" Maybe you have to know the darkness
before you can appreciate the light. "
I'm writing in the early morning, just moments before sunrise. Silent stars fade as a blaze of glory stains the sky in the predawn. As I watch from my front step in the cold air, I hear a chorus of sparrows singing from the hedges. Oh my, such a marvelous beginning to the dawn's early light. I seem to be so much more aware of these good gifts around me than I have ever been before. At least, that is how it seems. Perhaps it's because I have time to consider the handiwork of creation all around me. My life is not so cluttered this year with to-ing and fro-ing.
As I write it's two days before Christmas. For all the quirkiness surrounding this year's unusual way to celebrate—due of course to Covid-19 restrictions—nevertheless I am feeling a frisson of anticipation building on the inside. When I was a child, these last few days before Christmas were the most exciting....and definitely the most excruciating. According to the calendar, they were the shortest days of the year, but for me and probably any child awaiting the big day, they felt as if these last 48 hours were an entire year. How the minutes would creep by, until at last it was time to go to the Christmas Eve service at our little country church, dressed in our new Christmas dresses, all ready to do our parts in the program. And then the gleeful ride home afterwards where presents awaited under the tree. Yes, we opened presents on Christmas Eve growing up. Christmas Day was for the turkey and stuffing and for playing with our already opened new toys, games, and crafts, not to mention planning which book we'd read first. As kids, we were always secretly glad we didn't have to wait until Christmas Morning to open gifts.
" All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish
the light of a single candle. "
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
The excitement now isn't quite like when I was a child, but there still comes a thrill in hearing the familiar strains of old carols like Joy to the World or seasonal music like Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. And, I just heard Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf on the radio with David Bowie as narrator. The narrator tells the children's story, while the orchestra illustrates the characters: Peter, the wolf, the bird, the cat, the duck, the hunters, and the grandfather. I loved this piece as a girl.
The thrill has been gradually mounting as packages and Christmas cards arrive via Canada Post and by hand. When the doorbell rings, we find unexpected treats left on the front step from neighbours: slices of banana-chocolate chip loaf, decorated cookies, chocolates, old-fashioned popcorn balls. And a container with two delectable pieces of our neighbour's family favourite dessert: Queen Elizabeth Cake—oh yum!—with a note attached "since we don't know when we can be together in person...hope you enjoy." This moist date cake with its brown sugar, butter and coconut broiled topping made us feel quite 'royal' as we ate cake and washed it down with our Yorkshire Gold afternoon tea. If you need a recipe, you can find one HERE that looks simple and delicious. I could always ask my neighbour if she shares her family recipes.
The cake from our neighbour was so moist and delicious,
just the way cake should tantalize and satisfy.
In case you aren't familiar with Queen Elizabeth cake, it is named after Elizabeth II, according to my bit of research. It may have originated in 1953 for her coronation. Or, another account holds that the cake was invented for the 1937 coronation of King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother).
With all the hubbub, it's like Christmas around here! Oh yes, it is Christmas around here. We thought it might be quiet and even a little dull without our usual traditions and family gatherings to prepare for, but people are reaching out in ways unexpected this Covid year, and so the gaps have been filled most beautifully—it's something we also have endeavoured to do from our end of things.
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I have so many little things I want to share with you. God's good gifts from all manner of unexpected places. Let me offer a few photos from around the house, a little of this and that, moments where joy has thrilled me these past few days. Hope they add a morsel of sweetness—a little thrill of your own—as you count down, "Two more sleeps, One more sleep!"
O Christmas tree,
how lovely are your branches.
Presents began to appear shortly after
the tree was decorated.
When I was little, I used to be Miss Snoopy Girl under the tree,
musing and carefully lifting and maybe shaking,
but this year I've been a good girl. No peeking.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snowmen!
Preparing a never ending gift bag, as a friend used to say, filled
with little surprises for someone very dear to me.
Love this gorgeously wrapped gift that
arrived in the post the other day from a long time dear friend.
This pretty felt teacup ornament arrived tucked inside
a Christmas card from a blogging friend. Is turquoise a theme?
What a charming bear ornament
from another lovely blogging friend.
A Christmas present opened early to enjoy ahead.
I was instructed to do so, in case you're wondering.
I love this fellow,
he makes me giggle and feel happy.
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Today I want to close by sharing a few words written by author Kathleen Gibson, a lovely fellow writer I have appreciated for some years now. She penned these words as a birthday wish for someone and then later published in a collection of her writings. With minor adjustments in brackets, these words become my own heart wish for you this Christmas. Please see below.....
To my beautiful blogging friends,
[Merry Christmas!] I hope you have sunny weather in your heart, and that God embraces you freshly with reassurance of how incredibly much he loves you. I hope that you have at least one present to unwrap and that someone reminds you they're glad you're a part of their life. I hope you have no tears today, except tears of joy, and you find one verse of scripture to keep you afloat for the next year.I hope that someone smiles at you for no reason other than that they're glad to see you enter the room, and that you can light up at least one person's day with a smile of your own. [With folks wearing their masks these days, you'll have to watch for the smile and glimmer in their eyes instead.] I hope you're given a new song that fills you down to your toes, and that you can sing it with the joy of being alive today. ...I hope ... that you get outside for a few moments to let nature remind you of your Creator. I hope something strikes you as funny, and that you laugh loudly enough for someone to ask why. I hope you put away for just this one day the things that are weighing down your heart, because no one should have to worry on [Christmas].And I hope you get to eat at least one thing that causes your taste buds to stand at attention with delight, so that [Christmas in 2020] seems a good thing after all.Mostly, I hope you know that all these things are just a fraction of the hopes and prayers and dreams of someone who loves you very much.[Merry Christmas all!]From the article "Celebrate a Friend" in Practice by Practice, the art of everyday faith by Kathleen Gibson. Permission given to pass along this wish.
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Wishing you a thrill of hope this Christmas.
From my heart to yours....stay safe!