I love going to Israel and I love taking groups!  I love watching their eyes and face come to life as they realize they really are walking where Jesus walked.  One of my favorite places is Bethlehem and especially Shepherd’s Hill.  God speaks to us in a gentle breeze as we stand on that hill and look to the north there the Shepherds surely saw the Heavenly Host on that Silent Night so long ago.  The fresca’s in the little chapel at the top of the hill tell the story of that night of miracles.  The shepherds watching their flock by night. The angels appearing telling them what we all need to hear “FEAR NOT for born unto you this day in the city of David is a SAVIOUR – CHRIST THE LORD.” The babe wrapped in swaddling cloth lying in a manger with Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds standing in awe of the glory of God. The world changed forever on that SILENT NIGHT.

THAT silent night reminds me of another one, so special to me. It was Christmas 1987, BK (Before Kids).  My husband, our tiny Yorkie, and I made the trek to my Mom and Dad’s home out in the country about 15 miles east of Norman, Oklahoma.  As we drove farther into the country it started to snow.  We turned off the 2-lane country highway, then up a steep dirt road.  By the time we reached their home on the top of the hill, the snow was really coming down.  Dad met us at the door with open arms and Mom put food in our hands almost before we were inside. My brother, sister, and brother-in-law were snuggled by a roaring fire, munching holiday goodies, laughing, joking, and sharing stories. Enough traditional Christmas treats were laid out to feed Bob Cratchit’s family several times over.  We laughed and talked deep into the night, peeking outside from time to time to watch the snow get deeper and deeper. The quiet was deafening on that Silent Night; enveloping my family in a blanket of comfort, joy, and peace.

The next morning shown bright as the sun sparkled on a wonderland of ice. It looked like Elsa had touched everything. Ice totally encased all the trees, decks, and walks, cascading in thick stalactites from the roof and trees.  It was beautiful… and quiet and FREEZING! During the night the electricity had gone out and we could see our breath as we stoked the fire and huddled in blankets all around.  We were snowed AND iced in with no electricity.  Now that might have been scary for some families, but not ours!  We had a house full of Eagle AND Girl Scouts with over 100 years of combined truly roughing-it camping experience! We stoked up the wood-burning fire and kept it going day and night.  Dad brought the Coleman camp stove into the kitchen and made pancakes & Mexican eggs, and LOTS of cowboy coffee.  We had no shortage of food since Mom and Dad had been cooking all our favorites for weeks. The camp coffee pot stayed full and we gathered at the kitchen table playing games and sharing favorite family tales.  By the way – family sharing should come with warnings; Mom and Dad shared many stories our spouses had not heard, much to our chagrin.

It seems for every challenge we found a solution.  Their water came from a well, which had an electric pump.  So… no running water.  Toilet paper we had, just not toilet water.  Dad figured out a solution; he harvested icicles from the trees, melted them in a stew pot on the Coleman stove, and poured water in the back of the toilet so it would flush.  So each trip to the bathroom included a bucket of water – planning ahead was very important!

Christmas Eve we played Pictionary by candlelight.  The room was warm with laughter, love, and a roaring fire.  We were iced in, but it did not matter; there was no place in the world I would have rather been.

Every year when talk about Christmas 1987 we remember the joy and laughter.  We remember being together and sharing time, space, and memories.  Mom and Dad are in heaven now so these memories are bittersweet.  We did not know it at the time but we had a hitchhiker snowed in with us that Christmas – our son Chris was born 8 months later. So when we share those stories we tell him –“and you were there too!”

As Christmas draws near this year, I remember the still, calm quiet of the snow, the warmth of the glowing fire, the laughter of shared stories, the look of peace and happiness on the faces of Mom and Dad…. What a blessing.

I also think of Israel and the fighting and fear there.  The war is so devastating on both sides; innocent people – especially children – are suffering, hurting, and dying.  Man’s inhumanity to man; the destruction is perpetuating the hate.  Peace seems like a far-off miracle.

And yet, there was a miracle that started there long ago, on a shepherd’s hill with a babe in a manger.

We must not give up hope. This year I am adding extra prayers for peace, comfort and joy all wrapped in another Silent Night.

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