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Are you ready for Christmas?
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Throughout December, you probably get tired of being asked, "Are you ready for Christmas?" Usually the question is asked in passing and a serious answer is not expected.

On a recent Sunday, as I sat in a beautifully decorated sanctuary, I reflected on the oft-asked question. I began to think about all the things we do to get ready for Christmas each year. Of course, there is the decorating. I could hardly let Thanksgiving Day pass before I rushed to decorate my home. I unpacked all the tree ornaments and decorated the tree.

All of these decorations have special significance for me, and I continue to put them out every year, even though I am often the only one who enjoys them.

I began to remember Decembers of my childhood and the preparations we made as a family. As a little girl, I could hardly wait for my father to pull out a coffee can and a certain old china plate, which indicated candle-making time was upon us. He created magnificent handmade candles from wax and even allowed me stay up long past my bedtime to help.

One Christmas tree candle Dad made involved pouring melted wax into the old plate and waiting for it to harden and cool just enough to handle. He cut circular strips of wax and applied them to a base taper candle, so the wax formed a narrow band at the top of the candle and widened to a broad band at the base. Next, he poured melted wax over the top of the tree, letting it drip into icicles. I got to place glass beads like lights into the soft wax, and the results were breathtaking. Alas, not one of those trees has survived to the present.

Dad also poured wax into the old plate and very carefully cut out flower petals, flattened them paper thin, and fashioned the petals into lifelike camellias. Thankfully, I still have one of the wax camellias.

I also remembered an earlier time, during the latter years of World War II. Decorations were almost impossible to find or afford, so we made our own. We covered balls of toilet tissue in colored foil paper and stitched them to form shiny, colored tree ornaments.

Then of course there were other preparations. There was the shopping, the secrets and the baking. Oh, the baking! All of these activities took place at night, after the church business of the day was completed. Often my father waited until Christmas Eve to do his very special secret shopping.

I realized that all of these preparations, dear as they are to me, are just stage settings. The real drama, excitement and, yes, meaning of Christmas takes place somewhere else — in my heart.

In our sanctuary, we have a manger scene set up in front of the altar. It is not complete yet as the holy family hasn’t arrived.

The holy family and wise men are in the windowsills, and each week they progress toward the manger. The baby is in a special secret place. He, too, is waiting to make His arrival.

I began to search my mind and heart to determine if, indeed, I was ready for Christmas. Was there someone I needed to forgive? Someone I needed to thank or to help in some way? Were there secret faults I needed to confess and seek forgiveness for? Only after I have done these things will I really be ready for Christmas. Are you ready?

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