As I was recently thumbing through several of my recipe books, one of which had belonged to my mother, I pulled out a single half-sheet of paper with her handwriting on it. I quickly realized that my then recently widowed mom was jotting down an agenda: notes of what she wanted to get done in preparation for a family holiday get-together in which her food was no small part.
On one side of the paper was her complete meal list with ham, salad, vegetables, breads, desserts and more. Another notation was her meal preparation timetable. “Friday make [a] cake.” “Saturday peel potatoes” and “put” [them in] “water” so they will be ready to mash the next day. And also “on Saturday cook pies.”
Another listing that had nothing to do with food but was just as important to my mother was an enumeration of household jobs. Can you imagine . . . she wrote to get the dining room painted! I don’t remember if she had time to get that one done!
Her third notation to herself was clothes she was thinking about buying. Mom had lost a little weight after Daddy died, although she was never heavy, and needed the next smaller size down. Maybe a “sweater, suit or dress” she wrote. She was hoping to get something new to wear when we would celebrate our Christmas Eve together. She always looked dressy and colorful when getting together with family. And she realized we would take a few photos as we sang, played music, and read Scriptures pertaining to the birth of Christ. This “Mamaw” to my children also knew we would reenact the Christmas story with papier-mâché figurines just as we did when “Papaw” was living. It would be a special time even though we would miss my dad’s high-pitched tenor voice.
One inscription of my mother, in her clear easy-to-read script, placed atop rolls, green beans, and ice cream is: “Laud Praise” with a neat little check-mark beside it. I know Mom used a school dictionary to look up words that she wanted to understand because I have found other definitions on other scraps of paper. Who would think that in these unprecedented times of the scourge of the coronavirus, roaring fires in our western states, social unrest over racial justice, increasing crime in our cities and financial insecurity for many American citizens and businesses that I would find a message from my mother which speaks to me and to us all? Perhaps she had just read from Psalm 117:1 which says, “One generation shall laud thy works to another and shall declare thy mighty acts.” As I read the words “Laud Praise” aloud, I give witness to my mom’s praise to God when she was living, and I am honored to pass her praise along even after her death. Yes, we must praise God even in our most difficult times for this is where we find our strength.
Although we have yet to see how our COVID-19 pandemic will affect our holiday agendas, as I read my mom’s notes, I started thinking about the agenda of those who knew about the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas. King Herod’s agenda was to try to kill the Baby Jesus after he had heard from wise men coming to Jerusalem from the Orient that a Jewish King had been born.
The shepherds’ agenda was to watch over their sheep. But that was interrupted by the heavenly angels’ nighttime announcement to them that a Savior was born! These frightened herdsmen’s “to-do list” then had as its top priority to find the Baby Jesus. And just as they had been told, they found Him in a Bethlehem stable. They didn’t keep this Good News to themselves but told as many people as they could that the Messiah had come!
The wise men’s agenda was to follow a brilliant star to Jesus so they could present Him gifts worthy of a King and worship Him. Initially their “to-do list” included reporting back to King Herod. However, as they were warned of King Herod’s evil intentions in a dream from God, after they had visited the possibly three-year-old Child Jesus in a house in Egypt, they went on their way.
And what about Mary and Joseph’s agenda? Originally it was to get married and assume a normal Jewish life together, I’m sure with the expectation of raising a family and for Joseph to pursue his trade as a carpenter. However, that was all changed, and, at one point, Joseph considered not taking Mary as his wife before he understood that she was pregnant with God’s Child. At first, I think Mary was perplexed by what God’s plans for her were. But the few glimpses of her provided in the Scriptures lead me to believe that she became very focused on raising Jesus—the same way the majority of mothers focus on raising their children. Maybe she even shared with Jesus the Little Boy or Jesus the Young Man the events surrounding His birth just as I have with my three children.
I hope you will take these thoughts into your mind and into your heart. And maybe instead of, or along with, your next New Year’s resolutions, think what you’d like the major agenda of your life to be and how that fits into your daily living.