Laying her pen aside, Judith rolled her shoulders as she took a bite of dry bagel and a sip of tea. Reviewing her children’s homeschool plans for the coming week, she struggled to pin-point her unease. Thinking back, she reviewed their decision to bring the kids home for school, losing her salary in the bargain. Remembering their initial excitement, Judith again confirmed the choice. That decision was made under grace. Something else must be nagging at her.
“Ready for us, Mom?” The children, eighteen months apart, but different in gender, personality and looks, burst into the room. Sarah, the outspoken one, continued, “Unless you want to wait until tomorrow.” Jake plopped down in the chair beside his mother and began toying with her scrapbooking tools, awaiting further instructions.
“Yes, let’s knock this out,” Judith replied, knowing that she had too many other chores to put this planning off. “We need to look at our goals for next week’s lessons and pull some ideas together that will help us own the material, put it to work for us. Here. Look this over.” She pushed the calendar-like book toward Sarah. “Anything pop out at you?” she asked the creative sister and her more dogmatic brother.
“The Great Depression. Huh. Are we going into a depression, Mom? That’s what the television is saying. Can we stop it? Will it change things around here?” Sarah looked worried, but Jake just rolled his mom’s cutting tool back and forth, deep in thought.
“It will probably tighten things up for us, Sarah, yes. And our holiday plans may need careful re-thinking, but I believe we are in pretty good shape.” Judith was a little surprised at the direction their conversation was taking.
“But, what about other folks?” Jake did not look up as he joined the conversation. “Did you know that our local “Meals on Wheels” has cut back to three days a week? What are those old folks going to do to make up for losing those meals?” His eyes met his mom’s across the cluttered space. “Can we do anything about that?”
Sarah reached across her brother and picked up an old Advent calendar from among the greeting cards and trim that Judith was using for her holiday scrapbooking. Opening a door at random, she read, “ ‘There was no room for them in the Inn.’ It’s a good thing that someone was there for Mary and Joseph when things got tough.”
Judith felt a surge of excitement. Could they make their lessons real? Looking at the kids, she said, “Maybe I have an idea of how we can do our lessons. Let’s think about this: what if we created our own Advent Calendar for 2008, putting something behind each door that would not only focus our thoughts on the Christ Child, but would give us opportunities to help people in our community? Like providing free babysitting for single parents and making meals once a week for those with the most need. We could create a budget, fulfilling our math objectives.”
“And we could write stories to read to people at the nursing home,” added Sarah, “ or even make cards for people who don’t have much family contact.”
“What about the Empty Stocking Fund?” asked Jake. “Can we take a family to make Christmas for? We could get stuff for them instead of so much for us. I can do without a big surprise this year.”
John entered an unusually quiet house. Weary from working with folks who had been hit hard in the stock market, he couldn’t wait to stretch out on the sofa for an hour before dinner, but he also couldn’t help wondering where his usually exuberant welcome was.
Following the muffled sound of voices down the hall, he opened the door to Judith’s project room and found a busy group huddled around her table. Jake was using an exacto knfe to cut openings into a heavy board while Sarah scrolled through clip art on the computer. Judith looked up from a list she was making as the kids jumped up to greet their dad.
“What are the three of you up to?” John inquired as he walked to the table, an arm around each of his children. “Planning Christmas already?”
Soon, all four family members were engulfed in the challenge: to create twenty-four reminders of how they could make the gift of the Christ child real for themselves as they served others.
Sofa and supper could wait.
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