By Ruth Gray
All Saints Anglican Church, Peachtree City, GA
Fireplaces and their imagery have always held a great attraction for me. Just recently I learned that the Latin word for ‘hearth’ is focus. Wow! Home. Hearth. Fireside. Warmth. Light.
In times past, family life revolved around the hearth where the food was cooked, the Bible and other books were read. A fireplace was also the only source of heat on a cold winter’s night.
When our daughters Mandy and Angela were toddlers, we lived in a modern home with no fireplace. Obviously, in the 1960s a home with central heat did not need a fireplace. Nevertheless, I yearned for a fireplace — especially at Christmas.
The solution came to me when a mail-order catalog arrived a few weeks before Christmas. The catalog described a cardboard, fake fireplace. Looking back, I realize it was incredibly tacky. But I was young and Raymond didn’t try to stop me. So, I ordered it.
When it arrived, I was filled with dismay upon discovering there were more cardboard parts than a Barbie Dreamhouse, but I assembled it and managed to hang four stockings on the precarious mantel.
That’s when four-year-old Mandy said, “Don’t forget the care.”
We were puzzled. “The care?” “What care?”
She then took my hand, led me outdoors, pointed at our holly bushes and said, “Don’t you remember? ‘The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.’”
To this day, we still refer to the evergreens on our real fireplace as “care.”
That word — care — has become our family’s distinctive Christmas watchword. “Don’t forget the care.”
In the midst of all our Advent and Christmas activities, with our focus on concerts, plays, ballets, banquets, shopping, baking, decorating, and gatherings, have we remembered the care?
It’s certain that Jesus would really like for us to focus on the celebration of his birthday by warming up to the care of our armed forces, the sick, the poor, the lonely, the outcast, those in prison, as well as our own family.
Merry Christmas, and don’t forget the care!