A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Treehouse
'Tis the Season
The Joy of Family
The Rhythm of Life
We Are the Church

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Itís a Wonderful Life
By Mary Elder-Criss

Among the familiar, seasonal phrases such as "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," and "Feliz Navidad," rings one that causes my heart rate to drop to three beats per minute:

"Mom, when are we going to decorate?"

"We?" Who is "we?" That insinuates that there is someone other than "I." Every year, my husband conveniently pulls a disappearing act around the tenth of December. He insists that he is only trying to preserve our marriage, but either way, I have to hang a hundred million strings of tangled up twinkle lights by myself.

The kids are usually good for about an hour of help, before they begin whining about the outside temperatures being too cold. Funny how the temperatures are always warm enough when they are sleigh riding.

It has been my firm belief for years that twinkle lights are indeed tools of the devil. Why else would they work perfectly fine upon inspection, only to stop functioning the moment after you have climbed up and down the six-foot ladder twenty-four times?

I question whether anything of God would transform itself into such a tangled mess. Itís enough to make the most devout Christian utter questionable oaths. One of these years, Iím going to get so disgusted with the whole process that Iím just going to stand back and throw them on the eaves in one big ball.

My disgust is well earned: years ago I was responsible for the Christmas decorating of two chains of department stores. I dressed more than fifty artificial trees per store, and wrapped untold empty boxes to pile under each one. The bows for the packages and trees all had to be handmade, which meant I brought gold crinkle ribbon home with me for three solid weeks to twist and form. When I discovered the girls in Cosmetics removing them from the trees and packages to add to their customer gift baskets, I could definitely identify with the Grinch.

I still enjoy other peopleís Christmas decorations, though I have a bit of an aversion to those plastic light-up manger scenes. They scare me to death. I know Christ said we should let our lights shine before men, but I donít think He meant we should center a bulb in the back of a plastic replica of His head.

Maybe itís just me, but the way I see it, whatever holy significance the plastic figurines of the Holy Family might convey loses its importance when Santa, Rudolph and Frosty are playing the part of the three wise men, and giant Christmas Smurfs stand in for the shepherds.

My kids are much more helpful in decorating the tree than they are in hanging lights outside. I suppose this is due to the fact that the tree is situated indoors, where heat and cookies are plentiful.

Last year, the children worked diligently for four hours, helping to assemble the tree, drape the dreaded twinkle lights, and find the perfect place for each ornament. Finally, we positioned the star on top and stepped back to admire our masterpiece which was, we all agreed, the prettiest tree we had ever had.

Two nights later, we sat watching Christmas movies and basking in the rays of the twinkle-lit tree, casting the occasional admiring glance in its direction. Our looks of beatific joy soon turned to dismay, however, as the tree, perfectly glittering and sparkly, slowly keened over and crashed to the floor without so much as a single cry of "Timber!" We sat, immobilized by the horror of it all, as it made its graceful descent.

Every year, I swear Iíve had enough of the twinkle lights, ornaments, garland and glitter, but somehow each season I forget the tangled headaches from the year before and end up wrestling the boxes out of the storage shed and into the living room.

Once the lights are all strung and the garland is draped, the tree dressed and the stockings hung, that is when the miraculous occurs. The happy shine in my childrenís eyes give those twinkle lights a run for their money and I realize once again that it really is a wonderful life.

From our house to yours: May the light of this special season shine more brilliantly in your lives than the light in the back of the plastic baby Jesusí head.
Mary Elder-Criss lives in beautiful Southern West Virginia with her husband of thirteen years and two daughters whom she homeschools, as well as an assortment of animals that always seem to follow her children home. She has been published by a variety of Christian magazines, newsletters and ezines, and also writes full time for her home church's website. When not writing, or teaching, Mary is usually hard at work repairing damages in her flowerbeds caused by her husband's overzealous use of weedeaters. Mary can be contacted via the "Your Letters" page of this Magazine.

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