My Mom always made Advent and Christmas the most magical time for my brother, sister, and me. During Advent, Mom read us special stories she’d collected over the years. Those treasured stories captured my imagination with the meaning and joy of Christmas and culminated with Dad reading from Luke on Christmas Eve.

Mom also had unique decorations that signaled the season. There were sleigh bells ringing on the front door, mistletoe hanging in the foyer, and a festive cloth draping the table. And Mom always had the most amazing variety of sweets. We had lots of cookies — chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar, sugar with icing, sugar with Reese’s cups, and peanut butter blossoms with Hershey kisses.

There were unique family recipes like marble squares and O’Katy bars. My all-time favorite was scotch short bread dusted with powdered sugar. At the end of every family meal, a large platter of cookies was passed and enticed us to stay at the table to eat more and share family stories.

Much has changed since I was that little girl. Over the years, Mom gifted each of us a copy of the treasured stories, a selection of family decorations, and all of our cherished recipes.

This year presents more challenges than most for capturing the essence of the close family Christmas that we remember.

It’s not only the years and the miles that separate us, but also concerns of health and age. My family, like many others, will be celebrating differently, not traveling to be with our families, but rather embracing Christmas where we are.

In the midst of the different however, the truth of Christmas remains the same. The words of Luke that my father read to me are the same words my husband reads to our boys.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14.

These words offered hope to the shepherds.

They offered hope to my family in my childhood.

And they offer hope to us today.

We are blessed through the birth of Christ. Wherever we are, we can gather to tell the story, to see the festive decorations, and to taste the sweetness of the season, and maybe even that one special cookie that takes you home.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8.

Rev. Wendy Heinemann is the Chaplain at St. Francis Episcopal School in Houston, Texas. She is the wife of an amazing, giving man; the mother of two energetic boys; the daughter of happily retired, loving parents; the sister of two talented siblings; and the friend to many. 

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