Every December a tiny house on the side table in the living room of our humble apartment in Germany, held our fascination! When mother lit the first advent candle on the wreath, it meant there were only 24 more days until Christmas. The three of us, my younger brother and sister and I, now had to memorize a short Scripture verse every day, which was printed in each of the 24 tiny windows of this fascinating cardboard Advent house. A small electric light shone through these tissue paper windows. It was so exquisite and charming!

It was a quieter time when I was child. No one was rushing around in materialistic hustle and bustle. Each day after supper was a time for family devotions, carolling and reciting the newly learned verse. Times were tough; food was scarce; but we had Jesus and a huge extended family and that meant everything to us. To make things festive a small, fresh spruce Advent Wreath adorned the table. Each Sunday another candle was lit until there were four.

As Christmas Day grew closer, the living room stayed mysteriously locked. Peeping through the keyhole just did not provide us with the clues we wanted. The suspense was dreadful.

Being the oldest, I was taught secrecy. I knew that a tiny tree cut from the woods on the outskirts of town had been sneaked into the living room and would be trimmed with real wax candles, to be lit first on Christmas Eve.

But first we would celebrate Christ’s birthday in worship at church. We had to trudge through the snow, up the hill and through the woods to the chapel. No padded pews and comfortable seating here; it was freezing cold on wooden benches. We cuddled up close with cousins and friends to retain the heat. By the time we were ready to leave, the wood in the pot-bellied stove was finally successful in taking the chill off the place.

There was a small harmonium, a sort of pump organ, and the music sounded heavenly in this high and hollow building. Even though we could see our breath, we sang as much to glorify God as to keep us warm. The organ player got a real work-out on the little organ. All the Sunday school children had practiced poems, musical numbers, and plays. Talk about excitement! And being nervous! This was the one and only time in the year that children participated in the church service. Some of us put our heart and soul into our part; others just rattled it off. This was our offering to the Christ Child in the manger. Though we did not yet understand fully as children how we could have a personal relationship with Christ, nevertheless, we believed in Him and were grateful that He was huge part of our lives.

There was a fellowship of love with family and friends – there were always some cousins with whom to giggle, pull pranks and test the patience of our parents. Isn’t that what children are for? After the service and the fast walk home through the brisk night air, we enjoyed the warmth of home!

Mysteriously mother had arrived before us. Now she ushered us reverently into the transformed living room. Our eyes filled with wonder! From where did all these gifts come? Why wrap the presents only to tear into them and waste that pretty, precious paper? Presents, whatever homemade presents there were, received the focal point on the huge dining room table, without festive wrappings. We were a fortunate family; we had a good dining table. Each one of us also got a fine looking paper plate filled with a variety of homemade Christmas cookies, apple, orange, candy, walnuts and maybe even chocolate. What a rare treat! (Some of us consumed our delights rather quickly and others hid away the candy for leaner times. My younger brother still had wrapped Christmas candies at Easter with which to taunt us!)

But first, and that’s where we learned to delay gratification, we had to recite all 24 Advent Calendar Bible verses. Then father would read the Christmas story from Luke 2. Then we would sing our favourite Christmas Carols, finishing off with Silent Night. Then, we could finally receive our gifts. One after another we got to look at our own gifts and thanked each other for them. Only then was it time to eat some cookies and enjoy a cup of steaming cocoa. Everything had to happen in a certain order and with proper decorum. Tradition! With sleep in our eyes we said our prayers and had the most dream-filled sleep ever.

For the most part, my childhood recorded very special memories. Advent was always a time of great anticipation of Christmas Eve and celebrating Jesus Birthday. Now, more than half a century later, with a much greater sense of awe and wonder, of expectancy and hope, amazement and eager anticipation I await the Second Advent, the return of Christ as He has promised. This time my eyes will fill with tears of joy and wonder as I behold my King! And every knee, yes, even mine after surgery, shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And I will praise His Name forever! And I will thank God that He hung the best Christmas gift ever on a tree on a hill called Calvary, even for me. What a celebration of joy!


Cathryn said...

Karin, this is a very powerful post. I don't know if you realize just how rich your heritage is. Just how wonderful you really did have it. It is like reading from a fiction book. I say that respectfully. I was reared in a home with an alcoholic father. It contrasts starkly to what you write of. I am so happy for you and for the many who have had such a rich heritage ~ you serve as a testimony to us that these things can exist. You are so descriptive in your writing ~ I felt as if I were there with you on the bench in the cold church waiting to say my part in the program. :) Lord Bless You, Cathryn

McMahon Manifesto said...

Truly a wonderful post! I agree, Cathryn, it was as though we were right there with Karin. You have a beautiful way with your writing! And yes, a very rich heritage indeed. Thanks so much for sharing.