Most adults get a bit jaded by Christmas—too much to do and too many troubles, I suppose. But my Aunt Barbara loved Christmas. She loved all holidays, but the zenith was Christmas. Some might (and did) call her mentally disabled, and worse, but we just knew her as Aunt Barbara—the one with the best toys, a wide selection that included Legos, Playmobils, and hundreds of Barbies and baby dolls. The holy grail of Aunt Barbara’s collection was the three-story dollhouse her father had made for her many years before. She carefully decorated every room with found objects, rug scraps, and wrapping paper wallpaper. But for Christmas she pulled out all the stops—little trees with tiny packages piled high underneath, twinkle lights everywhere, and dolls changed into their Christmas best. Of course, the handmade barn and manger scene covered with cotton snow always had pride of place.
Growing up with Aunt Barbara meant loving Christmas like she did. That was a gift she passed on to me, and my brother and sisters, and then to my four children as well. She never lost her sense of wonder at the amazing world we lived in—where Christmas came every year along with decorations, presents, cookies, family, and fun. I think Jesus had her in mind when he told his disciples (who were trying to keep the children away from Jesus because he had more important people to hang out with):
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”Luke 18:16–17 ESV
Receive Like a Child (at Christmas and Beyond)
My children said that what they loved about Aunt Barbara was that she was still like a kid about everything; she was always amazed, never jaded, never minding her need for help. Surely this is part of what Jesus meant when he told us to receive the kingdom of God like a little child. But, lest my family read this and start sending me corrective texts, let me assure you that Aunt Barbara was not a saint. She got angry (especially when the kids messed up her toys), discouraged (especially after Christmas was over), and scared (especially as she grew older and weaker). But she never stopped asking Jesus and us for help.
Every night before bed she wanted me to pray with her. Many nights that was the last thing I wanted to do after a long day. But most nights, as I slowly walked by her room and heard her call my name, “BARB!” (Yes, I am named after her), I stopped, and we prayed. I told her my troubles, and she told me hers. We asked together for help, healing, forgiveness, and peace. We prayed for many others as well—children, friends, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews, and friends at church. We prayed for unborn babies and, after they were born, we prayed for strength for moms and dads. We prayed for the sick, the tired, and the confused. We prayed for good weather (especially when a party was planned). We prayed for miracles—and we saw a few with our own eyes.
Aunt Barbara went to heaven eleven years ago. I still miss her. Her heaven on earth was Christmas Day, but now she is at the real party. I love the Sandra McCracken song, “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”:
We will feast in the house of ZionSongwriters: Sandra McCracken / Joshua David Moore
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more.
We Will Feast in the House of Zion lyrics © Integrity Worship Music, Paper News Publishing
Get Ready for the Party
Much of the world throws a giant party every Christmas. They might not realize it, but the party started with Jesus coming here as a child. Now he reigns as King of the universe and has given his friends a message to share: the King is coming back again and, right now, the world is invited to his party. “Come,” he says, “you who have no money, come buy and eat the best food at the most amazing celebration ever.” What should we do this Christmas? Get ready for his feast by remembering the great things he has done, asking for help like a little child, and inviting others to the party. Come like a child. There is a party waiting where we will feast and weep no more.
Psalms: Real Prayers for Real Life
How long? Why is this happening? Where are you, God? For centuries, God’s people have learned to go to God with their real questions, struggles, and everyday needs by reading and studying the Psalms. In this practical, gospel-rich small group study, authors Barbara Juliani and Patric Knaak guide participants in learning how the Psalms give us words to pray about the real struggles in our lives
Such a sweet reminder of your Aunt Barbara. I remember well how she enjoyed parties! Thank you for the reminder how Jesus calls us so gently and warmly as children to Him.