Staff Christmas reflections

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Christmas Day 2018, Tuesday, December 25th.

That means you have zero shopping days left! But at least you still have The World and Everything in It to listen to. Good morning and Merry Christmas, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

We get together each week for program planning, and one of us, not sure who, had the idea: Since we’re all here, let’s just share our Christmas memories together.

And, I don’t know, Mary, why don’t you go first, what’s your Christmas memory?

REICHARD: Well, you know, I’m no spring chicken here so I have lots of memories. But let’s see. I’ll just pick one. Well, one favorite I have from the Christmas holidays is my grandmother standing next to the dinner table that had those extra slats installed for guests. The ones where you smash your fingers when you put them in? [laugh] I remember the table sagging under the weight of fruit cobblers, red velvet cake, and Jell-O that has that fruit swimming in it. Well, my young gastric imagination just was captured by those sweets more than by the green beans.

I knew Grandma had toiled days in the kitchen. And when it was time for all of us to eat, she put on her nicest apron and wear her specialist lipstick and she just stood next to the table with this very satisfied smile on her face.

Now, my Grandma’s first name was “Bliss.” And she has long gone now, but the love that she showed to me still is in my heart. And later on, that same love became subsumed when I understood about the love of Jesus Christ. So bring on the love, everybody, and Merry, Merry Christmas!

EICHER: Let’s bring on J.C. Derrick, our managing editor. J.C., yours isn’t as much a memory as a reflection on what Christmas means to you.

J.C. DERRICK, MANAGING EDITOR: Yeah, it is, but it is also tied up with my memories as well. When I think about Christmas, looking back, I can think about when I was a kid. I grew up in a Christian home and always knew what Christmas was about, of course. But it’s fair to say my excitement level was just a little bit higher for the presents side of things.

And now I’m a husband, a father, and I think more and more I’m captured by the mystery of the incarnation. It’s such a mystery, and without it, there is no Easter. God becoming man is this hinge point of history. And we get to sing about it in these great Christmas songs that mean more and more to me every year, like Hark the Herald Angels Sing that have such deep theological meaning. When I hear my little 2-year-old babbling lines like “God and sinners reconciled”…. Wow, that’s what I love the most about Christmas!

REICHARD: Such a precious life stage that is. OK, how about you, Carl? You’re rather new to western North Carolina and you got kind of a shock this year, didn’t ya?

CARL PEETZ, PRODUCER: Yeah! We’re still digging out after a few days of a big snow, and I have sudden memories of Christmas in “sunny” Southern California! When I was growing up we would visit my great aunt in Pacific Palisades and go down to the beach to see surfers on the waves and sunbathers on the warm sand. And as the old song goes, it never rains in Southern California… and snow was very rare at the beach. So I’m thankful for a white Christmas, but also appreciate the warm Christmases of old.

REICHARD: I bet you are. Christmases of old, you say. Well, let’s turn the mic over to someone with Christmases of new. Kristen Flavin?

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Christmas to me means spending time with my family. It means waking up with warm cup of coffee and a special breakfast—sometimes it’s waffles, sometimes it’s pancakes, and sometimes it’s cinnamon rolls. It means spending the whole day in lounge clothes. It means laughing and playing games with my brothers.

As my siblings and I are all entering adulthood, our Christmases are starting to look different each year. With a brother in college, a brother in law school, and a brother in high school, Christmas is becoming a day that strengthens our family bond as it brings us all together under one roof again.

EICHER » Thank you, Kristen Flavin. You know, I don’t think it’s a big secret, Kristen spent most of her young life known as Kristen Eicher. But Kristen, you know how I used to randomly put on Christmas songs, say in the middle of summer, and you and your brothers thought I was just weird for doing that?

FLAVIN: Haha, yup!

EICHER: Well, we’re all talking about Christmas memories today and here’s what fixes Christmas into my memory: Music. Christmas music. Even the silly stuff, like the Grinchy Christmas songs. But particularly the deep ones, the theologically rich Christmas hymns. There is just something about sound, familiar sound, familiar words, that really has the power to touch the hard-to-reach places. It unlocks memories good and bad. And it has the ability to carry new memories back deep inside and sets them to a tune—so that that same tune can bring it all back again some day.

Well, Leigh Jones now. Our news editor. Hi, Leigh!


EICHER: What’s your Christmas memory?

JONES: Well, Christmas to me really means baking and enjoying Christmas goodies, things like cutout cookies and gingerbread houses. I mean, even before my husband and I had our daughter, we would get together with friends and bake big batches of cookies and spend all evening, late into the night, decorating. One year we even did a gingerbread house contest where we made these from scratch. Every couple started with a cardboard template. We measured it out, and it was quite the production.

Like I said, that was before kids… Now we have much simpler goals, like keeping our preschooler from eating raw dough…

But one of the one constants through all these years of baking is my grandmother’s Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, which has been passed down from my grandmother, to my mom, and now we have it. And so my daughter is the fourth generation to use this kitchen appliance, which is avocado green, if anybody’s wondering. I’m sure they do not make that color anymore. But yeah, I just love to think that the same appliance my grandmother used to make her all of her Christmas goodies over the years is still in use today. In fact, just last week we used it to make our first batch of cutout cookies!

So that’s me. And now here’s my news colleague Kent Covington. Hey, Kent, Merry Christmas.


JONES: So, I want to hear your favorite Christmas memory!

COVINGTON: Sure, well my favorite one at this point is from when my kids were a little younger, and they’re a year apart. And I think my daughter was 3 and my son was 2 at the time. And the kids were at home with me, and I had turned my back for just a little bit and was in the next room getting some things done. And this was a few days before Christmas. So I walked back into the living room, and the kids have quietly opened every present under the tree. All of them.

Now, my daughter, who was 3 looks at me an “uh oh!” look on her face. But my son, who was 2, oblivious, looks up at me with this battery-operated dinosaur he’d just opened and says “Look daddy, it walks!”

EICHER: I love it! That’s just how guys roll. Hey, Sarah, turn your mic on. Sarah Schweinsberg, who grew up in cold South Dakota. What’s your Christmas memory?

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Yeah, I grew up where it actually looks like Christmas, like five months out of the year, so that’s always special, but my memory growing up was my mom would work so hard to make the Christmas season just really special and memorable for us five kids. Starting right after Thanksgiving, we would spend several nights setting up at least three trees, nativities, Norman Rockwell’s Christmas villages and just having a blast decorating cookies…. all of the traditions.

But I remember one year a really bad blizzard came through on Christmas Eve, which was when traditionally we would have our most special family Christmas time opening presents, eating this really grandiose meal my mom would make. But with the power out, that grand meal my mom planned to make with our electric oven, also went out. So I remember, undeterred, my mom just stood downstairs and in our, at the time, cold unfinished basement on a cement floor with a flashlight, standing over a gas stove making a much simpler Christmas dinner. From what I remember, it was cheesy beans and fried shrimp, but you know, it turned out to be one of my favorite family meals ever.

So when I think about that, it just reminds me that as we work really hard to make the Christmas season special and hit all of those traditions every year, that we don’t get hung up on the imperfections of our homes, our families at times, or you know, that turkey or ham that got burned. But instead just welcome all the perfect and imperfect with gratitude, laughter… and in my case, several large glasses of eggnog. So Merry Christmas, everyone!

REICHARD: Oh that is so awesome Sarah that your mom reacted like that! Well done. Alright let’s pass the mic and let’s hear from you now, Paul Butler. What’s one of your Christmas memories?

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: You know, all of us as parents, want Christmases to be special for our kids, but seven or eight years ago, it was a particularly lean season for us in the Butler household. So we decided as a family to put off exchanging Christmas gifts for 12 days until Epiphany, which of course is the day set aside by the church to remember the magi brings gifts to the young Christ child, so we thought let’s do gifts then.

Part of that was due to the fact that we knew that the department stores would have Christmas foods and Christmas gifts on clearance, and that way we could afford them. But the surprise for us was that the local hardware store was giving away leftover live trees that week after Christmas, so while our neighbors were throwing out their trees, we were bringing one home, decorating it, and enjoying the excuse to play Christmas music for another couple weeks.

Now, I will be honest, I don’t remember any specific gifts from that particular year, but it is a Christmas we always talk about. And in fact, we’ve been discussing as our kids get older, one way we might avoid some of the inter-family holiday tensions once they’re married, is for them to feel the freedom to explore their spouse’s family traditions at Christmas, but we’re going to set aside Epiphany for the kids to come home, and open gifts then. That’s the plan, we’ll see if it turns out.

EICHER: Amen, Paul. Well, let’s get Megan Basham in here. Megan, of course, our Friday film critic. And you’re going to talk about sports now, Megan?!

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: I am! Because, when I was kid, my uncle was a bachelor basketball coach. Inevitably, every Christmas, he would forget about getting gifts for the youngsters and would show up with things that were easiest to hand out—basketballs! Boy, did my little heart burn with resentment every year at opening not the hottest toys of era from him—no cabbage patch dolls or my little ponies—but another basketball!

But a funny thing happened over the years—eventually opening those basketballs became a favorite family tradition. So much so, my bachelor brother now carries on the torch with my 4- and 9-year-old girls. In fact, he told them if they’re extra good, maybe they’ll get TWO basketballs this year! (They have better attitudes than I did though—they can’t wait for the big joke of opening them.)

And in a silly way, this reminds me of the grace of our God at Christmas. We come with all our forgetfulness, our meager, half-hearted efforts, and he transforms them into a joyful blessing.   

REICHARD: Mmm. Isn’t it amazing how that works, isn’t it? Ok, well, Johnny Franklin, you get to have the last word today. What say you?

JOHNNY FRANKLIN, PRODUCER: It’s hard to believe, but my wife and I have arrived at the point where ‘the kids come home for Christmas’! It doesn’t seem that long ago that I WAS one of the kids who came home for Christmas. Ours are coming in from Cincinnati and south Georgia this year, with the Chicagoans arriving by Skype. I’m so thankful for some concentrated time to focus on 1) my family and 2) the lengths that God went to to bring me into His family.

REICHARD: Well, Johnny that piques my interest. What do you mean by that?

FRANKLN: What we’re celebrating at Christmas is God chose to set aside some of His awesomeness and became one of us so that I could clearly understand His love for me – that is just mind-boggling.

REICHARD: Mmm. Well that certainly brings it all around to what this really means this Christmas season. Thanks so much, Johnny.Well, this was fun! Glad we did this all together. Thanks to every one of you!

EICHER: Merry Christmas to you, from all of us!

[Special thanks to Paul Reese, Minister of Music and Organist, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lancaster, PA – and faithful listener! Paul performed J.S. Bach’s chorale prelude on In Dulci Jubilo heard at the end of this segment. In Dulci Jubilo is the traditional voluntary closing for Service of Nine Lessons and Carols (from King’s College, Cambridge, England), which celebrated it’s 100th anniversary yesterday.]

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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