Hackensack, a tiny town in northern Minnesota. Population: 285 people. 292 when we converge there for Christmas.
My parents manage a Christian camp in the frozen tundra. Despite the cold, it really is a beautiful place. Snow glistens on the frozen lake. Icicles hang from tree branches heavy with snow. And the stars! There are so many stars! Of course those same stars are in Illinois but out here, you see them so clearly. The black of night is broken up by the twinkling of stars and a bright moon. But let me tell you, it is so dark here! No street lights, very few other houses, just darkness and it's so quiet. I love it!
The week of Christmas is just a time of relaxation. My family loves to play games - card games, board games. You name it, we probably play it. When I'm home for Christmas, I generally more games in that one week than I will the rest of the year. And I love it. We have a tendency to be very competitive and sometimes we take things too far. But overall, it's a good time filled with laughter and fun.
Of course we open presents - far more than we need. My nieces are more than happy to help everyone open their presents. But gifts take up a very small piece of our time. Instead, we'll play games, take walks (all bundled up, of course!) and play in the snow. If I'm lucky, I might even talk someone into making snow angels with me. And if I don't watch my back, my little brother will definitely throw me in a snow bank. :-)
Christmas is about life. Joy filled life. Lively laughter, lots of joking, connecting with one another. It's life in my family. Sure, there may also be a twinge of sadness as we think of those who can't join us on this day, but we also remember the hope that we have of seeing them again someday.
Some 2000+ years ago, a Life came into this world to bring Life to all the world. On a night long ago, God sent a Gift to earth who would later die for all. It's a big thing to think about. Today is a day for us to remember what God has done for us. To remember and be thankful not only for the life that began so long ago but also for the sacrifice that follows.
So everyone who reads this, I say to you "Merry Christmas!" I pray your day is full of life, full of joy, full of Jesus.