Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bedtime in Galilee by Bernice Rice

When the little Jesus had been fed
And warmly covered in His bed,
I wonder, if like other folks,
His mother told Him little jokes.

Or if she washed His little shirt
All soiled from playing in the dirt,
And smoothed it out with loving care
Before she hung it on a chair.

Then, after she had fixed a latch,
Sat quietly and sewed a patch.
Perhaps she tiptoed with the lamp
To see if Jesus' curls were damp.

I wonder if she knelt and prayed
About the bills that were unpaid.

These precious bedtimes Mary had
Before she lost her little lad.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mother and Child by Patricia Soud

I felt twinges and tightenings throughout the day, but I kept on baking and cleaning for a Christmas Eve get together at our little home. No point postponing life for a baby who's already a week late, I reasoned. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents were all invited for a last party BB (Before Baby). At supper, my husband asked, a little nervously, if it was time to go to the hospital.

I shook my head firmly. "I still have a lot to do." As the former head nurse at the hospital's coronary care unit, I was determined not to entertain my colleagues by showing up in false labor.

I continued getting ready for the party.....but by 11:00 that night I gave in.  "I think this is the real thing," I told Larry.  "You might as well take me to the hospital so you can get some sleep" - which in the early 1970's, was what husbands did while their wives delivered babies.

I, on the other hand, was ushered through heavy metal doors to the Sacred Refrigerator room designated for labor and delivery in the days prior to birthing suites.  Six hours later, shaking and shivering with exhaustion and exhilaration, I called Larry to tell him we had a son.  A Christmas Eve son.

I'd missed my own party and would spend Christmas in the hospital. And my son would celebrate all his birthdays in the shadow of the holidays.  My prayers to the contrary had been divinely dismissed.  I could almost hear God chuckle.  Nothing had happened the way I had planned.  Yet, as I rested quietly in the maternity ward, I experienced Christmas in a fresh, new way.

Mary and I had already become close friends on the pilgrimage of pregnancy.  When I first felt the flutters of life, I reflected on how Mary must have felt, knowing she was carrying God's Son.  When I grew enormous with child, I gained a new appreciation for the eighty-mile walk she made right before giving birth.  Now, when I thought of going into labor without a room in the inn or a midwife, I suspected she may have wondered why God hadn't made better arrangements.  Did she hear the echo of that same divine chuckle I thought I'd heard?

As I held my son, I marveled at the grip of tiny fingers winding themselves around my heart, filling me with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and a fierce maternal love.  Like Mary, I pondered  the mystery of life and incarnation.  Why would God pour Himself into a helpless human infant who entered our world through the perils of birth in a cave where animals were stabled? I fought back tears as I sang quietly to my baby.  "Silent night....holy night....all is calm....all is bright..."

The words made me pause.  Things couldn't have been silent, holy, and calm that first Christmas night.  Not as a mother and child labored and struggled and fought for life.  And yet, somehow, having just gone through the process myself, I understood a deeper holy silence and a brighter calm than anything I had ever known.  Somewhere beneath the obvious, beyond the visible, in the realm of the eternal, I could hear God orchestrating an oratorio that would forever celebrate His joy in birth....the birth of His Son....the birth of our sons and daughters....our rebirth as His children.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The true gift of a teatime celebration

For the third year, I have discovered there are many people who have longed for the foods served at their family table at Christmas.  Each year I have added something new to the menu, as well as invited people who haven't attended in the past. Besides sharing our childhood Christmas traditions and memories around the foods that invoked these thoughts, the goal is always for each guest to experience the true gift of a teatime celebration.

Realizing my gifts are baking, preparing, hosting and serving, holding a tea is a true joy for me.

My Christmas favorites, traditional foods according to my own nationality are these: 

Pork Pies (French)
Mince Meat Pie
Plum Pudding (Cornwall, England)

This year I made mini pork pies by using a combination of our families' recipes and those I read on the internet.
Having found a recipe last year for mince meat, I was proud to serve my own in the form of mini pies or tarts.

The Plum Pudding and white sauce is the traditional food that my Christmas teas revolved around.  Either the family member who had always made it had passed away, or no one ever attempted to make it themselves. The recipe I use is my own version of our family recipe.  And this year I made two since I had so many requests.

Just the aroma of each of these three favorites, would send anyone who had once experienced them, into childhood memories...... visions of plum pudding danced in our head!

No teatime celebration is complete without sweet treats, new recipes for me this year.

Chocolate Fudge (low sugar)
White Chocolate Cherry Fudge
Cathedral window cookies
Linzer cookies

The teas were Youthberry, a white tea from Teavana, and my standard black tea, PG Tips.

In my dining room and living room, 11 people were served, some who were my long-time tea party friends, and some who had never met each other.  That is the most I've ever served at one seating.

Two things I did differently made serving and enjoying the tea a great success: 
making the tea in the urn so it would be ready and hot as needed; and
accepting the offers of help from friends, Suzie and Kathy (thank you so much!)

The guests looked at the ornaments on the tree, and found their places at the tables.  In no time the hum of women visiting and enjoying the moment was a wonderful sound.

I also shared some of my favorite tea time resources as six had never been to tea:

Tea Time Magazine
Laura Childs' Tea Time Mystery Books
A Cup of Christmas Tea and other tea books
My scrapbook of teas and tea presentations, dating back to the early 1990's
Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

My cousin, and tea loving friend, Wendy, shared two beautiful readings which I will put in my Christmas post.

To quote Emilie Barnes:
"Perhaps that is the true gift of a teatime celebration:  It fills our cups with joy and warmth and friendship.  May the echo of the teacups' message be heard not only at Christmas, not only on special occasions, but anytime friends come together."

Thank you to everyone who attended, enjoyed an afternoon of traditional foods, and friendships over a cup of tea!  Sue