Roxanne Henke

During the weeks leading up to Christmas when I was a kid, my sisters and I would stand on our fireplace hearth and, with Mom’s prompting, practice our lines for the church’s Christmas Eve program. I don’t ever remember having much of a part, but I was still filled with worry about forgetting the few words I had to say.

My mom, an excellent seamstress, always sewed new, red dresses for my sisters and me. We slipped them on, put our black patent-leather shoes over our white lace-trimmed anklets, then we would stand on our fireplace hearth and pose for photos.

In my head, I was saying the lines of my program piece over and over. But, forgetting my lines wasn’t what I was really worried about. Every single year, I had this horrible fear someone was going to break into our house during the program and steal all our presents from under the tree. I was sure we would come home from church, brown paper candy bags in hand and find our living room stripped bare!

My worries have changed over the years. There was the year I had our second child on Dec. 14. We usually went to my mom’s house just a few blocks away on Christmas Eve. So, taking our 5 year old to her program and then going to Mom’s house would be no problem.

What would be a problem was going to my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas Day. It was 50 miles away in the coldest cold snap ever. We decided it wouldn’t be smart to travel with a newborn. When we passed along the news, that whole side of the family decided to come to our house. I don’t remember a thing about that day, other than feeling overwhelmed.
Ever after, add having a child with a birthday two weeks before Christmas into my fretting. How to throw a party in the midst of all the Christmas hoopla. And, how to make this kid feel like her birthday wasn’t just crammed in with the holiday. (I had good experience with that, because my birthday is Dec. 29.)

As time moved on, I worried about my girls driving home from college for Christmas break. It seemed it was always snowing or always icy whenever they were on their way home.

Then came weddings and in-laws who lived far away. My worries changed to how to celebrate Christmas when my kids had “other parents” to celebrate with. We decided to “alternate” Christmas at home. At the time, my mom lived just blocks from me, so I knew we wouldn’t be spending Christmas alone. But, then she and my stepdad decided to go south for the winter and my husband and I were faced with spending Christmas all by ourselves.

Then I worried Christmas would be miserable. My husband and I staring at each other. Tears running down my face. My worries were unfounded. As always, we went to our church Christmas program and enjoyed watching our “church kids” act out the Christmas story. We held candles and sang “Silent Night” in English and German. My heart was warmed, not broken, as I had feared. Then we went home, lit the fireplace and truly enjoyed our rather “silent,” but still holy, night, knowing our house would be full the next year.

Then came grandkids and my worries became logistical. How were we going to fit everyone into our rather small house? We managed. As they got older, I worried how we would ever keep them entertained in our little town. We didn’t have a movie theater, a mall to wander or an arcade. Once again, my worries were unfounded. They did exactly what I had done as a kid. They played in the snow! And, coming from Texas, snow was a magical world to them. So was tobogganing. And snowmobiling. And having after-church Christmas snacks in front of a roaring fireplace.

So many worries over the years and every single one of them was unfounded. However, I have a new worry. It’s about Christmas itself. It seems more people aren’t celebrating Christmas the way we did. Back in the day, we sent someone to church early to save a pew for us, which wasn’t an easy job. One year, my brother-in-law had to practically lie down in the pew to keep people out of it. Rows of folding chairs would be set up along the back. The balcony was full, too. Nowadays, the pews of our Christmas Eve service are emptier. There is no need for anyone to worry about a place to sit.

Where are the people? The families whose Christmas wasn’t Christmas unless it began at church? “Christ” is in the word Christmas for a reason. Celebrating without Christ makes the holiday rather pointless. Go ahead and call it a holiday celebration. Still, what are you celebrating, if not his birth?

People want gifts, but forget the greater gift. They want presents, but don’t acknowledge the presence. He is the “reason for the season.” Or maybe people aren’t saying that anymore, either. I think this is one worry worth worrying (praying) about.

Roxanne (Roxy) Henke will be having a non-traditional Christmas with her family, but plans to search out a church service to keep Christ in her Christmas. She wishes all her readers blessings this season. You can reach her at