Blessed Christmas

My Christmas tree always reminds me of how blessed I am. 

In all honesty, most of the ornaments on our tree are not purchased. 
We made them with friends or they were given to us

The only ornament on our tree that we purchased together is the "Our 1st house" ornament.

I have this "really cool friend" named Sarah Gibbons. We've been friends since the 4th grade, and she's probably knows me better than I know myself sometimes. We've had a long standing tradition of having Christmas parties at her home for over a decade. In the very beginning, we helped her make ornaments to pass out to others, like the 2003 ornament at the very top. (My husband says he thinks that's the best ornament he has ever made.) In later years party guests made their own. I probably have over a dozen of these that Brad and I have decorated over the years, and they really are my favorite. They always go on the tree first. The blue star, blue "For Unto Us" bulb, the red ball with the Christmas lights, and the Pinball Pete/ I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas ornament were all decorated in her presence, filled with wonderful Christmas memories. 

Bottom center are two ornaments purchased from Bronner's. My husband Bradlee is a French teacher and plays guitar for our church Worship team. Last year I managed to buy that guitar ornament that looks almost EXACTLY like his guitar. He was SO excited. We also have fond memories or past trips to Bronner's with our church youth group. 

The Santa and the cardinal are both gifts from Brad's students. I look forward to placing those every year, as we are reminded how blessed my husband is to work in a school district where the parents of the community supports what he does and trains their children to value education. 
I know other teachers who are not that lucky...

The snowman in the bottom right hand corner is from a "Christmas in a Box" set that I received from our sister-in-law when we bought our house. In it is the tree skirt that we use every year. We don't put all of the ornaments up in that box, just our favorites. This set always brings a smile to our faces.

One year when my brother-in-law was short on funds, he decorated burgundy glass ornaments with gold paint. He made one set for my husband's grandmother with family names. Another set he made for Brad that had various words of faith written in Hebrew. One pictured above is the ornament for "Gram B.," who passed from this world to heaven a few years ago.

The picture, top row center, says "love" in Hebrew,
which in my opinion is what the season is really about. 
This set is quite honestly dear to my heart.

Sometimes the most simple gifts, that are obviously from the heart, are the best. 

And in the center is my Fontini advent calendar.
 The focus of why Christmas came to be..the birth of Christ.

 But lately it seems that we have drawn lines and taken a defensive stand about Christmas, and that concerns me a bit. While it's true that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, if we think about it it's all about LOVE. Like John 3:16 says, that "God so loves the world that he sent His only begotten Son." So many times it seems that Christians are better about saying what we are against, than what we are for. We've drawn a line in the sand, creating an "us vs. them" atmosphere. In all honesty, the only time Jesus drew a line in the sand was to separate the religious leaders from the prostitute needing to be shown love and grace. 

I don't think Christmas is a time to be drawing a line in the sand. 

God says that he is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 
God says he "did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, 
but to save the world through him.
Jesus says that the world will know His followers
 by the way that we love one another. 

Christmas is a time to exercise patience and dream about the potential others have inside them. Christmas is a time to encourage others to be the best they can be, not tear them down. Christmas is a time to celebrate and practice LOVE. 

For this and so many more reasons I am blessed, and the main source of blessing is that I am loved. 
By my God, by my husband, by my family and my friends. 

And while I will still tell people "Merry Christmas,"
 I won't do so with an agenda to push 
or to condemn others who don't say it. 

Maybe all we really need to say during this holiday season, with patience, is
"I love you."
 Because love is the one gift we all want and need. 

Have a blessed Christmas.