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Comfort and Joy

Posted Friday, December 16, 2011, at 11:02 AM

They decided to use the small tree this year. The boy found the box in the storage area and brought it to the living room along with lights. She sent him back for a tree skirt while she gathered ornaments. They regrouped in the living room with all their supplies.

Starting with the tree, they shook it to remove loose needles and put the tree together. Fluffing the branches, balancing and turning the tree they decided upon the placement of the tree on the table. Next they put on the lights, bringing life to the tree.

Looking through the ornaments, she realized they didn't have the tree topper. He picked up a tatted angel, "What about this mom?" "Oh that would work perfect--it was Aunt Marsha's. Her friend Kay made it while we waited during one of her surgeries and then gave it to her later. It has always been one of our favorites."

They continued placing ornaments. A set of crystal pine cones she had bought for them on their trip to Alaska; Eskimo children with polar bears that she had found in Anchorage; and a set of "bear bells" from Denali. Placing them on the tree they shared stories of their trip they had shared with Aunt Marsha. Their conversation became filled with remember rafting down the Mendenhall River; what about all the eagles at . . . or that was where I first tasted crab legs, lobster and shrimp and discovered how much I LOVE seafood. Memories made them warm.

The Coca Cola penguins made them laugh, talking about the trip mom had made with Aunt Ellie to Las Vegas--and their big splurge was buying Christmas tree ornaments. As they continued placing ornament on the tree, they found beautiful filigree gold churches with crystals for windows. One had a place where a bulb could be slid into the building so that light danced through the crystal windows. "I love these churches so much. They were the last ones Aunt Suzie brought for us in Silverton and gave to us the Christmas before she died." She loved the sparkle of the . . . tears began to flow and she stopped talking for a moment.

"Remember this one son? We bought it in Albuquerque. Oh, and this one I made--it is counted cross stitch that I made as the front of a Christmas Card to Grandmother and Granddaddy the first year your dad and I were married. When Granddaddy died she gave it back to me, so I framed it."

"The three miniature frames with cross stitch your Aunt Suzie bought from a lady trying to raise money while staying with her child at St. Jude's Children's Hospital. These other two that are larger a friend of Aunt Marsha's made for her when she was Chaplain at the hospital in Albuquerque. This blown glass angel is the one Grandma gave us last Christmas . . . do you mind our putting your Eagles on the tree?"

They gathered the half dozen or so eagles and placed them carefully on the tree with flur de lie's gracing the branches as well. Old plastic snow globes, Styrofoam bells studded with sequins, miniature rocking horses, seashells, painted balls, and too soon the tree was filled with the only space left was on the bottom of the branches where they hung bells--the cat warning system.

Tenderly touching the various ornaments, tears came to their eyes. Memories of their loved ones who had died brought them sadness, tender memories, and great joy. Not of the presents they would no longer get at Christmas, but the duel of love and loss that came with their lives and deaths.

Advent--our preparation for Christmas--is filled with the joy of anticipating the holidays and the sorrow of missing those who have died. While we anticipate the birthday of Jesus--God in human flesh; we realize that the birth was so that God could do for us what we could not do on our own.

Christmas--the season of comfort and joy is ours. It is filled with times of tears and sorrow as well as times of smiles, laughter, and joy. This year, while mourning the loss of those we love, don't be afraid of the tears. Take time to balance, give comfort and joy to all you encounter.

God, thank you for loving us so much that you chose to give yourself to us in the form of a human child--Jesus. As we celebrate the season help us to balance our lives; to give time to remembering days gone by; anticipating the joy of days to come; and to give comfort and joy to others. We know that you are both our comforter and the reason for our joy. Thank you. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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