever have to do.
Janet wasn’t quite as quick to give up and sure enough, just as we were getting ready to order new ones, she found our originals in a cabinet we have in the living room. Janet has no idea how they ever got there, but that’s not important. The thing is that we were ready to give up something that was lost and deal with the consequences. In the eleventh hour, we didn’t have to.
The story kind of reminds me of the apostle Paul. He had benefited from great things in his life and had also known hardship and disappointment. Yet, when it was all considered, Paul tells us, in our verse for the evening, from Phil. 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to be holy; and then, hopefully, happy. But contentment is something that we should aspire to regardless of the circumstances. My prayer is that the Lord will give you peace and contentment in every situation you may encounter. After all, that’s one of the ways that we find true joy. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…