Growing up on a farm in rural Oregon, my brother and I often had a second-hand Christmas. The gifts under our tree were toys that our single mom found at yard sales or Goodwill and wrapped in humble, ordinary newspaper. The tree itself she cut down from the side of a road and hauled home in the back of our truck.
Yes, there really are only twelve days ‘til Christmas. So, unless you’ve got a partridge and a pear tree, a handful of spare rings and some leaping lords lying about, it’s time to get busy. With the convenience of the Internet, it’s tempting to order gifts online, but I’m a huge fan of supporting local businesses, which sponsor youth programs, employ neighbors and build communities. So, I’ve put together a last-minute shopping guide sure to cover everyone on your list and to be a whole lot more memorable than clicking a button on your computer screen.
This weekend marks the first Sunday of Advent, a spiritual season of preparation for Christmas. About this time, I usually thumb through my collection of holiday books to select a liturgical guide to read with my family each week to remind us that Christmas is about more than the gifts we’ll find under the tree.
“I wish I knew what had happened to Ruth’s doll,” I lamented to my children a week before Christmas. Ruth, our adopted daughter, had so loved the brown Bitty Baby I’d bought when she’d arrived in Maine from a Ugandan children’s home, Welcome Home Ministries Africa. At the time, Ruth was 18 months old and couldn’t sit up, feed herself or speak. Having been abandoned at birth, she was staying in Topsham with friends, who’d volunteered to take care of her while she received therapy for cerebral palsy.
Last week, I questioned what people who don’t observe Christ’s birth are celebrating at Christmas. It’s no secret that we live in a largely secular culture. Here in Maine, we have among the lowest church attendance in the nation, with a mere 20 percent of folks plonking down on a pew each Sunday. So it stands to reason that some 80 percent of you might be wondering what exactly Christians are celebrating this time of year. I thought it’d be fun to consult the writers of our best-loved Christmas carols. No, not John Lennon, who hoped we’d have fun and forget our fears, but those early bastions of faith who penned lyrics based on Scripture. So this is Christmas: