Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Tradition

The holiday train that pulled away from the station in August is not slowing down. Its last stop was Thanksgiving, which seems so long ago, now. The train is racing toward its target, unstoppable. It is the Christmas Season.
In August I noticed the first Holiday decorations in a store. I shuddered. I used to fuss when I saw decorations in October. Then it was in September. This year, August.
While I love certain parts of our holiday traditions – mostly the quiet times with family near – the blaring trumpet blasts sounding now I do not like.
I suppose none of us like them, but like spectators in a stadium, when the row ahead of us stands up, we have to stand up, too.
Our mailbox has been groaning with catalogs again this year, many from companies we’ve never heard of, most offering things we’ll never need, and sadly for the marketers, never even want. I can say the catalogs are often beautifully printed. I cannot say that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at them. There are just so many.
And those first in-store Christmas decorations I saw in August multiplied until they're all over our community. My son and I put up Christmas lights at the print shop late in November, but we didn't turn them on until the Thanksgiving weekend. That means our commercial building was decorated with lights a week after the community's Holiday Lighted Parade. We were the last building downtown to have Christmas lights, I'm afraid. I felt a small pang of guilt about this, peer pressure being what it is.
In all of this hoopla it’s hard to remember what it is we’re supposedly celebrating: the miraculous birth of a baby, born in humble circumstances long ago. Perhaps you've heard the story.
One of the most popular holiday columns I offered here years ago was actually written by Ms. Carolyn, back when she was a preschool director at our church. This was before she became a first-grade teacher.
So many of you wrote for copies of that column, or to say that you had clipped it out and sent it to some holiday-stressed friend or relative I thought I’d share it again.
She wrote to the following to the young parents of her preschool; it's a simple paraphrase of I Corinthians 13 that really applies to this season.
Ms. Carolyn wrote:
“Though I am in the church Christmas pageant and go to practice three times a week, but have not love, I am missing Christmas.
“If I have completed all my shopping in advance and wrapped and tagged all of my gifts but have not love, I am missing Christmas.
“Though I drop loose change in the Salvation Army Bucket, give away old toys and donate money to three different charities, but have not love, I am missing Christmas.
“Christmas is gentle and tender. Christmas is not frustration or envy. It is laughter and love and sweet memories throughout the years. Christmas brings light and joy to the world.
“Christmas is always.
“Where there are Douglas firs, they dry up.
“Where there are Christmas carols, they are put away.
“Where there are gifts, they are exchanged.
“If in your home you have faith, hope and love, you have Christmas.”
I hope your holiday season is blessed and holy, and as stress-free as possible.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has definitely NOT finished his shopping yet. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times December 17, 2016.

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