Monday, December 20, 2010

Rewriting Christmas Traditions

I LOVE Christmas. The scent of fresh baked cookies, pine needles, and brand new wrapping paper mixed together with the crackling of a fire and the magical glitter of white lights just makes me all gooey inside. Happy children’s giggles top it off like whipped cream on homemade chocolate pie.

What I enjoy most of all? Family. It's so much fun to hang out with my wild and crazy family who love with a zealous sort of love. Growing up, we had a tradition of reading the gospel of Luke’s Christmas story on Christmas Eve, followed by the children going upstairs to have an aunt read Twas the Night before Christmas. As the poem was being read, ‘Santa’ would drop off some presents and with a “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he’d disappear out the door, just as we clamored down the stairs to catch a glimpse. The quest for Santa was soon forgotten as we noticed the pile of gifts underneath the tree. That tradition lasted up until seven years ago, when I was the ‘aunt’ who read the story and watched my children clamor down the stairs for a peek at Santa.

Nowadays, I’ve started a new Christmas tradition at our house. Something to draw less attention to Santa Claus, and more attention to the greatest Christmas gift. Jesus. Not that the whole idea of Santa isn't fun and exciting - and not that Santa's true story isn't beautiful, but there's MUCH MORE. Eternally more.

It easy to get so distracted by the lighted displays and clearance prices, that we lose sight of the most amazing truth of all. God came.

It should shock us. God, wrapped in flesh, came to rescue His kids. The Father of all became a son so that we could be called His sons and daughters. Wow!

Not only did He come to Earth, but he came as a human – not only as a human, but an infant. The same hands that formed Adam and Eve, grasped in the darkness of a stinky, filthy stable. The same voice that spoke the world into existence, cried out for food from his mother.

It should boggle the mind!

So – to help my kids gain that perspective a little better, after we’ve attended our beautiful Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service, we have a scavenger hunt of our Advent characters (everyone desperately wants to find Baby Jesus, of course). Then we gather around the Christmas tree and read a poem called Twas the Night Jesus Came.

(I discovered another great Christmas story for kids this year. It’s called What God Wants for Christmas- an interactive Christmas story)

My hope in writing this poem was to take the same ‘melody’ of the familiar Twas the Night Before Christmas and bring out the real heart-story of Christmas. Because I couldn’t find anything similar, it was my desire to write something for my kids – and it’s grown into a poem I’ve been asked to share with many more.

I hope you enjoy it – and may your Christmas be filled with the love of a Father who put on human flesh, so that humans can be called children of God. The Rescuer, the Redeemer has come!

Do you have a favorite Christmas story that you share with your family? A book, song, or poem that has particular meaning to you this time of year? I’ll be adding What God Wants for Christmas to my Christmas reading list for my children.

Merry Christmas

Twas the Night Jesus Came

Twas the night Jesus came and all through the town,

Not a person would guess The Messiah came down.

The earth gave no warning to speak God’s intent

But this magical night I would never forget.

The streets were all busy with strangers from far;

No time to hear singing or see the bright star.

As my young friends and I kept our watch o’er the flock

We had no idea we’d soon get a shock.

When out of the darkness there rose such a light,

I sprang from the hilltop to gaze at the sight.

An angel came shining as bright as noon-day,

More fearsome and brilliant than I’ve words to say.

At first he said, softly, “There’s no need to fear.”

Which I found hard to do since this host first appeared,

But he said, “Be of Joy! I bring you great news!

Your Savior is born, there is no time to lose.”

“This babe wrapped in cloths has no crib for his bed,

But rests his sweet head in a feed-trough instead.”

And then other angels, more than I can know,

Rejoiced through the dark with their songs and their glow.

Like millions of stars dancing down to the earth,

They lifted their voices in praise of his birth-

Singing, “Glory to God.” Through the stillness of night

“and peace to all men,” then they flew out of sight.

It didn’t take long to break out of our shock.

We ran down the hill leaving our field and flock,

And found the sweet baby inside a damp cave,

But could this be Christ – the whole world to save?

The donkeys and horses had left a foul smell.

The straw was all muddy, the manger as well.

But everything was as the angel had said,

A babe wrapped in cloths in a crude manger bed.

Then I knew – it was clear. Where else would he be?

The Teacher and Healer to make the blind see.

The Savior who’d carry the sins of us all,

Where else would show love than an old cattle stall?

This baby, The Christ, would clean up all our messes.

He’d take on our curses and give us His blessings.

So as I adored Him, God’s Son, the true Light,

God seemed to be whisp’ring to all a “good night”

copyright 2009 Pepper D. Basham


Sarah Forgrave said...

Pepper, I love this! I may just have to read it to my little ones. :-) Thanks for redirecting the focus of the holiday season.

Pepper said...

Oh Sarah, so happy you liked it. I hope the message is clear. I prime my kids for it before I read it, so sometimes I wonder if a fresh set of eyes gets it :-)
The whole idea of God being BORN in a manger is still shocking to me. Beautiful, humbling, and totally shocking.
God likes to go for the shock-value though - I think that's one of the reasons He's the MASTER storyteller :-)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow!!!! That was beautiful! Pepper, that was inspired, girl! What a treat for your little ones to have that read to them each Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Very sweet. And I agree with Sherrinda. I true treat for your kids, and a great tradition that may last a lot longer than you can imagine.

Pepper said...

Hey Sherrinda,
Are you off for the holidays now? I hope so. Looking forward to a friendly call when you get a chance!

Pepper said...

Thanks, Lynn. I hope they enjoy it enough to make it last - or at least to make the spirit of it last ;-)

Casey said...

Oooh, your kids are sooooo cute!!! I want that nanny job. right. now!! ;) I just love your poem. Like I already said, it just warms me through. Your love for your kids and Jesus is just so evident. They are blessed to have you and I think this is what makes you such a great writer. You put your heart on the page. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

I LOVE your poem, Pepper. Great job!!!

I hope you enjoyed your anniversary. Did you do anything special to celebrate?

Angie Dicken said...

So beautiful, Pepper. I will read it to my boys this Christmas!

Audra Harders said...

wow, Pepper! I'm speechless! Beautiful poem to tell a beautiful story.

Your kidlets are sooooo cute! Merry Christmas wishes and blessings to your entire family, Pepper!

And also to the crew of The Writers Alley! Ladies, thank you for your humor and wisdom all year long!