Melynda Sides Schauer moved to Macau when she was eleven and spent most of her middle school and high school years in Asia. A dear friend of my daughter, Hilary, Melynda soon made her way into the heart of each member of our family, as well. She just has a way of doing that.
Ever been unable to go home for Christmas?
Today Melynda shares a story in which she could have been very homesick for Christmas. You see, most of Melynda’s “remembered” Christmases were set somewhere in Asia.
Now, put yourself in her shoes. Desiring to return “home” to Macau for the holidays, but realizing you would be celebrating far, far away.
“It was the year my grandmama seriously considered not putting up her Christmas tree that one of my favorite annual traditions was born.
“She’d been widowed for about four years then and perhaps wondered if it was really worth the hassle to get the tree down from the attic…replace the lights that didn’t work…unwrap each of the ornaments she’d collected through the years. Did she really want to go through all of that trouble only to undo it all again in a few weeks?
“I didn’t like the thought of her decorating alone or not at all. I was in my sophomore year of college, living about an hour away, so I asked her if my friends and I could come and decorate her tree with her. As always, her door was open and her answer was ‘yes.’ She offered to cook a meal for us if we did the decorating. Sounded like a great deal to me!
“On a day in early December, she greeted us warmly, hugging friends she had already met and new ones she didn’t yet know. We chattered noisily as we invaded her quiet, peaceful home and started divvying up decorations. As we unwrapped the ornaments from their dormant states, we listened to Grandmama’s stories for each one.
“She told us about who gave her each ornament, or where she and my Grandpa had bought it together or which grandchild made it for her. By the end of the afternoon, her tree was aglow with memories, each branch filled with stories from the past.
“After decorating the tree, Grandmama fixed us a delicious meal and we all sat around the big dining room table to eat. Once our bellies were full, we gathered around the old piano, the one that’s always a little out of tune, to sing Christmas carols.
“Someone picked out a hymn, another played the notes on the piano, and the simple sounds of our carols filled the room, transporting us back to a time long ago, to the first Christmas.
Oh come, all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant. Come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Fall on your knees, o hear the angel voices. O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
“We sang the Story, the original Christmas story, the one retold in the gospels and woven through the lyrics of ancient hymns. The story of the manger scene, of baby Jesus coming to earth, of his mother Mary and adopted father Joseph, of shepherds and angels and wise men and a star.
“It’s when we’re gathered around the piano, singing carols to our King, that I remember the first Noel and the reason Jesus was born. Amidst the hubbub of the season, I’m reminded that Christmas isn’t about the decorations on the tree or the presents underneath.
“Christmas is about Jesus, who spent his first night on earth sleeping in a manger made from a tree, and his last day on earth nailed to one. It’s about the hope of His life and love that He offers to all mankind not just on one day of the year, but every day. It’s about praising and adoring Him through our worship and longing for His return.
“The tradition of decorating my Grandmama’s tree is now in its seventh year. Early this December, many of the original faces, plus some new ones who have joined us in recent years, will come with me to my Grandmama’s house. We’ll hug and laugh, decorate and eat, sing and celebrate together.
“And as we place the ornaments on a tree laden with memories, we’ll remember together the First Noel, the newborn King and the joy that He brings to the world.”
How will you deal with your own “homesick” issues this Christmas? With apathy or with action?