For at least the past thirty-five or forty years, a sunny day in August has been set aside as “CHRISTMAS.” Finding a comfortable spot—usually outdoors—I pull out letters and cards received the previous holiday season and re-read, smile, occasionally mourn.
This summer has been delightfully filled with family visits (and recovering from family visits!) and so it was only yesterday afternoon that I sat surrounded by pictures of stars, angels, mangers, lighted trees, and flickering fireplaces.
A few cards contain only the names of senders. (For confidentiality, I’ll use initials.) Sadly I noted that the signature D and B of last Christmas is now only D as B has moved to heaven.
But P’s single-spaced, two-page annual letter about life on a Wisconsin dairy farm produced laughter as she described chasing cows away from fences broken down by the previous spring’s heavy rain. “Did you know that if you sink into deep mud, you are stuck…FOREVER!!!” Even after all these years, I can see P in the muck and mire as she—at age seventy!—corrals the cows and howls in frustration into the sky.
Pictures show a stunning young woman in Mississippi; I remember her birth in Bonn when her dad was pastor at the American Protestant Church.
And how did T in Missouri grow so tall when I remember his dad as a kindergartner?
R from Ohio penned an upbeat note, but in the months since sealing and stamping that holiday memo, she and D have walked the often dark cancer road as he endured—and now recovers from—disease and its treatments.
Beautiful B in Tennessee still reviews her year in original poetry.
In Wisconsin, D signed her card with the names of four children. Only three remain as sweet T is now released from years of suffering.
Of course a few holiday letters—I’ll not identify their authors!—are a litany of obviously survived ailments, but it’s still good to hear from them.
Letters such as the one from P and D in Virginia (another couple we haven’t seen in forty years) bring a quiet peace. While P briefly mentions the challenges of age, ill health, and unforeseen, changing living circumstances, her note is crowned with expressions of gratitude for blessings of family and friends.
In yesterday’s sermon, our pastor said, “Hope expects what faith believes.” An appropriate thought to crown my one-hour Christmas in September respite. Sixty minutes in which Covid 19 realities are replaced with sweet memories—even those shaded with sorrow. Political rancor drowned by the music of diverse friendships. Relatively minor personal challenges fade by the Bethlehem message of hope: Christ came. Christ lives. Christ will come again.
Hope renewed during Christmas in September.