By Ralphine Major

Signs of the season are everywhere, not only in decorations but in the kindness of strangers in everyday life.  Each courteous act brings to life the songs of Elvis and Alan Jackson urging that we carry the Christmas spirit with us every day.  The blend of pine cones and poinsettias with pumpkins and pilgrims does not diminish my Thanksgiving blessings.  But, it is a reminder that our trends and traditions often change in our fast-paced world today.

Growing up, we did not even go looking for a tree until school was out for the Christmas holidays.  We walked all over the farm looking for the best cedar we could find.  The aroma seemed to bring the outdoors inside.  Fruitcakes full of candied fruit and nuts were baked in tube pans days before Christmas, wrapped in aluminum foil, and set aside so they would taste moist and delicious by Christmas Day.  Christmas cards were mailed to everyone on our road.  Postage was three cents!  Today, cards seem even more special.  If a family photo is included, it is priceless.

Gifts can be bought around the clock these days.  Many years ago, an unexpected gift was delivered to our family.  To our surprise, the box neatly tied with a big red bow held a festive red velvet cake.  It was a gift of appreciation for a Christmas tree.  My brother and our father found a tall cedar tree on our farm, cut it down, and delivered it to Calvary Baptist in west Knoxville.  It was way too big to fit in our pickup truck, so they tied it on top.  Gifts are fun to give and receive, but not all have a dollar amount attached.  The often quoted phrase “everyday is a gift” is so true.  With disasters and violence throughout  our land, those words seem more important each day.

The best gift for all mankind does not come in a pretty box or online.  It came in a manger at birth and hung on a cross in death.  But, we can have eternal life because He is risen.  Times and traditions may change, but the message of Christmas never changes!