Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Christmas in the Country

  • Gloria Gaither Author
  • 2004 21 Dec
Christmas in the Country

Oh there's nothing like Christmas in the country –
The simple joy of family by the fire
And carols ringing out across the valley
From neighbors that make up the village choir.
Oh, the joy of Christmas in the country
The love and warmth and gentle memories –
And knowing that the simple old sweet story
Is waiting in the country just for me.

The smell of fudge and apples from the kitchen –
The bubble lights that flicker on the tree –
The whispered sounds of secrets from the children
Embrace and call back home the likes of me.

There's nothing like Christmas in the country
When silent snow is falling on the barn,
And children press their noses to the window
As winter turns to magic the old farm.

Oh, the joy of Christmas in the country
The love and warmth and gentle memories –
And knowing that the simple old sweet story
Is waiting in the country just for me.

The laughter stops as Pop picks up the Bible
It falls from habit open to Luke 2
And none of us will never tire of hearing,
"Now children, here is how God came to you."

"There were in that same country shepherds watching
The flocks at night upon a lonely hill …"
And with his well-worn voice he tells the story
Of how God loved us once and loves us still.

Oh, the joy of Christmas in the country
The love and warmth and gentle memories –
And knowing that the simple old sweet story
Is waiting in the country just for me.

Lyric:  Gloria Gaither
Music:  William J. Gaither, Michael Sykes, and Woody Wright
Copyright © 2000 by Gaither Music Company, Mal 'N Al Music, and Would He Write Songs.  All rights reserved.

Christmas in the Country

I believe there is a homing device in every human heart.  Even if we've never had a good home to go home to, there is an innate yearning for one where we are cherished and understood.  In our yearning, we see this as a place of peace where there is no pretense and where we are accepted for who we truly are – not for what we've accomplished or how we look.

And there is no time like Christmas for pulling us back to such a place.  Usually, how much we love and look forward to Christmas as a holiday is in direct proportion to how close to this ideal home really is.  Sadly, for many the reality of the holiday is one of the most painful experiences of the year.

Perhaps the reason we cling to the ideal at Christmas more than at any other time is that this celebration is in honor of the One who came to bring true peace, joy, love, and a place to belong.  And the truth is that no family home and no human relationship can ever totally give us what we need.  Every parent fails sometimes.  Every love falls short.  Every child disappoints and turns prodigal at one time or another.  No sibling is totally supportive or faithful to protect the secrets with which he or she has been entrusted.

Even so, home is the nearest thing we have to a metaphor for belonging.  The imperfection of us all keeps us yearning for another place – the place that will truly be Home.

Thankfully, our memories tend to preserve the good and forgive the flawed.  I'm sure my grandma's house in the country was not as good as I remember it.  The "front room," as she called it, was not as big, the kitchen not as warm, the snows not as white or as deep as in my memories of trudging through them to get to that farmhouse with the fieldstone porch.

As I recall, she and Grandpa opened the big double doors to that front room only for special occasions.  The piano was in there, and she would always have the old itinerant piano tuner come just before Christmas so we could sing carols around that piano when we all crowded in.

The Christmas tree she put in that room was not a pine, but a cedar tree Pa would cut fresh from the woods behind the barn.  The ornaments were of World War II vintage and before – scenes painted on clear glass balls – and there were strips of foil we called "ice sickles," big lights of every color, and real candy canes.  Grandma would always make fresh popcorn balls with sorghum molasses, wrap them in a new thing called Saran Wrap, and hang them on the tree for us kids to "snitch" when no one was looking.

Grandma baked for days before Christmas:  pies of apples and cherries from their orchard, fudge, taffy, divinity layered in boxes between buttered sheets of waxed paper, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and homemade bread.  These were all prepared before the real cooking started.

To this day, I find myself running my fingers over mixing bowls in antiques shops that have brown and gold sheaves of wheat on them or picking up green Fire King baking dishes and pie pans, longing to take them home to see if they would somehow turn things I make into the magical tastes of my childhood for my grandkids to remember.

Country life always seemed to separate the boys and the men from the women and the girls.  The guys would "mosey" out to the barn to talk to Pa while he milked the two cows they always kept to supply them with milk and butter.  The boys would help him throw down hay for the night, feed the cats, and gather the eggs from the henhouse.  On summer mornings gathering eggs was Grandma's job, but in the winter when she was less sure of her footing, Pa brought in the eggs.

Meanwhile, the women would take up stations in the kitchen peeling potatoes, opening jars of green beans Grandma had canned the summer before, and cutting up squash, onions, brussels sprouts, and turnips.  The girls would set up the table in the living room, then work on the jigsaw puzzle that became a family project all through the days of Christmas.

I don't remember much about the gifts.  They were simple, practical, and usually handmade.  I do remember hugs and "thank you's."  I remember Grandma loving whatever I gave her as if she's been wanting it all her life.  I have a picture of someone in our family holding up a string of pearls – probably ordered from the Sears catalog ("the wish book," we called it) – and looking as if this necklace were as precious and rare as diamonds.

There was never any doubt why we had Christmas.  Since Grandma had lost most of her eyesight, my daddy read the Christmas story from Luke while the children sat on someone's lap or on the floor, leaning back on some seated grown-up's knees.  We all knew the words by heart, but familiar as they were, they always brought tears to our eyes – as though we were hearing this wonderful story for the first time.

Grandma would pray, and when she prayed the angels quit swishing their wings and got still.  We knew that sooner or later every one of our names would be specifically mentioned; Grandma would thank the Lord for the gift of each one of us and ask His tender care and guidance as we grew and changed and became what He intended for us to be.

After prayer and presents, the music would begin.  Grandma played both the piano and the guitar; Pa played the "fiddle" and the "mouth harp."  We all knew sooner or later he'd grab Grandma by the arm and try to make her dance around the room; she'd say, "Oh, Pop, quit!"  And we'd all laugh.

The children would ask for their favorite of the songs that Grandma had always sung to them:  "Redwing," "Mockingbird Hill," or "Listen to the Mockingbird."  It never seemed strange that all our favorite songs were about birds.

We also sang Grandma's favorites:  "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "I Must Tell Jesus," and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

It seems to me now, looking back, that I was the most adored of the children, and I know all the grandchildren would say they thought they were.  The truth is, we all were.

As night fell and the kerosene lamps were lit, it seems to me the love in that house could be touched – like soft velvet or the smooth fur of a kitten.  The snow could pile to the eaves for all we cared.  We were home, we were fed, and we were loved.

When Bill and I started thinking about recording a video for Christmas with the Homecoming Friends that would be "Christmas in the Country," it was the images of my own childhood home and the rituals that have now been handed down first to Bill and me, then to our children, and now to their children.

Someday there will be a new celebration in a new Country.  There will be no gap between the ideal and the reality; the relationships around that circle will be perfect and totally beautiful.  There will be songs of thanksgiving and praise for Christmas completed, for the One who brought heaven to earth will have then brought earth to heaven, and we all will finally be home.

A Prayer for Christmas

Lord, thank You for being so persistent and so very patient with us, even though often we've failed to recognize Your hand reaching in our lives.  And even though often we've actually rejected Your direction to follow our own selfish whims, still You forgave us … and more, You've even offered us a way to share in Your very own life.  Thank you, Lord.

Excerpted from "He Started the Whole World Singing:  A Treasury of Gaither Christmas Songs, Reflections and Holiday Traditions."  Copyright © 2004 by Gloria Gaither.  Used by permission of Warner Faith/ Time Warner Book Group

Gloria Gaither, and her husband Bill, have produced over 600 songs, 60 recordings, numerous awards, a dozen musicals, a collection of books, three children, and four grandchildren.  Famous not only as a songwriter and speaker, Gloria Gaither has come to be known as a stateswoman in the field of Christian ministry.  She has touched the hearts of audiences everywhere with her simple yet profound message.