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Candy Canes and Gingerbread Men

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Candy Canes and Gingerbread Men

December 3, 2017

‘Tis the season once again.

I love Christmas and I always have. Honestly there is just so much to love:

Christmas carols playing 24/7
Snuggling with my puppy Noëlle (yes, her name means Christmas in French)
Home-baked goodies anonymously appearing in our teacher staff room
Endearing Christmas concerts performed by all our young students
New Hallmark Christmas movies
Attending the Nutcracker Ballet with my daughters
Gift exchanges that express our love for family and friends

Christmas has always been a magical time for me. Our family never celebrated the religious aspects of the holiday. But my parents, especially my mother, always made it special for us. I have fond childhood memories that are filled with sparkling lights, sweet surprises and sacred family traditions.

Another reason why I love this season? I first studied the bible at Christmastime. When a friend from work offered to study with me, I jumped at the chance. Even though it pretty much emptied my checkbook, I bought my first bible. I had a childlike, giddy excitement as we uncovered the in-between part of the story of Christ. You know, that part of Jesus’ story that comes between the cradle and the cross.

You see, as a nonbeliever growing up in America, I only had two visuals of Jesus. He was a baby in a cradle at Christmas and a man on a cross at Easter. Learning His full story was the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Since that time, I have enjoyed celebrating all aspects of the holiday.

While teaching kindergarten at a private Christian school, I discovered this treasure: The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg and illustrated by James Bernardin.

This book quickly became one of my holiday favorites. With childlike wonder, I marveled at what I discovered. The shape of the candy cane resembles the shepherd’s staff. Turn it upside down, and the candy cane looks like the letter J, for Jesus. The candy cane’s red stripes represent the blood Jesus shed so we could be healed.

Now, whenever I see a candy cane, I can’t help but think of Jesus. In fact, decorating my nails with candy canes became a new holiday tradition. Each time I look down at my hands, I have a festive reminder of the love of Christ.

All of the gingerbread stories were also extremely popular with my students. Who can help but love the story of this mischievous cookie? As part of our celebration, we made gingerbread cookies to decorate. Mysteriously, they disappeared while my students were at recess. Immediately, my students scampered off, searching for their cunning little cookies. Other teachers and the office staff would join in the fun by crying out, “I saw them go that way!” In the end, the cookies were found, decorated and joyfully eaten.

At the end of our celebration, I always gave my gift to each student. It was a rhyming tale that I wrote for them about the escape of the gingerbread men. Each student was a character in the story. Because I used stencils for the illustrations, it also became a coloring book for them to enjoy over the break. In all honesty, I think I had even more fun than my students!

But while I was merrily enjoying the holidays, I encountered some controversy along the way. My father, an avid reader, once told me that Christmas has its roots in the pagan holiday that celebrated the winter solstice. Several scholars, he claimed, believe Jesus was actually born anytime between spring and early fall. Over the years, I have seen Christian friends divided on this issue.

I have worshipped under a pastor who refused to have a special Christmas service because he didn’t want to celebrate a pagan holiday. Friends on the opposite side of the spectrum celebrated Christmas with birthday cakes for Jesus and the Happy Birthday song.

My point in sharing this is not to promote conflict or debate. Rather, I look for points of commonality.

A wise friend once shared with me that Christians purposefully chose to celebrate the birth of Christ during the winter solstice. Why? Jesus came to bring light to the world. By definition, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. Each successive day is longer because it has more light. What a beautiful analogy for the light of Christ!

As Christians we may not agree as to which season Jesus was born into, but we can all agree that He was born. We may not agree as to how to celebrate His birth, but we all celebrate the light and the life He gives.

One other point of agreement: Christmas is one of the very few times in the year when people are consciously thinking about Jesus and wondering about His story. I know this is true, because I was one of them.

As Christians, we have the unique opportunity to reflect His light as we join in all the holiday festivities. As we do so, we may be amazed as the seeds we plant take root and bear fruit.

Why candy canes and gingerbread men? They are the perfect blend of faith and fun. Wherever the road takes you during this holiday, I pray that your path will be delightfully decorated with both.

Candy Canes and Gingerbread Men

December 3, 2017

IMG_0186

‘Tis the season once again.

I love Christmas and I always have. Honestly there is just so much to love:

Christmas carols playing 24/7
Snuggling with my puppy Noëlle (yes, her name means Christmas in French)
Home-baked goodies anonymously appearing in our teacher staff room
Endearing Christmas concerts performed by all our young students
New Hallmark Christmas movies
Attending the Nutcracker Ballet with my daughters
Gift exchanges that express our love for family and friends

Christmas has always been a magical time for me. Our family never celebrated the religious aspects of the holiday. But my parents, especially my mother, always made it special for us. I have fond childhood memories that are filled with sparkling lights, sweet surprises and sacred family traditions.

Another reason why I love this season? I first studied the bible at Christmastime. When a friend from work offered to study with me, I jumped at the chance. Even though it pretty much emptied my checkbook, I bought my first bible. I had a childlike, giddy excitement as we uncovered the in-between part of the story of Christ. You know, that part of Jesus’ story that comes between the cradle and the cross.

You see, as a nonbeliever growing up in America, I only had two visuals of Jesus. He was a baby in a cradle at Christmas and a man on a cross at Easter. Learning His full story was the best Christmas gift I have ever received. Since that time, I have enjoyed celebrating all aspects of the holiday.

While teaching kindergarten at a private Christian school, I discovered this treasure: The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg and illustrated by James Bernardin.

This book quickly became one of my holiday favorites. With childlike wonder, I marveled at what I discovered. The shape of the candy cane resembles the shepherd’s staff. Turn it upside down, and the candy cane looks like the letter J, for Jesus. The candy cane’s red stripes represent the blood Jesus shed so we could be healed.

Now, whenever I see a candy cane, I can’t help but think of Jesus. In fact, decorating my nails with candy canes became a new holiday tradition. Each time I look down at my hands, I have a festive reminder of the love of Christ.

All of the gingerbread stories were also extremely popular with my students. Who can help but love the story of this mischievous cookie? As part of our celebration, we made gingerbread cookies to decorate. Mysteriously, they disappeared while my students were at recess. Immediately, my students scampered off, searching for their cunning little cookies. Other teachers and the office staff would join in the fun by crying out, “I saw them go that way!” In the end, the cookies were found, decorated and joyfully eaten.

At the end of our celebration, I always gave my gift to each student. It was a rhyming tale that I wrote for them about the escape of the gingerbread men. Each student was a character in the story. Because I used stencils for the illustrations, it also became a coloring book for them to enjoy over the break. In all honesty, I think I had even more fun than my students!

But while I was merrily enjoying the holidays, I encountered some controversy along the way. My father, an avid reader, once told me that Christmas has its roots in the pagan holiday that celebrated the winter solstice. Several scholars, he claimed, believe Jesus was actually born anytime between spring and early fall. Over the years, I have seen Christian friends divided on this issue.

I have worshipped under a pastor who refused to have a special Christmas service because he didn’t want to celebrate a pagan holiday. Friends on the opposite side of the spectrum celebrated Christmas with birthday cakes for Jesus and the Happy Birthday song.

My point in sharing this is not to promote conflict or debate. Rather, I look for points of commonality.

A wise friend once shared with me that Christians purposefully chose to celebrate the birth of Christ during the winter solstice. Why? Jesus came to bring light to the world. By definition, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. Each successive day is longer because it has more light. What a beautiful analogy for the light of Christ!

As Christians we may not agree as to which season Jesus was born into, but we can all agree that He was born. We may not agree as to how to celebrate His birth, but we all celebrate the light and the life He gives.

One other point of agreement: Christmas is one of the very few times in the year when people are consciously thinking about Jesus and wondering about His story. I know this is true, because I was one of them.

As Christians, we have the unique opportunity to reflect His light as we join in all the holiday festivities. As we do so, we may be amazed as the seeds we plant take root and bear fruit.

Why candy canes and gingerbread men? They are the perfect blend of faith and fun. Wherever the road takes you during this holiday, I pray that your path will be delightfully decorated with both.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on December 19, 2017 at 8:44 PM

    Good job.

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