There was nothing remarkable about our house. It was a modest, three-bedroom bungalow. On the inside, it was furnished sparingly with 1960-era accoutrements.
But after the Thanksgiving turkey had been reduced to a bony carcass and the last morsel of Mom’s homemade stuffing had been devoured, the house would begin its transformation. Mom would begin to fill our abode with the aroma of fruit cake, which when baked would be lovingly deposited in a large metal can, probably in the neighborhood of three gallons in capacity, along with a small glass of Mogen David wine. During the succeeding three weeks, the fruit cake would absorb the flavor of the wine. The liquid would also keep the fruit cake moist.
Dad, also on Thanksgiving weekend, would set up a card table in the dining area, where he would craft the latest addition to the scene which would be placed under the Christmas tree. One scene was horse-drawn sleigh unloading a passenger in front of a small, snow-covered church. Another scene was from Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” complete with Tiny Tim. Yet another was Santa’s workshop. Dad would rotate the scenes from year to year and each year he would add another papier-mache figure to the vignette.
Fred Waring, Mitch Miller and Ray Conniff would provide the seasonal soundtrack for our preparations, courtesy of the Hi-Fi spinning records at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.
Dad also constructed a scene of Santa’s elves decorating the outside of the house. A pair of helpers hung lighted garland from the eve trough. Another elf was in the process of wrapping ever-green rope around the gas light in the front yard. All of this and more was illuminated by spot lights.
Everywhere we looked, the house, inside and out, expressed the spirit of the season. A simple, ordinary house had become a Christmas tableau.
And it wasn’t only the house that changed. January through November, Dad was a reserved husband and an undemonstrative father. Guarded with his emotions, he was less than generous with praise and encouragement. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, however, his face shone with joy and he became a vessel of Christmas spirit.
His enthusiasm was contagious. Mom baked as many as twenty different kinds of cookies to give, along with the wine-infused fruit cake, to friends, neighbors, and fellow church members. Even my brother and I got along better as a result the pre-Christmas metamorphosis. Threats regarding Santa’s naughty list certainly didn’t hurt.
My parents’ preparations transformed our ordinary residence into something extraordinary, and along with the house, its occupants were changed as well.
That’s what Christmas does. Neighborhoods, communities, even cities catch the magic of the season. People are friendlier, kinder, and more helpful.
What Christmas does, Christ does. The shepherds, the wisemen, Mary and Joseph were all changed in some wonderful way by the birth of Jesus. Nearly everyone whom Jesus encountered during His ministry, and later, his death and resurrection, was touched in a positive way.
Christ continues to transform people today by His Gospel of hope, peace, love and joy. His act of redemption on the cross changes us with the assurance that we are forgiven. The glow of His presence warms even the coldest heart. The promise of His return replaces despair with hope.
Christ changed the world. He continues to transform lives. May yours be one of them.