When I was born just after Christmas 25 years ago, my parents were in deep shock to find that I had no eyes.
As a result of my lack of sight, my mum said it felt like I was her first baby, not her 7th. She said that not being able to make eye contact with me, was so hard. For one thing, each time she went to pick me up I would jump and cry because I had been startled by 2 hands coming from nowhere!
Mum and dad learned to adapt, and to do things slightly different, for example, talking to me as they walked towards me so that I would know they were there before they picked me up. Mum told me recently that when she thought about Christmas for the first few years after I was born, she really struggled to know what to get me. She said she didn’t know how I would ever like christmas, since she new I couldn’t see the pretty lights and decorations, or look at the christmas tree, or peak at the brightly wrapped presents underneath it. She couldn’t buy me picture books, or toys or games that required reading or visual cues. I have no idea why she was worried though, since from as far back as I can remember, I have always loved Christmas!
I still look forward to it each year with the same excitement I had as a child! When people tell me that “christmas is really for the kids” I strongly disagree! Maybe that means I’m more in touch with my inner child than with my outer adult, but it doesn’t bother me! I love the smells at christmas: oranges are normally eaten in abundance at this time, and although I don’t like them myself, the smell of them reminds me of christmas.
My mum has always made her own christmas cake, and the smells of the mixed fruit ad sherry it contains as it cooks spreads right through the house. We also make stuffing, and I remember being allowed to feed the blender with bits of bread, slices of onion, and bunches of parsley under the close supervision of my parents or sisters when I was younger. Chopped parsley and onion have their own, very strong smell which is great for the sinuses if you happen to have a cold. The scent of the tree (we always had a real one for this reason) combined with the distinctive smell and crackle of the open fire and all the other delicious odors combined to make a special christmas perfume which I wish I could bottle. I would probably call it “Christmas Cocktail”.
The sounds at Christmas are also important to me. As I have said, mum likes to cook her own christmas cakes, and she also cooks her own christmas puddings. She starts the cake in early October to give it time to mature. The christmas pudding normally gets cooked at the beginning of November, and the sound of hissing pressure cookers has always been to me one of the first audible signs that Christmas is on its way again at long last! They hiss so loud that it makes everything sound slightly muffled, a bit like an old film or radio program when the quality wasn’t quite as good as today's. I love the carols at christmas, and of course, the atmosphere when shopping is amazing! I used to be really good and do all my Christmas shopping in October. I loved the hustle and bustle of the streets which were not too crowded then. This year however, what with the wedding, Christmas sort of crept up on me! So I was shopping right up to christmas eve! But its still fun!
I love the thrill of buying someone something you know they will like, and wrapping it up wondering what they will say when they open it! I put a lot of thought into presents, and love giving them as much as receiving them!
One of the things I’ve always longed to do, and God willing its an ambition I’ll realize this year, is to sing Christmas carols in somewhere like the Grand Arcade Cambridge where the acoustics are amazing, and raise money for TTR while singing my favorite carols! I have always thought the sound of live music is one of the best things ever! Especially at christmas time. It seems to make everybody happier somehow. One of the advantages of living on a village market square is that we hear anyone who comes to carol sing on the square from our sitting room, and can stand outside our front door and enjoy it! That’s what I did this year when the local middle school came to sing! It was lovely!
Our church also takes a stand on the square at the christmas market and sing carols, and give out leaflets on our christmas services!. For a couple of years, we did door to door carol singing. Another christmas highlight for me is carols round my parents house. We wheel the piano into the kitchen, get some chairs from church and fetch down the carol books and invite people to come and sing with us!
This year as well as the gathering with the church people, we did a lot of singing as a family. We haven’t had the opportunity before since none of us play the piano, but since I have married an organist who doesn’t mind playing the piano, problem solved! Another thing I love is the family togetherness! We have a big family, and its normally at christmas that everyone gets together. It means my mum cooks for upwards of 30 people, and you basically have to fight for a spare chair and guard it with your life, but its a lot of fun! Of course then, there’s the food!!! I absolutely love turkey! And although I don’t like christmas pudding or christmas cake, I am very partial to some ice cream and condensed milk, which I only let myself indulge in over Christmas! All the sausage rolls for tea, chocolate log, and caramel squares too! Plus the sound of the children laughing and playing with their new presents and pulling crackers is magical! I’ve always loved the sound of unwrapping presents, and especially as we all open ours at once. Its all chatter and laughter and paper ripping everywhere and it is such a special atmosphere to me!
I never put my presents away until the new year, I keep the stocking my mum gives me in its bag and add in all the presents I get from other people too, just to make it last that bit longer. I suppose I’m afraid that if I put them away, it will feel less like Christmas!
I have left the most important bit till last though! I love Christmas most because it's when God sent his only son into the world as a tiny baby, to live on earth as a child like every other child, then to grow into the man who died on the cross to save us from our sins. It always amazes me, that, as Stuart Townsend puts it in “Joy has Dawned”, “Hands that set each star in place, Shaped the earth in darkness, Cling now to a mother's breast, Vulnerable and helpless.”. I only heard that carol at christmas last year, but it sums it up so well. So my mum shouldn’t have worried. I love christmas! I love it for the food, the presents, the family, the atmosphere, the cold weather which means I get to ware my favourite fluffy jumpers, the sounds and the smells. All her efforts were not wasted.
But most of all, I love Christmas because it was here that God’s plan for us to be made right with him began to unfurl. Jesus is the best present of all. I have had some wonderful gifts this christmas, but the best and most precious is Jesus.