This is a story I wrote and published on my blog in 2008--my writing has changed a great deal since then as has my life---BUT the sentiments are the same.  I hope it helps to prepare your heart as we approach the celebration of the greatest gift ever given.

The air was brisk and the sky was clear and it was time for my annual Christmas Eve stroll through the neighborhood. For the 25 years that I had lived on Peachtree Avenue, this had been my tradition-to walk the sidewalks of my familiar home ground and reflect upon the wonder of Christmas and the neighbors that surround our home. Through the years, no matter what the weather, I had come to look forward to the end of the whirl of the season and relish the stillness that the late evening brings with it.

As I turned out of my drive and headed down the block, the first house I came to was the Walker’s home. The Walker’s were a new family to the block and had a house full of children of all sizes from babies to young teens. The yard was strewn with bicycles and toys and there was a constant state of disarray as you passed by from day to day. Christmas though was a magical time for the Walkers and their offspring. Every window was bright with lights. There were inflatable Christmas decorations in the yard and icicle lights hanging from every eave of the house. The cypress tree growing in the front yard was full of colored lights. The house was so decorated that you felt like the ground might collapse from the weight of it all. I had come to love it! When they first moved in and began decorating in this extravagant style-I was overwhelmed and thought it way over the top. The one year that they missed decorating, when Mrs. Walker was sick, had left a hole in Christmas. The hustle and bustle from the house next door was a sweet reminder of Christmases past and I loved passing by and soaking in the energy that literally haloed the house. The Walkers and all of their children were a sweet page in the story of life and Christmases past.

A couple of houses past the Walker’s I passed the Taylors. The Taylors had grown children that had moved from their home town and started lives of their own, following their graduation from college. Mrs. Taylor loved Christmas and all of the warmth of the season. Known for being the Martha of the neighborhood, Mrs. Taylor’s decorations and parties were renowned. Everyone loved getting an invitation to their annual Christmas Open House. The children came home every year for Christmas and the sense of family permeated from the house. The Taylors had begun preparing for Christmas and actually gotten all of the traditional decorations in their place and then Christmas seemed to have ceased at their home. Mrs. Taylor had become sick and surgery was required. The diagnosis was overwhelming and a daunting fight was in the future. The Taylors only wish for Christmas this year was for restored health and freedom from pain. Christmas was still looked forward to by the Taylors, but the things that once seemed so important had now taken a back seat to other pressing needs. The Christmas prayers that flowed from their home this year had taken on a new importance and family had now become the focus of each Taylor. This season of celebration would be subdued, but the family was rallying around Mrs. Taylor and their love and support would be her best Christmas gift.

As I continued down the street with the street lights twinkling in the evening, I came to a house that seemed to rock and vibrate with the spirit of Christmas. The Blacks had lived in the neighborhood since before we had moved here. A particularly close family the Blacks had raised their four children in this house and now the Black children and all of their children were home for this Christmas. Mr. Black had been ill since late in the spring and seemed to be losing ground in his fight for restored health. Mrs. Black had determined that she would have each and every inch of their home decorated for the holidays and it was an absolute wonderland when you entered the door. I am not sure where they had put all of those children and grandchildren, but they were determined to be together this holiday. A little discomfort was a small price to pay for the feeling of being united and celebrating this wonderful time of the year. Both of the Blacks had been elated when the entire clan was able to gather from far ends of the world and all over the country. The house was noisy and seemed full of bodies in every nook and cranny, but what a delight. The Blacks and their offspring knew how to celebrate and the fun and merriment filled the air. This was indeed a wonderful Christmas for all of the Blacks, even in the midst of illness. The telling of the Christmas story would take on new meaning this year as they all clung to the comfort that only family can give.

The last house on the block, before I made my turn to go home, was dark. Mrs. Conner was alone now since her beloved husband had passed away a few years back. The time had passed for much decorating at Christmas and the only real sign of Christmas was the Christmas cards on the mantle of her fireplace. The Conner children and their children were spread out all over the nation. They all lead busy lives and had important jobs with pressing needs. The years had brought a distance, not only in miles, but also in connection. Mrs. Conner loved to tell you of the years when her children were home and the memories of wonderful Christmases served as her solace during the holidays. Christmas had become a time of reminiscing of years gone and the sweetness of memories of family and friends in days of yore. The house was dark, but Mrs. Conner was warm with the memory of a life full of love and laughter and special Christmases well spent.

As I headed back to the warmth of my chair by the fire, I reflected on this special time of the year. The years had brought many Christmases and many stages of living life. There had been years of babies, toys, bicycles, and special Christmas Eve Communion Services. There had been teenage children with new cars, electronic gadgets, and plans of their own. There have been new family members including children’s spouses and the best of all-grandchildren. The neighborhood had grown into a reflection of life and all of the stages we pass through as we travel down the road. Once again, as I turned into the drive, I said a prayer in thanks for each and every season of life and the neighbors that surrounded us. God is indeed good and Christmas is a most special and blessed time of the year. As I opened the door and entered our home, my mind shot back to that magical phrase from a story oft told, “Merry Christmas to All and to all a Good Night.”

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