There’s no denying I’m a traditionalist. I love football teams which play defense. Actually, when I do watch one of my least favorite sports — basketball — I love the game better when there’s loads of defense being played. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when my teams score touchdowns, field goals and baskets.
Traditions weave in and out of my 60-year-old life. They are there in my professional life too, although I’m changing as the times dictate in how I perform my job as a journalist.
One tradition will never go out of date for me — going home for the holidays. I’m headed home to Dad’s for a needed vacation. I’ll see family. We’ll have bowl games and NFL games on the television. We’ll play board games — that is a big Sheets’ family tradition over the Christmas break.
We’ve had to change things up a bit since the death of my mother in 1999. Christmas and the holiday break were big for Mom. Of all the holidays, Christmas was the one Mom loved the most.
Leading into Christmas Eve, we’d stop what we were doing, turn the television off, light lamps and candles, and Mom would have stories of Christmas to read to us. She’d share stories of American traditions and other countries’ Christmas traditions. There’d be funny stories featuring reindeer, little angels, Santa Claus, snowmen, well you get the idea.
There was always a story of the real reason of Christmas — the birth of Jesus. It would be out of one of the wonderful Christmas books she found or she’d read something from the Bible.
In between stories, she’d have us select a Christmas song to sing. Now, the five Sheets children and Dad were not great singers — Mom was — but it didn’t matter. We’d belt out those favorite songs with the candles, lamps, Nativity scene star and the Christmas tree lights twinkling.
With all five of us children still at home, Santa always brought us several family gifts — board games and jigsaw puzzles. We’d set up a card table and all work on the puzzle throughout the holiday break. There’d be a football game or Christmas movie on the television.
Laughter — always laughter.
Despite all the efforts we have made to maintain traditions she and Dad gave us as we grew up, life happens. Families happen. We all spend time with Dad. It’s tough to find a gift for him — he turned 90 in April and has everything.
With Mom gone, we still have our version of her traditions on Christmas Eve. We still have many of the special Christmas books she had to read stories out of and we sing on Christmas Eve. We read the most important Christmas story at the end and sing a special Christmas song.
Years ago when I was a youth leader at my church, I found this story in some of the youth material. I shared it with my family and Mom loved it.
I never tire of sharing it.
So to all of you, who have become part of my extended family, I share this special Christmas story with you. Merry Christmas!
’Twas the Night Before Christmas
’Twas the first night of Christmas a long time ago
The hillside was peaceful, the moon was aglow.
The world couldn’t know from what happened before
That men would remember this night evermore.
The sheep on the hillside--their days journey over
Were dreaming sweet dreams of a field full of clover.
The shepherds were watchful while guarding their flock
The earth was their pillow, the stars were their clock.
Then all of a sudden, they jumped at the sight
Of the sky all ablaze with a heavenly light.
They huddled in fear, then they started to rise
As the lightening-like flash tore open the skies.
The heavens were split by the silvery ray.
The dark disappeared and the night became day.
And lo, at the end of the rainbow of light
Appeared then an angel to banish their fright.
The angel brought news of a birth in a manger
And bade them to hasten to welcome the stranger.
For Mary had just given birth to a boy
Whose coming would bring so much comfort and joy.
A choir of angels looked down from the sky
And heavenly voices were heard from on high:
Peace be on earth and good will to all men.
The Savior has come on this night, Amen.
The heavenly angels then faded from sight.
The sky once again turned from day to night.
The shepherds all quietly rose from the ground
And hurried to go where the child would be found.
As they reached Bethlehem and the inn was in sight
It led like a path to a soft little bed
And shone very tenderly on a child’s head.
The child in the manger was sleeping so sound
His eyes were still closed, as the shepherds stood round.
Thousands of years would be warmed by the glow.
Guided by light from a bright shining star
Came a pilgrimage led of three kings from afar.
They were dressed in the finest of satins and lace.
Their complexions were that of an Orient race.
The three wealthy kings were wise men and proud
But they went to the Christ child and solemnly bowed.
They came bearing treasures of incense and gold
To that sweet little child, still not very old.
The star in the sky twinkled down from above
The world was awakened to kindness and love.
The past was forgotten, the future was bright.