“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given …
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.”
Like most people, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, which is why I put a Christmas scene in every one of my ten books except for two—A Passion Denied (where I focused on Easter) and Surprised by Love (where I ended the book at Thanksgiving).
So when I was researching the various Christmas scenes to come up with something Christmasy for today’s Journal Jot, I suddenly saw all the faces of Christmas for me personally, and guess what? In each and every case, I found that the heart and soul of Christmas is the spiritual aspect, without which there would be no “Christmas” at all.
Christmas is the season of love, hope, peace, and joy, but think about it. As much as the world likes to depict it their way, these things don’t come through the seasonal trappings of Christmas trees, presents, or Santa and his reindeer. Nope, they come through The Prince of Peace:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing ... — Romans 15:13
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. —John 14:27
The joy of the Lord is your strength. — Nehemiah 8:10
And so, in honor of the true spirit of Christmas, here’s a trip down O’Connor memory lane for a glimpse of what Christmas is to them … and to me.
A Light in the Window
Christmas brings Light into the world.
Unlatching her front gate, Marcy opened it and stepped inside, halting when she spied the candle still glowing in her parlour window. A gentle smile curved on her lips at how Mima insisted it be kept lit each night until Marcy came home, a battle she’d won with Papa, although Marcy knew he really didn’t mind. It was their heritage and tradition, after all, the symbol of Christ in their lives, and suddenly Mima’s words once again drifted in her brain like the ice crystals from the sky.
“Guard your heart well, Marceline, for a man who will respond to the light in the window …”
Both Mima’s words and the glow of that precious candle seemed to seep into Marcy’s very soul … along with an unexpected rush of desire for the man who might possibly belong there too.
Closing her eyes, she stopped to savor his name on her tongue, shocked at the intimacy she felt, as if her heart knew all along what her mind had refused to see. A shyness came over her at the thought that this man could very possibly be …
My soul mate. My future. My life.
The magic of the moment swirled around her, fluttering within her chest like the snowflakes in her hair. A giggle escaped and she slowly whirled around, arms extended and palms up, heart swelling with joy for a God whose blessings fell from heaven as freely as the tiny ice doilies she caught with her tongue. For a single moment, the world was soft, silent, and serene …
And then … a faint crunch of snow broke her reverie and with a harsh catch of her breath, she stilled on the flagstone walk. A familiar shadow rose from her parent’s Adirondack chair, a mere silhouette against the light in the window.
A Passion Most Pure
Christmas should be a time of peace, when we focus on Christ, not on the many harried tasks we employ to prepare.
It was Christmas Eve. The O’Connor household was abuzz with holiday activity bordering on bedlam. In the kitchen, Marcy was dangerously close to the breaking point, pulling another tray of cookies from the oven just as Katie knocked a bowl of icing onto the floor.
“Oooops!” Katie giggled as Blarney pounced on the gooey mess, tail wagging furiously at his good fortune. Marcy stood in the center of the kitchen, dumbfounded, a hot tray of cookies still in her hands. She cried out in pain as the heat penetrated the potholders she held, slamming the tray onto the counter. Tears stung her eyes when several cookies flipped in the air and crashed to the floor.
“Mama, are you okay? Did you burn yourself?” Katie’s concern sounded genuine.
Marcy looked at her tiny daughter who was covered from head to toe in flour and icing, then stared at her kitchen, which looked even worse, and wanted to cry. Christmas shouldn’t be like this, she thought, nursing her burnt fingers.
A Passion Redeemed
Christmas is a time to reflect on faith, family, and memories past.
The glow of Christmas Eve was everywhere except in the gloom of Charity’s room. The distant sound of clatter from the kitchen and Katie’s giggles filtered in beneath her closed door, along with the smell of roast turkey and fresh-baked pies. Charity rolled over and curled one leg into a ball, the other still hard in the cast. She stared aimlessly across the room, oblivious to the beauty of dusk as it streamed across Faith’s bed in pale lavender hues.
With great effort, she lifted her head to glance at the clock. When she did, a fresh wash of tears invaded her eyes. There on the nightstand stood a miniature balsam tree, snipped from the top of one of her father’s fir trees. A strand of cranberries draped it with care, along with shimmering strands of tinsel. Tiny lace snowflake doilies, the kind Faith and Hope used to soak in Marcy’s sugar solution to make them stiff, perched on the branches like stars in a verdant sky.
Charity’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle a sob. She remembered—Faith remembered! She touched the tip of her finger to one of the snowflakes, and forgotten memories flooded her mind. From the age of two until six, she had awakened to her own personal tree, provided by twin sisters who’d shamelessly doted on her. Whether Hope’s idea or Faith’s, she didn’t know. But they’d found a way to make sure she’d sleep in her own bed and not under the tree, with nary a tear shed in the process. A sad smile curved her lips.
A Hope Undaunted
Christmas is a time to revell in family and embrace the hope we all need in good times and bad.
Unto them a child was born, and the effect of the Savior could be seen in the love and peace that abounded beneath their snow-drifted roof. From tender glances between her mother and father, to secret smiles between Faith and Collin or Charity and Mitch, Katie saw actions far more familiar to newlyweds than those married for so many years. Brady hovered and Lizzie cooed, the baby in her arms their primary focus, while through it all, cousins ran wild with cousins, all breathless with excitement. Katie smiled at Sean sparring with Steven over chess as Emma chatted with Mrs. Gerson, their blind neighbor who’d shared every Christmas that Katie could remember. And amid all the teases and giggles and happy shrieks of children, Christmas carols floated from her father’s radio, heralding a season of hope for a country so badly in need.
A Heart Revealed
Christmas is a time for healing.
“There you are!” Charity posed in the parlor door, peeking at the watch on her hand. “I thought you fell into a snowdrift, and we’d have to send out the St. Bernard.”
Emma smiled and tugged off her gloves, shoving them in her pockets before she hung up her coat. “Without the brandy, I trust,” she said with a crooked grin. She glanced around, head cocked as she listened for Mitch and the twins. “It’s awfully quiet—where is everybody?”
Charity’s voice faltered, but not her smile as she linked an arm through Emma’s. “Mitch took Hope and Henry to spend the night at Faith’s because Mitch and I have a special guest.” She ushered Emma into her holiday-ready Victorian parlor where a ceiling-height Christmas tree dazzled with endless strings of lights and countless glass ornaments shimmering in their glow. The nostalgic scent of a pine mingled happily with that of gingerbread men on the tree, while the hint of hickory lent coziness from a wood-burning fire that crackled in a brick hearth.
Emma halted at the edge of the pastel Oriental rug, eyes spanning wide at the sight of Father Mac reclining in one of Charity’s gold wing chairs. “Father Mac!” she said with a welcome smile. Mischief tugged at her tone. “Uh-oh . . . what trouble has Henry gotten into now?” She shot Charity a sloe-eyed smile. “Or maybe it’s his mother?”
Father Mac rose, his smile far dimmer than Emma’s. “I’m happy to report that Henry’s in the clear for the time being, Emma, and so is his mother.” He glanced at Charity with a twinkle in his eye. “Although it’s a close call as to which of the two garners more of my attention.”
Charity jutted her chin. “I’ll have you know, Father McHugh, that I have been incident-free for well over a month now.” She glanced at Emma. “Did you eat?” she asked, arms folded as if she were addressing Henry.
Emma smiled. “Yes, Mother. You packed both a lunch and a dinner, remember?”
“Good. Then how about coffee or tea? I have peach cobbler . . .” She wriggled her brows.
“Uh-oh, my favorite dessert,” Emma teased, eyes narrowing. “What do you want?”
The bob in Charity’s throat didn’t mix well with the smile on her face. She spun on her heel to address Father Mac. “Father, warm cobbler with or without ice cream and coffee or tea?”
“Coffee, black sounds wonderful,” he said with a wink. “And keep in mind it’s a sin to serve cobbler without ice cream.”
“Yes, sir.” She offered a quick salute and turned to her husband. “Mitch, would you mind doing the honors while Emma and I visit with Father?”
“Absolutely.” He squeezed Charity’s arm before he left for the kitchen.
Emma slid her a curious gaze. “So, what’s on your mind,” she said with a quick glance in Father Mac’s direction, “that you need to call out the clergy?”
Charity exchanged looks with the priest before she turned to face her friend dead-on. Inching closer, she laid a gentle hand on Emma’s arm. “Emma, we need to talk . . .”
A Love Surrendered
Christmas is a time to celebrate The Prince of Peace.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
The Prince of Peace.
Annie closed her eyes, the sound of Mr. O’Connor’s voice filling her heart with peace and joy like nothing she’d ever known. She snuggled into Steven’s embrace on the loveseat in the O’Connors’ parlor on this Christmas Eve, and he scooped her close. The spicy scent of cloves from his Bay Rum mingled with the smell of pine and cinnamon and popcorn fresh-popped to loop a tree that touched the ceiling. Boughs heavy with colored lights and ornaments glittered and swayed with strands of tinsel, the breeze from the radiator causing the tree to shimmer and shine as if it breathed the same intoxicating air as she. The parlor lights were dimmed, lending an ethereal air to a cozy room where a fire crackled and children sat spellbound on the floor while Steven’s father read about the birth of a babe.
Whatever Christmas is for you, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and holy holiday season, from my house (and the O’Connor’s) to yours!
FAVOR TO ASK:
I am SO excited to announce that not only is Journal Jots up for blog of the year on The Book Club Network, but so is my group blog, The Seekers, so I have a favor to ask.
1.) Please do NOT vote for Journal Jots as blog of the year.
2.) I would MUCH rather you vote for my group blog, Seekerville, for blog of the year. It’s a readers’ and writers’ daily blog comprised of 13 award-winning authors where prizes are given away daily, along with great blog articles. Here is a list of the authors on the blog: Mary Connealy, Janet Dean, Debby Giusti, Audra Harders, Ruth Logan Herne, Pam Hillman, Cara Lynn James, Myra Johnson, Glynna Kaye, Sandra LeeSmith, Julie Lessman, Tina Radcliffe, Missy Tippens.
3.) So I’m asking that you take a moment to vote for Seekerville on the right side of the blog underneath the header that says: TBCN 2014 Blog of the Year Voting is now Live. Simply click on the box above the “Seekerville” name in the list. Here’s the link and THANK YOU!!
FREEBIES & SALES:
CHRISTMAS SALES ON FINAL BOOKS IN O’CONNOR FAMILY SAGA!! HUGE savings on A Heart Revealed & A Love Surrendered, and YES, you CAN schedule Christmas e-delivery!!
A HEART REVEALED:
A LOVE SURRENDERED:
FREE Download of
A Passion Most Pure!
ACFW Debut Book of the Year & almost 300 5-star reviews can’t be wrong! See why some have read it 20 times!
CHRISTMAS IS COMING AND A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW IS FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED!! My Irish Christmas love story, A Light in the Window—winner of three awards—is ABSOLUTELY FREE on Kindle Unlimited, so do check it out. Here’s the video my hubby did for A Light in the Window with my daughter as the model for both the book and video, so take a peek to get you in the Christmas spirit. ALITW Video.
MITCH & CHARITY CHRISTMAS NOVELLA RELEASES NOVEMBER 10 FOR ONLY $2.99! WHOO-HOO … I am very excited to announce that I am part of a Seeker Historical Christmas novella collection called Hope for the Holidays that not only features a story on Mitch and Charity, but novellas by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, and Myra Johnson.
In addition to this historical collection, The Seekers are also releasing a contemporary Hope for the Holidays collection as well, so be sure to check both out on Amazon November 10.
Here’s the blurb for Mitch and Charity’s story, which is called A Whisper of Hope:
Christmas is the season of hope, which is exactly what Charity O’Connor Dennehy is counting on. Since the birth of her twins twelve years ago, she’s prayed and hoped for a houseful of babies to love, but it wasn’t meant to be. With a husband dead-set against adoption, there’s barely a whisper of hope to change his mind, but if hope doesn’t disappoint … could it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?