Thanksgiving is over and this week-end has been devoted to finishing the Christmas decorations. Like most families, we started earlier this year than normal and we actually put up our four trees last week. Many of our ornaments have been with us for many years and Janet even has some handmade ornaments that were her Mom’s from way back in time…
We keep thinking about making new bows and ribbons for many of the centerpieces and decorations, but the memory of these precious heirlooms is what makes them so important to us – not the idea that they should have perfect bows. So year after year, we enjoy things that have probably outlived their life expectancy but find their way into our Christmas celebration each year.
There are several items that seem to be “first among equals” – in addition to Janet’s antique glass ornaments, there is a music box that I remember from my childhood and a Christmas village that my parents gave Janet and me when we were first married. It was from a florist shop in Palatine, IL – Nelson’s Bo-Kay Shop – appropriately owned by Bob and Kay, a husband and wife team who were both wonderful people.
The village consisted of seven buildings and there were never any more pieces to acquire. Mom bought the entire set from Bob and Kay – that’s it – one set of seven buildings. I don’t know if Bob and Kay made it or found it somewhere, but Mom got the only one and she gave it to us. I had hoped in the beginning that throughout the years, we would be able to add to it, as you can to so many other village sets, but that wasn’t the case.
As time has gone by, the village has become an extension of our family. It’s made of ceramic and each building is lit. The kids all remember it from their earliest memories as Janet and I received it before any of our children were born!
There is a town church, a depot, a small one story home, a large mansion (that I always place elevated on a hill) and three small two story row houses. That’s it… period… However, I should mention that one of the three row houses doesn’t have any Christmas lights in front of it – while the other two have lights in the front bushes that light up when the houses in the village are turned on…
Years ago, I tried to figure out why that one house didn’t have lights; and it was Kristin who first came up with the idea that this was the house where a family lived who didn’t celebrate Christmas. Since that time, each year, the village has been created with very special care as to where that house is placed. In fact, the entire village has a theme of unity and love.
The church anchors the center of town with the depot just west of it, welcoming travelers who are visiting relatives in the village. To the east, the one story home belongs to the caretaker of the mansion on the hill and it sits near the entrance to the winding road that leads up to the mansion. At the other end of town, the workers occupy the row houses that are west of the depot and sit on a small hill where the kids can sled, ice skating takes place on the frozen pond and the elderly man ice fishes while his wife feeds the ducks and geese who live near the water.
Construction of the village doesn’t vary that much year to year. It’s like a familiar place that we visit one month a year. However, from year to year, the three homes on the west side of town periodically change places.
This year, the undecorated home is the closest to town, with two neighbors to their west. I wanted to make sure that the family who lives there didn’t feel excluded from any of the festivities and activities in town. Our country is in so much turmoil these days, with political and racial unrest, that I wanted to make sure that our neighbors in that home had the chance to participate in everything the town has to offer. In fact, they have the best sledding hill outside their front door and many of the neighborhood kids are found playing out in front.
They have several trees in their yard and all three of the families in the area are great friends. Each year, when the village goes up, Kristin likes to see where that family is living and can’t wait to hear the story that I make up about what has happened in town since last year.
This year, it is particularly important to make sure that the feelings of love, unity and inclusion are a part of the town’s DNA. Our verse for tonight is one that makes sure we realize that we are to love one another.
The apostle John communicates the words of Jesus in the Gospel that he wrote. John tells us, in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
My encouragement tonight is that each of us is loved by God and we have a God given mandate to love one another. Sometimes, especially in these times, that is difficult to do and Congress certainly hasn’t set a good example for us to follow with all the partisan politics. My prayer is that we will commit ourselves to loving one another; regardless of how difficult that may be. After all, we are the light of the world and everyone should feel welcome… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…