With the discovery of my husband’s biological family in Texas last year, we’ve spent the last several months getting to know these people and learning about their families and lives. In the last week, we’ve had the honor of participating in two of their very special Christmas traditions.
The Amaryllis Bulb
It arrived in a box two weeks ago. “It’s addressed to you from my Texas mom,” my husband said. I opened it to find a Red Lion Amaryllis bulb kit — the kind that has a big flower bulb that’s the size of a softball, potting soil, and a little plastic pot included. Texas Mom’s note said that every year she sends all the women in the family an Amaryllis bulb during December, and since I’m part of the family this year, she mailed one to me, too.
But it’s more than a gift. It’s a friendly holiday competition. All of us planted our “Red Lion” bulb on the same day, and the object of the game is to get my Amaryllis to bloom before the others.
My Amaryllis had already sprouted when I removed it from its packaging, so I had a bit of a head start on the other women this year. I place mine outdoors in the warm sunshine during the days, and I bring it indoors during the cooler nights. I keep it watered. I talk to it. I’ve even sang Christmas carols to my plant. I want to win!
Every other day, I send photos of my Amaryllis’ progress to Texas Mom, my new sister-in-law, Kim, and two nieces, and they send me photos of their plants. My “Red Lion” looks to be ahead of everyone’s right now, and today, it looks as though it is getting ready to burst wide open.
Lessons from Linus
We recently visited my husband’s half-brother, Chris, and his family in Katy, Texas, on a chilly Sunday in December. We sat around a large kitchen table and talked and laughed with them for a couple of hours.
A few minutes before we left, Chris’ wife, Leslie, placed a centerpiece in the middle of the table. It was ceramic and held four candles.
“This is our Advent wreath,” Leslie said. “It’s been in my family since I was young, and now our family uses it to acknowledge the four weeks of Advent.”
A nd then they shared something beautiful with us. “When the kids were young, we wanted to make sure that they understood and observed the true meaning of Christmas,” Chris said. “And Leslie and I had an idea.”
He paused, his eyes tearing up a bit. “Do you remember that scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas when Linus walks onto the stage, and that big spotlight hits him, and he gives a speech about the meaning of Christmas?” he asked.
We nodded, both of us big Charlie Brown and Peanuts fans, and both of us being familiar with Linus’ moving soliloquy — a passage from the Gospel of Luke.
“Well, all of us memorized that speech, and we recite it together, as a family, each time we light an Advent candle in December, and this evening, we would like to recite it for you.”
Leslie lit a candle, and she, Chris, and three of their four children gathered around the table whispered Linus’ iconic speech in unison.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” In a world so consumed by materialism, flashy lights, and superficial celebrations, those words ground us all — a profound message of love, goodwill and the true meaning of Christmas — and Chris and Leslie (and their children) prioritize the message, and I encourage all of you to prioritize the message, as well, this year and every year.
Merry Christmas! Gloria, in excelsis