Saturday, December 20, 2014

The incomparable gift of Christmas

Christmas at the Casebeer's

This time of year, I almost always feel a sense of urgency to pen a Christmas letter that captures like never before the essence of the season.  The written word has been around a long time.  The likelihood of mixing and matching words sufficiently as to arrive at something entirely new, innovative, and never before achieved in the long, celebrated history of the medium, is about as likely as discovering the one true Santa emerging from your hearth on Christmas morning. For most of us, our most enchanting Christmas memories are from our youth.  To fully experience the magic and majesty of Christmas, it’s almost essential to approach it with a childlike faith.  The older we get, the more difficult that becomes.  In order to recapture the true essence of Christmas, one must do it with a minimum of words, from the purest and most youthful depths of our heart.  That’s my hope for each and every one of us this season, that the spirit of Christmas can purify, cleanse and relieve us of our years of apprehension, disillusionment and animosity, and allow us once more to experience the magical Christmas of our earliest memories; pure, simple and unadulterated; a Christmas awash in the warmth, joy and unconditional fellowship that comes of an innocent heart and a childlike faith. Dear God, help us once more to approach, Christ, Christmas and each other, with open arms, forgiving hearts, and the incorruptible innocence of our youth. In this age of cynicism, apathy and doubt, we hear many disparaging comments about Christmas.  People despair over its commercialism, the financial strain it tends to create for some, and the anxiety and depression it causes in others. We’re told of its origins in pagan tradition and how Christmas trees and Christmas gifts and all the traditional trappings of Christmas were swiped from various archaic cultures down through the ages. We’re told by wise and learned experts that it can be conclusively determined that Christ wasn’t even born in December.  What are we to think?  I’ll tell you what I think.  I think that for myself and many others, our memories of Christmas past and our hopes for Christmas future may well be the very essence of what makes our lives worth living. For us, the spirit of Christmas and everything that the true meaning of Christmas embodies is a fundamental element in our faith, our happiness, our very existence, and everything we treasure in our lives. It’s our memories of Christmas past that strengthen our resolve to keep Christmas vital and alive, and see to it that children for generations to come can experience the joy we knew on those cherished mornings long ago, when we gathered together with precious souls we miss with all our hearts, and shared the precious, incomparable gift of Christmas. SC

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Plinks, Plops & Piddles

On the afternoon of the fifth day, a bitter north wind whipped down from the high country. The storm returned with a vengeance and the temperature dropped to around thirty degrees.  I pulled my chair closer to the potbellied stove and poured myself some coffee from the gray granite pot. As twilight approached, I sat staring out the window and listening to the moan of the howling wind as it tore at the shingles and rattled the chimney cap.  I could hear the hiss of sleet as it began filling the ruts and hoof prints in the muddy street, and icicles began to form and hung in profusion from the eaves. The sleet came down fitfully against the window, and periodically a gust of wind would find its way down the stovepipe and the old cast iron heater would belch smoke from around its dampers and red hot lid.  After a while, the rough plank roof began dripping and leaking like a sieve, and one by one a strategically placed company of pots and kettles joined in a chorus of plinks, plops and piddles, as they filled quickly with their captured leakage and began splashing rhythmically on the floor.  Clearing a spot on the frosted windowpane, I squinted and peered outside. The snow was coming down in earnest now, and the street was entirely abandoned, with the exception of a few hardy souls on the boardwalk by the bell tower. I warmed a blanket for myself, kicked back in my chair, and leaned against the wall.  The stove dampers were wide open, and I remember watching the firelight dancing on the wall, then the cobwebs came and darkness took me in. SC