Some experiences in life diminish with repetition. Many things that were thrilling the first time become almost tiresome at the conclusion. Remember when that new vacuum arrived and how you adored running it about? How about sitting through a long season when your favorite sports team is not the favorite?
But it is never so with Christmas. Each year that holy festival of the Messiah's birth comes upon us in Advent - often at first, we really cannot believe that it can be so nearby. However, it awakens a keen sense of anticipation for its coming. How can anyone not look forward to Christmas when thinking of the Messiah?
Last Sunday at First Lutheran Church in Rugby, the Sunday school children presented the Christmas story. Lydia's excitement turned my thoughts to when I was in the Sunday school Christmas program at St. John's Lutheran in Underwood. As in many Sunday school programs, women are usually in the forefront to organize the presentation. This was certainly the case in my youth. My mom always shared that the meaning of Christmas must be that "God has visited his people." Over and over she shared that the manger is "God with us."
This black and white photo shows Charlie Repnow with his father from Christmas 1963.
Although nursing was her chosen profession, she was a natural teacher of God's word - not only to us boys, but also to our dad. She taught us that by far the most important thing that has ever happened was the birth of Jesus. I can recall one year she took the time to trace out an angel and make it like a card. Inside she wrote my lines for the Christmas program. This angel traveled all over our house prior to the program and each evening ended up in my bed. After supper, I can remember my dad asking me to recite my lines and after bedtime prayers I recited them for my mom. At the bottom of this card was written Emmanuel; that was unfamiliar to me until my mother told me it means "God with us." I have never forgotten that.
In this past week as I have watched the terror that came to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., I recalled the words of my mother - "Remember, when you are frightened, alone or scared, recite 'Emmanuel!'"
Over time I became very aware that in Jesus - the helpless child, the growing youth, the carpenter, the teacher, the healer of the sick, the doer of good, at times the unpopular, the man on the Cross - God came into this world in such a way that he could never leave again. Each Christmas, we not only commemorate his birth but we celebrate his presence.
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter.
Combine milk and sugar in a heavy two-quart saucepan, add caramels. Place over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture come to a boil. Increase heat and boil four minutes, stirring constantly. To 1 1/2 cups of the mixture, add the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Turn into a greased eight-inch square pan. To remaining mixture add peanut butter and stir until smooth; turn into the pan over chocolate mixture. Chill until firm; cut into squares.
Each of us has special memories about Christmas celebrations of our youth. We can't choose our family, and many of us have been very lucky to have caring, loving and guiding parents. My dad and mom always attended Christmas Eve service together, and in the passing years, I come to realize how very important that was. Together they worked to show me the meaning of Christmas and depth of God's love.
Part of being a caring parent is to know that each child is different. My dad was keenly aware of this with me. He knew early on that cooking was probably going to be one of my life passions, and he made sure that I had real cookware from an early age. By the
age of 3, I had developed a taste for coffee, and often a little chubby hand could be caught dipping a teaspoon in my parents' coffee cups - just for a sip!
So at the age of 3 years old, I asked for a coffee pot. That was all I wanted for Christmas. My dad made sure it was a real, working coffee maker. It came from Olson's Hardware in Underwood. I recently brought this two-cup Comet aluminum coffee perk to our home, and it proudly sits upon the shelf in our kitchen. Each time I see it, I am reminded of the wisdom of my dad, who listened and understood the wishes of his 3-year-old son. His wisdom has given me a lifetime passion and certainly much happiness.
I am reminded of the words of college basketball coach John Wooden, who once said, "You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." To me, that sums up the true meaning of Christmas, as well as the wisdom of my dad, the coffee pot giver, at Christmas 1963.
My dad loves candy and this is one recipe I make for him.