Tag Archive | Christmas

IN CELEBRATION OF THREE KINGS DAY… THE COLORS OF JESUS

nativity scene spanishThe Christmas lights shine across the room, reminding me that this is the season to rejoice in the birth of a savior named Jesus. I remember as a child I would sit in church staring up at Him, wondering what made him so special. It never occurred to me that in all the churches we attended throughout the world, that He always looked the same. His long brown mane flowed past his strong lean shoulders, his arms stretching out about his flowing robes as if welcoming others to join Him.

Over the years I would see images of Jesus as a baby in his mother’s arms, or as a child fishing or working with wood. He always had the same sun-kissed brown hair. His eyes were never a color that I recollect, but piercing, as if judging me as I judged Him. But He was always pale, the color of a soft sea shell with a hue of pink.

Then one day I was walking along at a flea market and there before my eyes was a black Jesus. Iangel holding a black Jesus stopped and looked at him for only a moment and moved on. But my mind was racing as I walked. It had never dawned on me that Jesus might be black. Why couldn’t He be black? Why couldn’t He be of yellow tones, or be of a different ethnicity than my own? After all, our world is made of of many different people of color and race!

It wasn’t until much later in my life did my thoughts arise again about the skin color of Jesus. I was standing in a small boutique when my eyes caught the carvings of a Mexican nativity. I gently picked up one of the kings and studied his face. His moustache dipped down past his chin while his bushy eyebrows seemed to come alive on his brown wooden painted face. His robe of bright yellow seemed odd with its dashes of orange that marbled his attire. He was quite festive looking. He made me smile. Jesus lay in his crib nearby, round and chubby with the same brown paint for his skin. Could Jesus be olive skinned and not pale like I once thought?

Mongolian nativity

Mongolia

Then, a few years ago, I discovered the most amazing and wonderful thing as I was at my neighbor’s home. There, in almost every room of her home sat the most incredible nativity sets I had ever seen. Chinese, Haitian, Philippines, Myramar, Mongolian, Cambodian, and Italian among others. I stood in front of each of them, marveling at the details that shaped the faces; the slant of eyes, and yes, the color of skin. For those carved of wood, I looked to see if the same gentle face stared up at me from the manger…it did. The face may have been round, pointed, hallow, but still the eyes stared up onto me, studying me as if wondering why I looked different than I had when I was young. I set about taking pictures of each nativity, waiting for the perfect time to share them with others.

Philippines nativity

Philippines

Mongolia nativity

Mongolia

Thailand nativity

Thailand

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Haitian Nativity    african nativity                   And then, as I made my way across the United States on a trip, stopping in Santa Fe, New Mexico, imagine my surprise to see an American Indian nativity. Each piece shaped in the image of Native Indians. It was lovely. I began to think again… could there be Irish nativities, Russian or ones from South America? After that, I began to search the nativities out… finding them everywhere, all unique in their own way. And then I understood.

 

       

For Jesus is all colors, all ethnicities, everything we are. For God gave His son to us in the image we would understand and learn to love.

 

And so, when Christmas comes around, I gently place my Italian nativity on my curio shelf and smile. For looking up at me is that innocent face of Jesus. He seems to know that although my face has aged and weathered since I was a child, I have not changed my love for him… regardless of his many colors. For He is all things to all people, but mostly, He is love.

 

 

Author’s Note: Feast of Epiphany or Three Kings Day is celebrated around the world by Christians on January 6th of each year. It represents the day the Three Kings appeared to Jesus in a manger bearing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Each gift representing the acknowledgement of Jesus as the King of Jews. For more information click here

Thank you to Ingrid & Mark Gillette for sharing your many nativities with the world.

 

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Finding The Real Santa Claus….

It’s that time of year when everywhere you look there’s a Santa in a store, mall or town. Each looks a little different, but most have a red suit and white beard and seem happy to see children. But which one is the REAL Santa Claus? Oh, we know he’s out there. We’ve seen the movie Santa Claus and we know how it works. Santa’s not afraid to ask for help…after all, he is a man…a magical man, yes…but none the less…a mere mortal. So out of all these “helpers”, which is the real Santa Claus my children asked me one year.

They were both at the age where their friends were beginning to question the reality of St. Nick. I thought long and hard before I gave them an answer. I’ll be honest…it wasn’t the greatest answer but it seemed to satsify them for the moment. What did I say? I said in my most authoritative and knowledgable manner, “That the real Santa Claus will know things about you that only you will know. He will remember your last year’s gift and can tell straight off if you have been bad or good. He won’t even have to ask you like his helpers do. And yes, he will have a real beard and rosy cheeks and a tummy that will jiggle like a bowl full of jelly. But he might not wear a red suit because Santa is a person and he likes to change things up abit. I thought I did a pretty good job telling them about the real Santa…especially since I myself had not had the pleasure of meeting him all these years.

“Have you ever met him mommy?” my daughter asked all excited?

“Oh no, not me. I’ve tried to find him…but I think I only met his helpers.” My daughter smiled and seemed to have sympathy for me. Of course I laughed, but deep down inside I felt a little sad that I hadn’t met him in all my forty plus years.

The following year we planned a trip to Oklahoma to visit my parents for Christmas. It was an usual occasion, as we rarely left our home during the holidays. The kids were excited to see their grandparents, and the drive from Key West, Florida to Edmond, Oklahoma was long. When we arrived at my parent’s home we found it quite festive. The house was lit from the yard up to the top of the roof. Every inch of the house was decked out in Christmas decorations.The kids were so excited that it made my husband and I laugh.

It wasn’t long before we were sitting around the table talking about our plans for Christmas Eve and Day when the topic of Santa came up. I’ll never forget it, the look on my children’s face when my mom shared a secret.

She said, “I’m going to take you to see the real Santa Claus!” Oh boy, I thought. I sure hope he wasn’t one of Santa’s helpers because I’m sure my children would tell their grandmother the truth!

“Are you sure he’s real?” my son asked eagerly.

“Oh yes, I’m certain. He comes every year around this time at this one particular mall. Then he leaves and his helpers fill in.” I gave my mother a look of caution, but she ignored me and smiled at the kids.

“Can we go tomorrow?” my daughter asked.

“Of course! We don’t want to miss him!” Grandma said excitedly.

That night as the kids went to bed all they could do was to talk about Santa…finding the real Santa.

The mall was huge…but the kids didn’t seem to mind that we walked seventeen football fields to find the “real” Santa Claus. We found him in the dead center of the mall in a mock Christmas Village all set up for photos and visits. The line was not long and so we quietly waited until it was our turn. I could see it in their eyes…the excitement and pure joy of meeting St. Nick in person. My son tugged on my sleeve, and so I lowered myself down to hear his whisper.

“He’s wearing different clothes…”

I looked up and took note of my son’s observation. “You’re right!” I replied with a smile on my face.

The children in front of us did not take long talking with Santa. They posed for a picture, told him what they wanted, took their candy cane and off they went. But when my children eagerly approached the jolly man something magical happened. Instead of taking one child at a time, he asked them both to sit upon his lap. Now I will say that what happened next was perhaps hard to believe…I’ve tried to rationalize it all but still…. well… let me tell you what happened…

The children gingerly sat upon the old man’s lap as he gleefully said he was so happy that they had traveled so far to see him. He asked my son how long it had taken.

“Two days,” my son piped up.

“All the way from Key West!” my daughter beamed.

“Well, I’ll be. I thought that was you standing in line…but I thought how could it be when you live so far away. I bet you are here visiting your grandparents!” Santa said smiling.

The kids were stunned. “Did you like the Barbie I brought you last year?” he asked my daughter.

“Uh huh!” she answered.

“I hope you don’t mind that it was one of Barbie’s friends.”

“No… I love her. She was different than all my friends,” my little girl giggled.

“And you,” he said to my son.”How’s the sports coming along?” My third grader’s eye grew huge.

“Great sir. Thanks for the new bat last year.”

I stood off to the side as I watched and listened to Santa talk with my children a good ten minutes. The line grew but he didn’t seem to notice. They talked about how they had always wanted to find him…that who knew that Oklahoma would have the real Santa. They thanked him for always finding them since they moved every two years. If ever there was a time to have a camcorder…it was then. Finally realizing they were taking too much of Santa’s time, they took a picture, gave him a hug and promised to leave out apple juice and cookies for him…since milk was just too heavy to drink in Key West.

OH MY GOSH….the excitement was just too much…too much for all of us. We could hardly get through the little bit of shopping we had to do without talking about finding the real Santa. After several hours we managed to work our way back to our car, passing above Santa on the second floor. That’s when we heard him…

“Samantha and Tanner!” he bellowed.

The children ran to the rail of the second floor and waved down to him.

“Don’t forget to leave me some apple juice and some fresh water for my reindeer next year…they will be hot down in Key West!”

“We will!” They both hollered back with excitement.

His eyes twinkle up at them as he waved so long. WE had found the real Santa Claus… Oh my Gosh!!! Oh My Gosh!

That night as I and my husband said good night to the kids, my son hugged me hard and thanked me for bringing them to Oklahoma.

“Mom,” he said. “He really was everything you said he would be.”

I really didn’t know what to say.

“Mommy,” my little girl’s voice excitedly said. “He knew what Barbie I got and knew about Tanner and sports.”

“He knew we traveled far to find him,” my son added.

“And…He already knew you were both good children!” I said smiling. “Now go to bed. He’s watching and will be here in a few days.” They quickly closed their eyes and pretended to sleep. But they were too excited to sleep and we heard them whispering to each other long after we had left their room.

On Christmas morning the children arose to find that their favorite man in red had come and gone. They had left Santa a note with apple juice and cookies and he left them one back… 

See you next year in Key West or wherever your daddy takes you next…I promise! Santa

Lying next to his note was the picture of the three of them… They had done the impossible… they had found the real Santa Claus and would never forget that very special day.

The Rut That Makes Us Old…

The other day I was talking with a friend about how startled I was when I saw my parents recently. It seemed like they had aged twenty years since I last saw them a year ago. How could this be, I asked myself? And then my mom said it, she said, “We’re just in a rut.” I got to thinking about this and that’s when I knew she was on to something.

 I had thought about my own rut phase and how much it had changed me. I had been teaching and every day was just like the next. There were very few changes in my routine and I felt like every day I was wasting away. When I finally retired things changed…I changed. I would run into old friends and they would say how relaxed and young I looked. Imagine gaining back years on your life by just changing one’s routine? I loved the compliments of course, but what I really like was how I felt about myself. My routine had drastically changed and I had something new to look forward to every day. Now don’t get me wrong, I did make myself a schedule just to make sure I didn’t wallow in my bed every day…but I just didn’t know what my free time would look like. I found myself doing all the things I didn’t have time to do when I was working full time. I found that I had so much energy that when bedtime rolled around, I was still up working on a project or doing something I would have never done if I was working.

 So when I was with my parents I got to thinking about the person that has to work, who isn’t at that stage in their lives when they can throw care away and do whatever they want. How do they stay young and active? How do they get out of the rut they are in? That’s when I saw the segment on Kathie Lee and Hoda with Lu Ann Cahn. Lu Ann had written a book called “I Dare Me.” She explains to the hosts that she had fallen into a rut and her daughter had dared her to do something new each week. She then explains that she began doing something new each day.

What a novel and wonderful idea! Think about it. If you (the reader) were to do something new each week or every day…wouldn’t you be happier? Doesn’t happiness equate to feeling younger and living longer? Oh, I know I’m not a scientist proving a theory here…but let’s be real. We ALL believe that when we are happy we feel younger and more alive! I know I do. Imagine yourself having something to look forward to at least once a week? Seriously…think about it right now!….Can you see how this would break down the old routine?

I remember when my mother-in-law was battling cancer. She was given four months to live…she lived a year instead. How did she do this against all odds? Well, first…she was a fighter and never gave up the good fight. But the truth? She gave herself small goals each week. She gave herself something to look forward to. Sometimes the goals were huge, like being at her son’s military ceremony, or being around for one last Christmas with all of her family. But most of the time they were simple, like having her nails done, or spending a half hour alone in Mervyns without anyone hovering over her. These small every day feats kept her alive and yes, young.

 So I was thinking about my parents who are now both seventy-five and completely caught in their daily routine…like most seniors. What would happen if they set up a jar full of new things to try every day…or once a week? Just the excitement of pulling a mysterious “something new” out of the jar would be amazing. They could each sit down and write down things they have always wanted to do. For example, my dad might write that he always wanted to build a bird house and my mom might say she always wanted to take photos of sunsets. (I can’t imagine either of my parents doing these things…but what the hey…maybe they should try them!) Imagine what fun they would have doing each of these things together…something new to talk about, to argue about, to look forward to? Could it give them back ten years like it did for me? Would it be so bad to give it a try? I don’t think so. Who wants to fade into the sun doing the same old things every day, every hour, every minute. Is this living? I think not. So why don’t we all join Lu Ann Cahn and dare ourselves to do something new each week or every day…we just might get out of the rut that makes us old.