Post Christmas Assessment: Hope

It is a reasonable question— “How was your Christmas?”

In truth, we ask lots of “how was” questions.

How was your vacation?

How was your weekend?

How was your trip to the urologist?

How was your car buying experience?

When I’m asked the Christmas question, I am very tempted to say, “I’m thankful that Christmas is over.”

I wonder what poinsettias, door wreaths made from the limbs of evergreen trees, and wrapping paper would tell us about Christmas?

In their short life span, I wonder what these traditional items might say to us as they quietly observe our Christmas ways.

Might these non-human observers say to us: these nice folks need to slow down, the pace is too hectic, perfection— forget it, keep Christmas simple, don’t over extend, if Christmas is grounded in love, shouldn’t the followers of Christmas be able to share this love everyday of the coming new year?

Here’s what I remember about Christmas 2022.

December 23, our four grandchildren gathered around the kitchen table decorating cookies.

The four grands and their cookies. Ably assisted by Uncle Andrew (Photo by Bill Pike)

Christmas Eve, the weather, the temperature was brutally and bitterly cold.

Next, I spent early Christmas morning trying to find a convenience store that sold Monterrey Jack cheese. That was the one cheese that had been forgotten in making Brad’s pasta dish. Brad is one of my wife’s nephews.

It has become a tradition in our family to feature Brad’s recipe for dinner, either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I’m sure cardiologists see dollars signs with all of the rich artery clogging cheeses used to fix this dish.

At a Sheetz on West Broad Street, I found a reasonable substitute, Colby Jack.

Late on Christmas afternoon, an unwanted and unwelcome intruder arrived at our home. A stomach virus hit my 94 year old mother-in-law.

A few hours later, that trifling germ consumed our youngest daughter.

With this invasion, a tension filled our house. We all wondered who would be next? Hand scrubbing and Lysol spray became our new friends.

Our son-in-law headed back to North Carolina on Monday. That night the stomach bug welcomed Doug to the club.

That bad bug briefly messed with our son and his two daughters.

For whatever reason, this naughty nuisance really whacked my mother-in-law. Dehydration and weakness caused her to pass out and fall. Luckily, Betsy and I were there to catch her, and that prompted a 911 call.

My wife’s sister-in-law is a doctor, obgyn, she arrived before the paramedics, and found my mother-in-law’s vitals to be stable.

The paramedics with all of the latest equipment confirmed that original assessment. As I watched this team work, I thought to myself, we are lucky to live in a community with compassionate and well-trained rescue personnel.

But, we were also lucky that Betsy and I were with my mother-in-law when this collapse occurred. Her passing out could have been much worse.

Gradually, our house guests recovered and departed.

At some point, I worked my way back to Trinity. We have a 10 a.m. worship service on New Year’s Day. I needed to check on our volunteers who had been removing the seasonal Advent decorations.

During the weeks of Advent, volunteers work to keep the poinsettias looking fresh. They water and rearrange the deep red flowers, especially, if one is looking weary.

A weary poinsettia post Christmas (Photo by Bill Pike)

The wreaths are subject to the whims of Mother Nature—sun, rain, wind, and cold can quickly fade a healthy green wreath to a brittle khaki color.

It’s tough being a real live Christmas decoration.

But, I think it is tougher being a real live human being at Christmas.

Truthfully, I have no right to whine about Christmas.

At Christmas, I’m always around family, and I’ve never missed a Christmas.

Yet, I know Christmas can be as miserable as a stomach virus for someone who is alone with no family. That lonely person might feel just as worn as a frail poinsettia or a now drab door wreath.

On Tuesday, January 3, my wife and I made one last trip to see the Christmas lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

I continue to be amazed at how strands of colorful lights transform this winter landscape. Others must feel the same way too. The garden’s paths begin to fill as the fading twilight gently shifts into darkness.

Colorful Christmas lights at Lewis Ginter (Photo by Bill Pike)

As we finish up our self-guided tour, we stop in the garden’s library and a meeting room.

In the meeting room, a local group of model train hobbyists have an amazing display set up featuring circus trains— including all of the matching props to fill in the landscape. This impressive exhibition makes adults and children stop in their footsteps. They stare intently at the moving trains as they weave through the countryside.

I’ve always appreciated artwork created by elementary school students. That admiration is extended to the art teachers who guide and support their students in this creative process. In the library, we were treated to a display of Christmas trees decorated by students at local elementary schools.

Instantly, I was impressed by these creations. To me the student art work reveals the pure innocence of their hearts.

One tree from Holladay Elementary School really tugged at my old heart. These fifth grade students had created “The Hope Tree.”

The Hope tree (Photo by Bill Pike)

Along with the decorations they created, each student had written his/her hope for the visitors observing this display.

For many years, my brother-in-law, Eric Henry, in Burlington, North Carolina has been a part of the team and ownership of TS Designs. Sure, I’m biased, but TS Designs makes the best t-shirts in the world. Yes, I said best in the world.

Maybe next Christmas, TS Designs can offer this long sleeved t-shirt.

On the front will be this question: How do grumpy old geezers survive Christmas?

Under the question will be the sad faces of many grumpy geezers.

But on the back of the t-shirt will be these words—They have hope.

Under “they have hope” will be quotes about hope like the following:

“Hope fills the holes of my frustration in my heart.” – Emanuel Cleaver

“To live without hope is to cease to live.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” – Maya Angelou

”In fact, hope is best gained after defeat and failure, because then inner strength and toughness is produced.” –  Fritz Knapp

I hope that you and your families survived Christmas.

And despite my contrariness with Christmas, I hope that we all make it to the next one.

2 thoughts on “Post Christmas Assessment: Hope”

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