I wish I had written the Christmas letter before the recent, unimaginable tragedy. My heart is heavy for all of the families who will be grieving in a way that I can’t even imagine…at Christmas. This is the most celebrated season of the year, and not only for Christians. Tom and I celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby, the savior of the world. One sister’s family celebrates Hanukkah, the festival of lights. A brother’s family celebrates the wonder of Christmas through the magic of Santa. Some of our family, some of mine and some of Tom’s, pull from the long list of holiday traditions and just celebrate. I love that my sis-in-law has carried on her family’s tradition and puts up a tree on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t stand to wait that long, but how special it would be! I remember when I was a little girl, a Christmas morning where we woke up to see a dazzling decorated tree that hadn’t been there the night before. Oh the wonder of it all, pure magic.
In so many ways people across the nation and around the world celebrate a season of joy and hope, love and peace. Though our reasons for the season vary, on this we agree: what the world needs now is more joy and hope, love and peace. My joy and hope spring from faith in a God who would come to earth as a tiny baby. He lived with people and experienced joy and sorrow, delight and pain. My peace comes in knowing he understands grief and temptation. He was and is good and kind and without sin, yet he gives us every opportunity to be free from our sin, to be like him – good, kind, and compassionate – because he loves us. That’s why Tom and I celebrate Christmas. It’s a time to rejoice and revel in knowing a way has been made. Our hearts have seen the Lord’s salvation, a light for revelation to every one of all nations and for the glory of God’s people, Israel.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
This has been a milestone year for me. I turned 60 in October, and Tom is staring down 60 (Jan. 2nd). We are counting down to his retirement! (18 months or so) And with that comes a dream of a little retirement home just across the field, overlooking French Creek. And we are hoping against hope that one of our sons will move into this old farmhouse and fill it up with children. (wink, wink).
Our boys – grown and gone— are all doing well. Nathan in California is furthering his education and serving in a Baptist church as worship leader. Aaron and Amy are still in State College. He has a new position at the State College Christian and Missionary Alliance Church as lead pastor; Amy serves alongside him and keeps very busy nurturing their little boys. Grant 5 (almost 6!) and Max 2 ½ are the light of our lives. It can’t be helped, they are remarkable children, and we love them so. Adam and Alicia live in Butler, PA – and in light of everyone else being so far away, they faithfully make sure we have family to be with for all the little holidays, birthdays, and other significant events. It helps that Alicia’s parents are in Edinboro, which is less than 10 miles away. David and Melanie are in Colorado, but we’re hoping and praying that they’ll be back to PA soon, possibly living right here in this big rambling house. Those plans are in God’s hands…which is to say, totally up, up, up in the air.
And a big change that came to our lives this year – we’ve found ourselves attending a new church, St. Paul’s Lutheran. Being Lutheran brings us full-circle in a sense. We were married in a Lutheran church 41 years ago. The liturgy is soothing, meaningful, and most importantly, worshipful. And I don’t mind at all the nostalgia invoked, reminding me not only of our early married life, but my Catholic roots as well. It’s all good. Life is full of learning, growing, changing – not always in that order and not always in equal measure, which reminds me of what my dad says, oh so often, too soon old, too late smart.
Merry Christmas dear friends and family! And Happy Holiday, whatever your holiday may be! Let there be joy, love, hope and peace on earth, and let it begin with us.
Love, Tom and Betsy