Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Christmas Shoes

Since childhood I have adored Christmas songs from all kinds of music styles. My mother played holiday records throughout the holiday season and I still remember many of the album covers, music artists and song selections I adored. Since reaching adulthood I have formed my own collection of tapes and CD's that our family enjoys, and we add to it yearly. Through all of these years there have been many songs that I have loved, and many that have touched my heart or made me shed a tear the first listen, but never have I been so affected emotionally as by the song, "The Christmas Shoes".

I first heard "The Christmas Shoes" by Newsong a few years ago on the radio. I was working in the kitchen and had the radio tuned to a 24 hour Christmas song station. I was only half listening, but when the song began, something grabbed my attention and I went to increase the volume. I literally stood there frozen, listening to the song while a wave of emotion rose inside me, then cascaded down my cheeks. Never had a Christmas song stirred such a response in me. Was it because I was a mother with young sons? Was it the way the song was performed? Or simply was it the beautiful, eloquent way it expressed the love this boy felt for his mother, and his understanding that he would soon be parted from her until they met in heaven? It was probably all three.

Like the first time, and everytime since, when I hear the song my heart aches, my eyes swell and I cannot speak. The song has not lost it's impact on me, I have not grown accustomed to it's message in any way. My children are the same. When the song comes on the radio, or is being played - wherever they are and whatever they are doing, they stop and they listen. I can see the emotion rise up in them as well. While it may not be a song about the birth of Jesus, it is a song about the love and hope those who know and love Jesus hold in their hearts - even the youngest heart, and how that power can influence others for the good.

Last year I learned of a movie that had been made based on the song and the original book itself (from which the song had been created). The kids piano teacher had a copy and lent it to us. The kids and I watched it and enjoyed it very much - of course all knowing the ending from the very start. Mike came home a few minutes from the end to find all of us motionless in front of the screen and blurry eyed with tears.

This year I decided to read the book. I must admit, this is a totally backwards approach for me (I always read the book before the movie - family rule), but previous years I just had not felt up to what I knew would be a massive, emotionally draining reading experience. This year I was ready, so about a month ago I checked it out from the library and read it in one sitting after everyone in the house was alseep. As I predicted I cried nearly thoughout the book and was in full gasping sob mode by the ending chapters. Christopher came up to get a drink of water at this point and asked me what was the matter. I simply showed him the cover of the book and he immediately understood. The next day he expressed interest in reading it. I told him "no", I felt it was better a story to be read aloud as a family - so it's scheduled to be read Christmas season 2007 (just can't do it twice this year!).

I was pleased to discover that both the book and the film carried the same beautiful messages as the song which I have grown to love so much. There are differences between the book and film - sometimes I liked one better than the other, but they were both very good.

If you are looking for a story that truly grips the heart - this is such a story indeed.

Listen to the Song or Watch the Music Video

Film info or Book Info

The Christmas Shoes
by Newsong

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

Repeat Chorus

Monday, December 18, 2006

December Days till Christmas

Since returning from our trip to SD for Thanksgiving, the days and weeks for us have been filled with what seems like countless events and activities related to the Christmas holiday. We have attended the symphony holiday concert, various Christmas parties, a library discussion on a favorite Christmas book, baked cookies with friends, shopped for gifts, donated gifts to Operation Christmas Child, decorated the house, learned Christmas songs on the piano, prepared for the Chrsitmas play, made homemade gifts, listened to Christmas music all day, wrapped presents, celebrated Advent for nightly worship, and for the first time in several years prepared Christmas letters for our entire recipient list (hitting mailboxes this week!). Whew!! No wonder I'm so tired!??

In reflecting on all of this we have had some discussion on our family Christmas traditions that have developed over the years that we delight in each season. It was enlightening to hear how much these things have impacted our children's memories and how much they have come to mean to them...

Celebrating Advent:

Each year we celebrate Advent in our home with traditional purple, pink and white candles, lighting the appropriate ones each evening while we read an excerpt from our special Advent book, followed by a segment from our Jesse Tree book and place the corresponding ornament on the Jesse Tree. Then we read a chapter from The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper (a book that Mike has read each night leading up to Christmas since he was a small boy). We end with prayer and the kids go to bed after moving their individual Advent calenders in their rooms.

Advent Books: 3 year Series by Arnold Ytreeide (Jotham's Journey, Batholomew's Passage & Tabitha's Travels)

The Advent Jesse Tree; Devotions for Children & Adults to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas by Dean Meador Lambert

Holiday Reading:

Each year we all dive into our favorite Christmas books together and independently. Some all-time favorites are:

The Christmas Story from the Bible
On Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Grandma Moses
A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg
The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper
Christmas Stories from the Little House books
The opening chapter of Little Women by Louise May Alcott
Christmas books by Jan Brett

Favorite Holiday Films:

It's A Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause 2
Home Alone
The Nutcracker Ballet
The Christmas Shoes
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Carol
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Frosty The Snowman
The Little Drummer Boy
A Charlie Brown Christmas (check out this NPR segment on this cartoon )

Other Traditions:

We listen to holiday Old Time Radio programs whenever we can squeeze one in. We continue to find new favorites yearly, but our long-time tradition has been to begin listening to The Cinnamon Bear segments beginning Thanksgiving night and it takes us up to Christmas eve. Each segmant is 15 minutes long and ends in an old fashioned cliff hanger leaving the kids eager to resume the story the following night. Visit for free downloads.

Honoring St. Nicholas Day Dec. 6th by remembering who he was and what he did and partaking in some special activities. (We do this instead of having Santa Claus as part of our Christmas traditions.)

Live Christmas Tree every year - this year we went to a tree farm and cut our own! No theme tree here. Our tree is covered with ornaments all of us have received as gifts each year or made, as well as those from Mom & Dad's childhoods, teens, and years up to present. It's more like a "memory tree" everytime we decorate it.

Kids shopping day - the kids get their Christmas list and specified $ amount and hit an area dollar store to shop, then come home to wrap. It's all very secretive, and trying to be clever so no one else sees your purchases is over half the fun.

Each year Mom gets a new Christmas CD as part of her Dec. 15th birthday present to add to her ever growing BIG collecion of holiday tunes. Her all-time favorite among all the choices she has? Jim Brickman's Christmas CD - it's also the one played each year when we open gifts Christmas morning.

The Nutcracker Tree(s). We have a collectionof nutcracker ornaments that have always decorated a small little table tree - this year it's spread over 3 small Alpines 2', 3', & 4' tall.

The Nativity set displayed on the piano. (Mom looked at it longingly for 5 years before finally purchasing it - good thing too, that was the last year it was made.)

Attending Christmas Eve or Christmas morning church service and singing carols.

Hang our stockings and have fun finding what's inside Christmas morning before taking turns opening gifts.

Hurrying to find the Christmas Pickle ornament hidden on the tree Christmas morning, with the winner receiving an extra gift.

Participating in a Christmas play - an absolute must!

Fabulous food on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day! Including Mom's special Christmas scones...yummy.

Company for a week with visitors tag-teaming in and out= up though New Years. Whew!