Sweaters, Cookies, and the True Gift

I just nearly did myself an injury. I walked into the teacher's lounge and saw Mr. Colby in a sky blue, short-sleeved, collared, cable knit sweater buttoned all the way to the top, and I bent over laughing and ran right hip first into the counter. It is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day here in grades 8-12, and we are awarding prizes to the student in each of those grades who shows up wearing the ugliest sweater. The prize will be free ice skating on our traditional Wednesday morning before Christmas trip to Ice World, and amazing $10 value! I am wearing an ugly sweater from the Cosby Show era that I bought last week for an elementary chapel skit. In the course of that skit, the sweater was doused with chocolate milk, but it all came out in the wash so that I could sport its ugliness today in school. Unfortunately, I am ineligible to win won of the prizes.

Yesterday  baked cookies for the staff. My Grammie Manzo's Ginger Crinkles and a recipe I got from America's Test Kitchen on PBS for Brown Sugar cookies have always been popular whenever I take the time to make them, so what better time to do so in order to show my appreciation for my staff than Christmastime? I was surprised this morning to discover that another Dunbar, someone in my brother Doug's family, perhaps Doug himself, had baked some Ginger Crinkles and other Christmas treats, because I found them on my desk with a photo Christmas card when I came back to my office after greeting students as they arrived at school. I should give you the recipe for these, but I can't remember what it is at the moment. Tonight I will be making a big batch of soup and cornbread to feed the staff lunch tomorrow. One of the keys to getting your teachers through the days before Christmas is keeping them well-fed, and fortunately, I like to cook and bake.

There's something about this time of year that is bittersweet for me. I am really looking forward to a little time off to be with my family in Maine, but that means leaving my school and church family, along with my brother Doug's family behind here in Maryland. And when it comes time to return from Maine, it will be hard to leave my parents and my sister Beth's and brother Tim's family behind there. I suppose I should be thankful that I have so many people to love and be loved by, but sometimes it makes me sad that we are not altogether in one place. Maybe that's one of the things that will make heaven such a glorious place to be. There will be a family reunion there and I will get to see my Grammy and Grampy Dunbar and my Pappy Manzo who have gone on before me, along with all the others God has taken home to be with him who have touched my life.

I hope at this season of the year that you find yourself with folks to love nearby and folks loving you in return, celebrating the birth of Jesus, the One who made a way for all of us who believe in Him to never be separated from each other for all eternity. Sometimes at night I pray, "God, you know I won't mind it one bit if you decide to call me home. There's nowhere I would rather be than with You." I think that's a sort of a spiritual homesickness that we as Christians can feel, knowing that as nice as our lives can be, by the grace of God, this world is not our home. Christmas is when we celebrate the moment when God took on human flesh and came into our world for a brief time. But the true gift of Christmas is that what he did for us, as us, here on this earth, has made it so that we can put off these bodies of sin and death and enter into His world forever.

Merry Christmas everybody!

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