Sunday, December 18, 2011

Away in a Manger

Today in church (in 2011) as we sang the last verse to Away in a Manger, I was touched with God's message over the many years of people singing that song.  I was a child again asking Jesus to be with me forever, remembering the sanctuary of Liberty EUB when I first sang those words.  The child in all of us longs for the whole world to sing "Away in a Manger" together, feeling the love of Jesus.

In Liberty, I felt safe and secure (as in Leaning on the Everlasting Arms- "Safe and secure from all alarms") which made Christmas all the more meaningful and focused on Jesus and church.  The hymns, the Christmas eve service and the Christmas Sunday service in those special years when Christmas was on Sunday allowed the message of the Savior's birth to resound.  OK, if my mom, aunts or brother is reading this- we were chomping at the bit about getting presents.

Another song comes to mind on the issue of presents, "A pair of Hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots... from "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas".  I do remember cap guns, a toy rifle, a puppet of Howdy Doody or similar ilk, a microscope, a chemistry set, etc.  And books- I loved books.  The dog books were a favorite: Call of the Wild, Lad-Son of Battle, Gray Dawn, etc.  Reader's Digest Books were special since they had three or four books in one.

The children's program at church added to the experience, being one of the Three Wise Men and saying a line or two of scripture as my part in the program brought out all the parents and enhanced the message of God's love through the Baby Jesus.  We Three Kings of Orient are bearing gifts we come from afar...., O Little Town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie...., Away in a manger no crib for a bed...., you know the rest of the first verses of most of the Christmas hymns.

Silent Night is filled with meaning with the usual setting of Christmas Eve service and the added effect of candle light involving the entire congregation.  I wonder how old I had to be before my parents trusted me to hold my own candle?

"Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.  Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there."   E. U. B.  Hymnal 1957 edition

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas in Liberty: Excitement and Expectation

"But most of all, I remember Momma." That line comes from a popular TV show during the black and white era sponsored by Maxwell House Coffee (or could it have been Folgers?  The brain sometimes allows memory files to merge).  At Christmas time, I might say, "But most of all, I remember Christmas."

I remember times of saving all year at the Farmers and Citizens Bank in Trotwood in the Christmas Club, to have $25 dollars available for Christmas gifts.  It was always fun to shop for special gifts for family members.  (It seems that the fun continues, having spent time in Barns and Nobles and the Half Price Book Store drooling over books, movies and calendars last night followed by perusal of  "stuff" and clothing in Kohl's- where I delighted in selecting some Match Box vehicles for Andrew, our nearly two year-old grandson).

Miamisburg was a hotbed of shopping opportunity with the 5 and 10 cent store- Woolworth's, Suttman's, Penney's, and Philhower's.  Highlights of those shopping adventures often included the bakery where cream horns and donuts were always tasty and the famous hamburger wagon where the secret formula for one of the world's most unique burger experiences is still intact (why does the once despised onion now add such great flavor to this taste treat?- aging taste buds?).

Liberty never had a bank or a dime store, but we had Santa Claus at the fire department Christmas party, where he gave us kids a box of chocolate drop candy or hard candy and an orange (my brain sees the orange like it was real- was there really an orange?)  We had Christmas Caroling by the Youth Fellowship group from the church.  It was all we needed, since we had the whole USA through the black and white TV sets.  Milton Berle, I Love Lucy, Howdy Doody, Ruth Lyons (Remember Ruby Wright singing, "Let's Light the Christmas Tree"?) and Saturday morning cartoons nourished our appetites for Christmas entertainment with special shows.

The TV specials all seemed to remember Jesus and reinforce the meaning of "the season" daily.  "Naughty or Nice" was tied into Christian beliefs.  The behavior of children was compared to a standard of expectation that would please the baby Jesus.  Jesus coming was in every Christmas hymn.  A small town without cable TV, cell phones, the internet or texting can do a good job with the Baby Jesus.

The excitement mounted for Liberty children as the day neared when the presents and the tree would suddenly be alive with celebration (the baby Jesus clearly had competition on his birthday- even before credit cards were invented)

What are your Christmas time memories?

More later as the memories float through.