Glynis M Belec
A Holy Night to Remember
© By Sharon Espeseth
As Canadians and northerners, we share many memories of cold winters. At Christmas time, I often reflect upon one particular evening of a prairie winter in the early 1960s. Though the frost was cruel that night, the reminiscence is warm.
We were college students, most of us living away from home for the first time. Hanging a few strips of tinsel in our rooms didn’t relieve the feeling of homesickness that had overtaken our dorm. What could we do to bring on the Christmas spirit, stave off our longings for home and maybe brighten someone else’s life?
One of my friends suggested going caroling. That was it! Every student at our small college was rousted out for the occasion. No auditions. No voice lessons. No excuses. Warmth of spirit was the only requirement. And our enthusiasm served as an electric soul-warmer for those who seemed lacking in spirit of their own.
We divided into groups so our music would resound over much of our college town. The group I joined had nothing resembling four-part harmony, but we could collectively make a joyful noise. Bounding boisterously and carrying a tune in our hearts, we made our first call. “Deck the Halls,” we tra-la-la-ed.
Soon we discovered that caroling brings a variety of responses. When you carol for people you know, you can be sure of open doors and open hearts; when you carol for strangers, you can’t be so sure of the reception you will get. Some folks remained in the safety and coziness of their homes, watching and listening passively through living-room windows. Others cautiously propped the door open enough to hear us, but not enough to let in the cold or their unknown guests. Some flung their doors wide and sang along; some, I believe, watched in silent reverie.
One of the stops on our journey was a three-story apartment building. With no intercoms or security cameras to deter us in those days, we walked right in. Starting our performance in the basement, we sang mostly to closed doors. After a couple of songs, we headed for the main floor. Two doors swung open. One doorway framed a young couple, obviously expecting a child. In another doorway, two preschoolers clung to their parents’ legs. Surprise? Wonder? Curiosity? “Who are these strange bundled-up people? And why are they doing this?” the children’s faces seemed to ask.
We sang “Away in a Manger” for the young ones. We continued with “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for our seemingly appreciative gathering. Mounting the stairs to the third floor, we burst into “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” a song that suited the night.
One door on the top floor slowly creaked open. A stately gentleman, gray-haired and thin, held onto his doorknob. He became our audience of one. As we murmured about what to sing next, the elderly fellow asked, “Would you come into our apartment and sing for my wife? She’s bed-ridden. I know she’d love to hear you. My wife used to be an opera singer,” he added proudly, “and she’s always loved music.”
All eight of us stepped timidly into the couple’s tiny, crowded bachelor suite. Books, records, china, antique furniture and mementos whispered stories to us. I reminded myself not to stare for fear of invading their privacy. This was their home, their sanctuary, a hallowed place where the old-timer watched over his fragile partner. Her silver, bed-mussed head made only a small dent in her pillow.
Without a word he adjusted his wife’s headrest so she could see and hear us better. Then he gave us a nod to sing. Our voices rose and warbled through “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Had our vocal cords been given extra grace and beauty for this occasion? Perhaps they had, for we sang rather well for such a motley and impromptu crew.
A smile flickered on the lady’s gaunt, wrinkled, yet beautiful face. Her eyes sparkled softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Her husband requested “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night,” two of her favorites. As we finished our renditions, her eyes closed. Now the man shed his tears. Quietly we turned to leave, closing the door on the housebound couple.
The winter moon and stars shone down on us. It had become a silent night, a holy night for we had been in the presence of love that was gentle and mild. All was calm; all was bright as we headed back to our residence. We had found, and maybe even given, the Christmas spirit.
December 19th, 2019
AS IT WAS
The Christmas cards we send to friends
With scenes of long ago,
Depict a manger clean and warm
Wherein the cattle low.
A donkey, docile, stands nearby
While shepherds kneel to pray,
Their garments neatly ordered
As if purchased yesterday.
Mary so serene of face
Is always garbed in blue,
Joseph tall and stately stands.
But is this really true?
We like to paint a picture
Where peace and love abound;
But Christ the God-man servant
In rougher hues was found.
The manger stall where He was born
Was in a cave of stone,
Pitch dark by night, so cold and damp
It chilled one to the bone.
The air with pungent odours filled
Belied sweet-smelling hay;
Bedraggled cattle huddled close,
Mice scurried on their way.
And shepherds in their ragged cloaks
With shaggy lambs in tow,
Crowded near to gaze with awe
At the babe in lantern glow.
Rough voices urging comrades on,
Hay crackling under feet,
Invasion of their sheltered space
Caused flocks to low and bleat.
The startled infant woke from sleep,
A newborn’s cry was heard,
This tiny One, the Sovereign God
The world would mock, “Absurd!”
A teen, bewildered, fearful too
Clasped her baby near,
Her faithful husband stood to guard
The ones whom he held dear.
The Creator of the universe
Left heav’n for such a place.
Immanuel, God come to earth
To save the human race;
Gave up His home in glory
Where streets are paved with gold,
Encasing self in flesh and bone
Was born into this fold.
Henceforth when we consider
God’s Christmas gift to all,
Let’s not forget the distance
From a King’s throne to a stall.
December 18th., 2019
Long Long Road
Looking down from heaven above
Looking at the people with love
Father, I know your will for me
Seeing Mary’s innocent face
Knowing her future fate
She would be part of the Father’s will for me.
And it’s a long long road
A long long road.
Joseph will be my earthly father
He’ll need strength to stand beside her
Husband of Mary will take his place in the Father’s will for me.
Shepherds will worship and bow
Wise men will come from afar
Declaring to the world, the Father’s will for me.
And it’s a long long road
A long long road.
Mother’s of Israel will weep and mourn
As Herod kills the sons they bore
All to fulfill the Father’s will for me.
In the temple, I will teach
Show everyone the way to Me
Salvation the gift I bring, the Father’s will for me.
And it’s a long long road
A long long road.
People will, they will cry
Crucify Jesus, Kill Him now
I’ll carry my cross to Calvary for the Father’s will for me.
I must suffer, I must die
To bring the New Covenant to life
Salvation through the risen Christ is the Father’s will for me.
And it’s a long long road
A long long road.
December 18th, 2019
From A Manger to A Cross
Their journey to Bethlehem town
Is fraught with unseen danger.
Joseph bravely protects his beloved
From the eyes of the passing stranger.
You struggle through Jerusalem’s streets
As the crowd presses in like a flood.
No one moves close to protect you
When the angry mob demands your blood.
Their destination is a cozy inn,
A refuge where Mary can sleep.
But all they find is a stable
To be shared with cattle and sheep.
Your destination is a cruel cross
On Golgotha’s stark, rocky hill.
Obedience marks your faltering steps
As you accomplish your Father’s will.
The winter sky is a black canopy,
Pierced by one brilliant light.
Angelic hosts rejoice aloud
As they gaze upon the sight.
The heavens grow dark at midday.
Fearful mortals find no tongue to complain.
Angels watch and bow their heads
As they behold God’s son in pain.
In a gush of water and blood
The Son of God is born
And an infant’s hungry cry
Breaks the stillness of the morn.
A soldier thrusts his sword.
Blood and water mingle and flow.
With victory in your voice
You bid your spirit go.
Humble shepherds and wise men come
To celebrate your birth.
How can they understand
That God has come to earth?
She stands near the cross in anguish.
How can she understand
That the death of one she loves so much
Is the Father’s perfect plan?
© Sharon Cavers
December 17th, 2019
Christmas 1964 will forever be burned into my memory, for that is when my daddy died, suddenly, of a massive heart attack. He was 39 years old.
December 17th began as a very ordinary day. Daddy was working the night shift that week as a tool and die maker and we girls were surprised to see daddy still at home when we came home from school.
“When I’m working nights, I never get to see you girls, so I waited until you got home,” he told us, and then he left.
We thought it was weird, for he’d never done that before, but we continued on as usual.
Mom got a phone call at 11:00 p.m. from the hospital with the horrible news that Daddy had passed away and she needed to come and identify his body! The doctor who called didn’t try to ease her into the news but said it very bluntly. Mom was only 37 years old. A tough pill to swallow.
The next days were a blur, but I do clearly recall many things. Our church was packed for the funeral, for we were well known as “The Dubrick Family Singers.” Everyone was shocked. I recall that some of the flowers were brought to the house and I hated them being there as a reminder, and often think about that.
Our mother was a strong woman who held her head high and carried on bravely for us girls. It was only a few years ago that she admitted that she would sit by the window at night and cry, but then act normal the next day, for our sake.
When people would ask mom how she was holding it together, she would say, “I have three girls at home who need a stable life, and I’m going to give it to them.”
And she did.
We eventually changed our stage name to “The Dubrick Sisters” and continued singing all over our region, but of course, we missed our daddy. He had played the guitar and sang tenor and was so proud of his girls' trio. We sure did miss him.
It was a tough Christmas that year, and even now, every year on December 17th, we pause and remember our daddy. We can’t even imagine him with grey hair or wrinkles, for he remains forever young in our minds and hearts. Mom joined daddy on June 21, 2019, and we are happy for them both.
Some day we will all gather together in that beautiful place God has prepared for us, and once again, we will be the “The Dubrick Family” singers, singing in the presence of the Lord!
December 16th, 2019
A Gift of Fruitcake
The radio was playing a tinny version of “O Holy Night” as Marilyn pushed open the door of the laundromat, lugging her overflowing laundry basket with her. The place was nearly empty except for a shabbily dressed older man folding towels and socks in a corner by the coffee machine.
Could there be a more depressing place to spend Christmas Eve? She wondered. This was turning into the worst Christmas of her life. Her first Christmas as a divorcee, and she was spending it in a strange laundromat listening to Muzak because of a broken appliance at home.
Paul was no doubt celebrating the evening with his new girlfriend. Well, no point going there. She threw the contents of her hamper into the nearest machine, measured the laundry soap into the dispenser and filled up the slots with quarters. Nothing. She jiggled the coin slot and checked the dials. Still nothing.
Great. Another machine as dysfunctional as her marriage. As her life. And Miranda’s flight was arriving in an hour and a half. The house wasn’t tidied yet, never mind decorated for the holidays. Mr. Illingsworth, the old Scrooge, wouldn’t even give her the afternoon off on Christmas Eve to get ready.
She pulled the clothes out again and transferred them to the next machine. This one started. Closing the lid, she walked over to the coffee machine and inserted a dollar. The machine hummed obediently, but no liquid dripped into the waiting styrofoam cup.
“Is everything in this place broken?” she said aloud.
“The coffee machine is out of order most of the time,” the man said.
She looked at him. He appeared to be in his late sixties. He was wearing a worn blue checked shirt, with pants a little shiny from ironing. He was folding a threadbare tea towel neatly as he spoke.
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice you trying to get a cup of coffee until it was too late. I always bring a thermos of my own when I come here. Can I offer you a cup?”
She hesitated, then smiled ruefully.
“Why not? It’s Christmas.”
He took the empty styrofoam cup from the machine and filled it from his thermos. His movements were slow and deliberate, as though he was afraid of spilling.
She accepted the cup from him. He watched her sip it, then said, “You’re a little out of your element, aren’t you?”
“Don’t be offended. I just mean that you don’t look like the laundromat type.”
She stared at him a moment, then gave a short laugh.
“It’s that obvious? Yeah, alright. My washing machine broke down at the last minute before my daughter’s flight comes in. She’s a student, and this is our first Christmas together since my divorce. I wanted everything to be nice for her arrival, and instead, everything is chaos. I guess you could say I’m not having a good day.”
She turned her head to hide her tears.
“What about you?” she said, changing the subject. “What brings you here on Christmas Eve?”
“You mean, why am I not at some black-tie affair, celebrating in style?”
“Something like that.”
“I don’t have a lot of places to be these days.”
“Not anymore. Since my wife died, holidays are pretty much the same as other days. But after my wash is done, I plan to go to the candlelight service at my church. Katherine and I used to go together every year. It was one of our traditions. That and the fruitcake.”
Marilyn was intrigued. “The fruitcake?”
He finished putting the folded laundry into his old wicker hamper and poured coffee into the lid of his thermos. Pulling up a chair, he sat down to enjoy his coffee.
“Our first Christmas after we were married, we made a fruitcake together,” he explained. “We were keeping it to serve during the holidays, but then a man in our church got laid off at the factory. He had a big family to support.
“Our congregation was a poor one, but everybody helped out in whatever way they could. Katherine and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together at the time. But we did have the fruitcake. So we gave them that. Every year after that it became our tradition to find somebody in need that we could give the fruitcake to.”
Marilyn’s eyes filled up again, but she didn’t try to hide it.
“It sounds like you and your wife had a wonderful marriage.”
He looked down at his wrinkled hands that had a slight tremor.
“I’ve been very blessed. It’s been two years since she’s been gone. There’s not a day goes by I don’t miss her like crazy.”
Marilyn felt a pang of envy.
“You’re lucky to have had that. The only holiday tradition my ex and I had was fighting. We were so wrapped up in our own misery I don’t think we saw how it was affecting our daughter.”
She got up to add the fabric softener. Standing at the machine, the tight bubble in her chest began to leak waves of pain through her muscles. She turned to her companion with a sad smile.
“That’s why I wanted this Christmas to be special for Miranda. She’s had so many rotten holidays.”
He smiled at her. “Isn’t being with her mother special enough?”
She walked back to her chair and sat, noticing the floor where people had walked in their muddy winter boots.
“Yeah, right. Real special.”
“Aren’t you being a little hard on yourself?” he said.
She looked at him. What was it about him? His life was more depressing than hers, but he seemed to radiate peacefulness and understanding.
“I just wanted to get something right for a change,” she said softly. “I failed at marriage and motherhood. Everything that matters. Now the house isn’t ready or the presents wrapped or anything done for Miranda when she gets home. I couldn’t even manage that much. I guess my ex was right. I am hopeless. Broken down and worn out like my washing machine.”
He was silent for a few minutes while the radio played a disco version of “Joy to the World.”
“Do you know what Christmas is about?” he said at last.
She shrugged. “Something about peace on earth and brotherly love. That sort of thing?”
He looked at her.
“Those are important all right, but if you had to sum up Christmas in one word, it would be mercy. God showed our poor broken-down world mercy by entering it as one of us, and suffering along with us.”
The washing machine sloshed energetically. Marilyn looked at the man, who seemed to be collecting his thoughts. Was she in for a sermon now? Her own fault for opening up to a stranger.
His words were as slow and deliberate as his movements. He took a sip of coffee from the lid of his thermos and spoke again.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re all in need of a little mercy. Maybe most of the time. You sure sound like you could stand to extend some of that mercy to yourself.”
He stood up and with slow, stiff movements put on his jacket and hat.
“I hope you have a good Christmas, Mrs….I don’t know your name,” he said.
“It’s Marilyn,” she smiled through her tears, holding out her hand.
They shook hands.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Marilyn. I’m Harry. Please, just enjoy your daughter. That’s what she’s here for.”
He pulled a crumpled paper bag from the hamper and handed it to her.
“This is for the two of you. Merry Christmas.”
He picked up his hamper and went out into the cold air. Stunned, she watched him go.
“This is for the two of you.” She looked down at the crumpled bag in her hands. Opening it slowly, she looked inside.
It was a small, round Christmas fruitcake.
The Best Christmas Wish
by Grace Chik
Excitement prevailed at the second-grade class party. It was the last day of school before the Christmas holidays.
All the cakes, juice, and chips had been eaten. All the favourite carols had been sung. Even the principal in his traditional ‘Santa Claus’ role stopped by to give each child a delightful present.
Ms. Abby had her class sit in a circle on the floor.
“Before I wish you off to enjoy the holidays with your families, I would like you to tell me your Christmas wish. I will start as an example. My Christmas wish is someday to see all my relatives who live all over the world. Now Belinda will continue.”
Belinda stood up proudly. “My Christmas wish is to have the prettiest clothes to wear.”
Charles stood up. “My Christmas wish is to have the latest ‘Astro-Fighter’ video game.”
Diane got up to her feet. “My Christmas wish is to have a stable of horses.”
The game continued. Some wishes were the ‘ultimate Christmas gifts’ to have. Others were rather funny, such as Ivan’s wish to be a ‘multi, multi, multi, multi, multi, multi, multi, multi, multi-zillionaire’.
There was, at one point, a brief protest when it came to Naomi’s turn. “My Christmas wish is to have lots and lots of new clothes.”
Belinda angrily stood up. “Hey, you copied my wish!”
“Did not! You said ‘the prettiest clothes’!”
“So? That’s the same thing!”
Ms. Abby spoke up, “There’s nothing wrong with two or more people’s similar wishes. Now let’s go on with Oscar’s Christmas wish.”
Oscar got up to his feet. “My Christmas wish is that my family wins the biggest lottery.”
Ivan tried not to protest.
Finally it came to the last pupil, Zenith, who had joined the class recently. The quietest in the class, he rarely participated in answering Ms. Abby’s questions. Though he made a few friends he was usually alone during recess.
All eyes were upon at Zenith, who became speechless by his shyness.
Ms. Abby gently encouraged, “It’s okay, Zenith. Share your Christmas wish with everyone, even if it may sound the same as someone else’s.”
Looking at his tattered shoes, Belinda guessed, “I’ll bet it is a new pair of shoes.”
Zenith shook his head.
Gregory guessed, “Or a brand new baseball, bat, mitt and cap.”
Again Zenith shook his head.
Petulia declared, “I know. A one-year pass to the Maxi Movies Theatres.”
Ms. Abby urged, “Let Zenith say his Christmas wish. Don’t hurry him.”
Zenith started with a bit of a stammer. “Well, my Christmas wish is the same wish I use every day.”
Naomi pointed out, “Then, it’s not a Christmas wish.”
“Even an everyday wish is a Christmas wish. Go on, Zenith.”Ms. Abby said.
“Well, my Christmas wish is . . . is . . . is . . .”
Everyone leaned forward in anticipation.
“. . .is to try to enjoy my life as best as I can.”
All the children looked at each other, puzzled.
Edgar asked, “That’s your wish?”
Martin spoke, “I thought it’s going to be something like a drum set or the latest ‘Poogie’ CD.”
Ms. Abby gently ordered, “Hold back your thoughts and let Zenith explain his wish to us.”
Zenith began, “I don’t know what each day will be like. My dad would work in one place for a few days and then search for another job that would also last for a few days. My mom has a job but we only see her on Saturdays because of it. My grandparents who live near a hospital, are caring for my baby sister who needs a kidney. In my neighborhood, there are always some people getting hurt or killed. Although we barely have enough to eat and wear, my parents and I learned to be satisfied with what we have. The main thing we learned to be satisfied with is our lives. So, that’s my Christmas wish: to enjoy my life as best as I can every day.”
There was silence as the other kids glared at Zenith in awe. That made him a bit nervous. He glanced at Ms. Abby who smiled at him.
Sebastien spoke up, “That was cool.”
Jenny added, “I agree.”
Wendell joined in. “More awesome than getting candy.”
Zenith blushed happily.
Ms. Abby nodded. “The greatest Christmas wish is to be thankful for your life, and enjoy it the best you can.”
Definitely the best Christmas wish is God’s blessing upon your life, and to be thankful, regardless of the circumstances you’re facing each day.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
(Psalm 29:11 (NIV))
May you have a wonderful year of blessings and generosity to share
with those whom you will encounter.
Cancer At Christmas
Alan Anderson 2019
A husband’s poem to his wife
Honest with my heart
Cries and whimpers
Shaking a fist at heaven
My head supported by my hands
Face wet with tears
Frozen in time
Why God? – Cancer at Christmas?
Help me help her
My darling, you amaze me
Your words calm
You say you have peace
I enjoy peace with you
We hang decorations
Romance each other
Never let go
In the moment
This illness will not win
Beneath the surface
We have peace
We are together
In the rare silence
God is not surprised
By this fiend, cancer
Joy is our companion
We are not alone
God with us
Unseen yet present
Twas the month before Christmas
by Grace Wulf 2019
‘Twas the month before Christmas
and all through the town
Decorating was happening
And up and then down
the ladders they scurried
and often they hurried
To place decorations galore
And if they ran out,
it was back to the store.
and Santas and reindeer and such
Add helicopters and more Santas
It seemed a bit much
And this just on our quiet little street
As if to compete
As it was happening all through the town
for the Christmas countdown.
And the plastic giants
they puddled in sloppy great messes
To return the next day to their cheery bright tresses
All lit up and glowy and some even sang
And then they collapsed the next day
with a bang...
I counted my pine cones
And gathered my wreath
A crafted elf hung from my mailbox
A cloth snowman beneath.
Warm Christmas quilts
All over the house
A warm welcome to all
...except for the mouse.
Was I humbug?
What made me cranky
Or even a bit teary?
My longings more felt at this time of year
To hang out with family
To spread some good cheer.
I’m aware of those hurting
And missing so deeply
the ones that we love
Oh Christmas brings out that longing
A sense of belonging
It isn’t all we dreamed of.
No Christmas is not always merry
It is sometimes scary
to face our own sadness in the
Midst of that gladness.
Joy to the world
Just what does that mean?
The glitter and glamour
The tinsel and plastic
I long for something that is not so fake
Something heartfelt and real
Has much more appeal
A simpler Christmas to make.
Perhaps it begins with a slower pace
After all, this isn’t a race
To enjoy the sweet moments that come my way
Conversations, connections that make up my day.
So I’ll hang up my wreath
And pour me some tea
And give thanks
For the gift of peace
I’ll share gifts of gratitude and of peace
And thank God for the gifts that don’t cease
Of beauty and wonder, of warmth and of light
Blessed Christmas to all, may your season be bright
With light and with laughter
With songs filled with praise
May your hearts fill with gladness
In all of these days
As we prepare for Christmas
and remember the One
Whose love never fails us
The gift of the Son.
A blessed Christmas to all
In darkness and light
The gift of hope shines
For us all, day or night
May this love fill your heart
to last through the year
A gift that sustains us
And all we hold dear.