Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Annual Christ-Centered Christmas Dinner

I grew up hearing the story Papa Panov's Special Day.  My Dad used to read it to us and he would usually end up crying through half of the book.  The book has always held a special place in my heart.  This year I bought my own copy.  The original edition now sells for around $80 on Amazon!  I bought a new addition--the same book, just different pictures, and much cheaper.  The book is definitely one of my favorite Christmas books, if not my favorite.  It's a story about an old, lonely shoemaker who falls asleep and hears the voice of the Savior telling him that He will come visit the shoemaker the following day.  The next day the shoemaker watches out his window for the Savior but never seems Him.  Instead, he sees a cold road sweeper that he invites into his warm shop for coffee.  He also sees a young woman with a baby.  He invites her to his home and gives the baby some warm milk and the special shoes he made--shoes he would have given the baby Jesus had he been at the stable that special night.  Throughout the day Papa Panov serves multiple people that come by his shop, but he never sees the Savior.  He is heartbroken and begins to cry.  Suddenly he sees the room filled with all the people he helped that day and the voice of the Savior saying, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was cold and you took me in.  These people you have helped today--all the time you were helping them, you were helping me!"  Papa Panov suddenly realizes that the Savior had come after all.

I thought that since this book is about service this was the perfect book to go along with our traditional Christ Centered Christmas Dinner.  This year we had planned on having the dinner before the baby came but when the night came for the dinner, the family we chose was sick so we rescheduled for the 7th of December but then the baby came early (she would only have been one week old) so we rescheduled a second time for this past Friday.  But the family we invited got sick again...and then Will threw up that night anyway.  So, we decided to cancel the dinner so everyone could get better.  

I did still want to have a special dinner though so Friday night we had our Christ Centered Christmas Dinner without the family.  Lame, huh?  On Sunday we wrote a special note explaining why we chose them and took the gift we bought them to their house.  Hopefully when the baby is a bit older and we are past the sick season, we can have them over for dinner.  

Anyway, it wasn't nearly as special as it would have been with the family but it was still a wonderful evening.  We had a spinach salad, followed by garlic bread and Chicken Parmesan.  Then we had dessert--7-layer cookies topped with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel. We read the book and talked about serving people and about why we chose this particular family to honor.  After dinner we opened a special package that had a beautiful ornament we had bought with the family's name and the year engraved on it.  I had decided that this year we would add to our tradition by buying ornaments for each family we have honored that we could hang on the tree each year to remind us of their Christ-like service.  So after dinner we hung their ornament on the tree.  

So who did we choose and why?

We always have a difficult time narrowing down who we should invite because we have been so blessed to be surrounded by such good people in our lives.  This year we thought of a few different families and then presented them to the boys.  With their input, we chose the Newby's.  Anyone that knows the Newby's would understand why we chose them.  The Newby's and service are synonymous.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard people in the ward talk about the Newby's and how they have been served by them.  Whenever there is a need in the ward the Newby's are the first on the scene.  From watching kids, making meals, helping people move, etc., the Newby's are always ready to help.  

The Newby's are the most sincere couple we have ever encountered.  I am not sure if I've ever seen Amy without a smile.  Not only are Amy and James just nice, welcoming people, but their children are respectful and reverent.  The boys always enjoy interacting with the Newby children.  It is obvious just by watching the interactions the Newby's have with other people that they are just sincere, kind, loving people and that they are passing those qualities on to their children.  

Sometimes we choose a particular family because of the service we have personally received from them.  This year though, we chose the Newby's not just by the service they have done for us, but by the service we have seen them do for others.  With that said however, we have been personally served by the Newby's.  Two particular times stand out to me.  One was when Eli had his tonsils out.  Amy showed up to the house with popsicles and a bag of movies for Eli.  She then offered to take the older boys to her house for a play date so that I could focus on Eli.  

The other service involves James.  James used to work for the DA.  He heard about our predicament with Laila's clothes and the struggle we were having to get them back.  I won't go into details but he was instrumental in getting our stuff back even with a personal risk to his career.  I am convinced that it was because of him, and a lot of prayer, that we were finally able to get Laila's things back.  

This tradition is my favorite Christmas tradition.  As stated earlier, we have been so blessed in our lives to be surrounded by such good people.  Every where we move we find people that love the Savior.  As we watch the way these people serve those around them, our lives are enriched.  I feel an increased desire to be more like them, and therefore, more like the Savior.  I want so much for my children to remember these special dinners we have each Christmas and the purpose behind them.  I want them to come to understand, like Papa Panov in the book we read, that by serving others we are serving the Savior.  And I hope that the families that we have over each year will feel the appreciation we have for them for serving us and those around them.  

I decided to decorate the table with some burlap to add a casual, homey feeling.  The boys said it reminded them of the Savior being born in the stable, which is just what I wanted. 

I hung up my Christmas stars to mimic the New Star.  They have a place for a candle inside but unfortunately, our tea lights are not very good and they only let off a tiny light.  

Each plate had a star with a scripture reference.  Before we ate we all looked up our scripture and read it to everyone.  Each one was about service.  

1 comment:

chelsey said...

I've looked for that book for years, and never found it very cheap either! I'll have to get the newer addition like you did, I suppose. And although the dinner didn't work out, I'm glad you still got to deliver the gift.