I had a different perspective of Christmas this year. I saw it through a new set of eyes, a new heart. Not literally, of course, but different from any year before.
My trip to the Holy Land the first part of December had a lot to do with that.
During the first two weeks in December, my husband and I, along with a group from our church, visited many of the places mentioned in the Bible. We went to Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph lived and where the angel informed both of them that Mary was going to have a baby boy who would become the savior of the world. Our travels took us along the road they would have taken from Nazareth to Bethlehem. At a pace of 27 miles a day, it would have taken them several days. Can you imagine that trip as a woman close to giving birth? We sang silent night in a cave at Shepherds’ Field and visited Nativity grotto, the traditional location of Jesus’ birth. We visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph presented the newborn Jesus at the temple eight days after his birth. The modern road we took south to our destination on the Dead Sea followed the ancient King’s road, the road the Holy family would have traveled on as they fled to Egypt to escape from King Herod.
For all of my life, my imaginings of the first Christmas have been influenced by traditional Christmas cards, movies or photographs. There’s something incredibly special about visiting the actual location, the place you have read about and stored into memory for so many years. Every Bible verse I read, every carol I sang this year had a new memory, a new frame of reference. It made for a truly wonderful Christmas season.
Faith, Family and Friends
Christmas 2018 was one of my favorites. Here are a few reasons why.
- Visiting the Holy Land the first part of December really set the tone for the rest of the month. It brought the Christmas story to life.
- I wasn’t stressed about decorations. Since we were going to be gone from November 28 – December 10, I decorated the house early. We bought our tree on probably the worst possible day. They were so picked over and we ended up with a small one, but once it was decorated, it was beautiful.
- Our daughter and son-in-law returned home from sixteen months in Scotland. It’s wonderful to have them back in the same country. One state away is much better than having an ocean divide us.
- I got to spend an entire day, one on one with my daughter. It was a magical day in the Magic Kingdom. For about twelve hours, she was ten and I was forty all over again. Memories.
- We attended a Christmas party, an old-fashioned Christmas cantata at a small Baptist Church and an impromptu gathering with long-time friends a couple of days before Christmas. I also went to a traditional Christmas lunch with friends.
- I saw the Nutcracker Ballet twice — two different locations with two different friends. One planned weeks in advance and one literally a last minute surprise!
- I went to a cookie exchange with friends, then baked some more — cookies, my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake, a pecan pie and two key lime pies.
- We attended a beautiful candlelight service at our church on Christmas Eve, then enjoyed a quiet dinner with my parents.
- Our son was home for four days, the same four days as my daughter and son-in-law. My little family, including one cat and one dog, was all together in the same house. Bliss.
- I had the presents all wrapped a week early! No last minute wrapping — well, until my son needed help wrapping his gifts
- For the first time in two years our entire family was together again. We celebrate Christmas with my mom and dad on December 26. It works out better with so many living out of town. We always take a silly family photo. No stand-in props needed this year!
- We did several fun activities as a family — Top Golf, ICE, bowling, drove around town to look at Christmas lights, went out for pizza, worked on puzzles and played cards. It was a great time together.
I received some lovely gifts too, for which I am very grateful, but they weren’t the highlight for me. The things that made this Christmas special were the times spent with family, friends and in celebrating the birth of the Savior.
My husband and I live in an empty nest. Our Christmases don’t look at all like what they used to. Like this year, many times our Christmas Eve and Christmas mornings are just us and my parents. I’m learning to accept this and let go of what Christmas used to be. I’m sure there will be even more changes in the future. I think it helps to keep the proper perspective. Remember what we’re celebrating.
Perhaps you are an empty nester too. Maybe your Christmas didn’t look like what you’re used too. I want to encourage you — it is possible to have a happy Christmas even with an empty nest. That is my prayer for you. In the meantime, best wishes for a very Happy New Year.
If you are an empty nester, what advice would you share with someone about enjoying Christmas or any other holiday?