A Treasured Tradition – Part 1


Many years back when we were a young family, we met an older couple at church whom we grew to love.  Jim and Hazel Kistler became our good friends. Our love and respect for them grew during the time we had together.

Hazel and Jim

Jim had the rosiest cheeks I’d ever seen, more impressive than the best rendering of Santa; and his eyes glimmered with wisdom and caring as they reflected the love of God. Seeing him as a combination of Santa and Jesus made him loveable even before he opened his mouth. And then his words flowed out with sincere interest in our lives and generous compliments.  His spoken words impressed me long before I’d seen anything he wrote. His laugh was unique – his combination of laughter and chuckle was interspersed with words. Hazel was quieter than Jim, but her presence with him reminded me of the quote “Behind every great man there’s a great woman.” Hazel’s gentle and kind spirit put us at ease quickly and caused us to want to be near her. Jim and Hazel had two sons. One son was born with special needs, so Jim and Hazel must have invested a lot of time and energy into both of their sons as they lived years of experiencing life with a developmentally disabled child. I remember him telling us about his children and thinking “so this is what a challenged parent can become”.

We had our friends over for supper.  After our meal, we visited more.  Here they are relaxed in our home.

kistler1 (5)

Our young son crawled up onto Jim’s lap with a book. It happened to be a Christmas book. It was natural for Jim to recount a Christmas poem that was etched into his mind and he recited it to our son.  Later, we would understand the significance of that poem.

kistler2 (3)

We were a military family and had to move from the area where Kistlers lived, but we kept in touch with our friends. What followed after our parting in 1989 were years of correspondence, mostly at Christmastime.  Each Christmas season that followed, we could count on a card from our friends. Even with our frequent address changes, the cards arrived.  The greetings were eagerly anticipated and then enjoyed.  But they weren’t just greetings. You see, with his own personal flair, Jim would compose a poem  and include it as part of their Christmas greeting.  We treasured those cards.  And we kept them.

Our collection of their annual Christmas greetings is special to us. Each card and poem is reflective of the joy that spread out from Jim and Hazel, and each year he would put words together to make the card’s picture come to life.   Now, as I look over our priceless collection, I want to share it with the world so others can enjoy Jim’s talent also.  Thank you to Hazel and Jim’s son who kindly filled in some gaps for me and made this even more fun! 

The first card we have with a poem was in 1990.

1990 front 1990 Kistler inside

Here is the typed poem:

Ah, The Wonder of Christmas

Ah, the wonder of each Christmas
  That most precious time of all
Brings back again the memories
  Warmly touching heart and soul.

 From the early years of childhood,
  Jolly Santa on the scene—
To the sudden understanding
  That the Christ Child rules supreme.

 Ah, the thrills and frills of Christmas
  That come down to us each year;
The joy of gathering loved ones,
  The warm messages of cheer.

 Then once again o’er Bethlehem
  Ever loud and clear and strong
The prophets’ words of ages past
  Revealed in an angel’s song.

 Ah, the power of this infant
  While asleep upon the hay
Wakeing the world forever more
  To the gift of Christmas Day.

                               –Jim Kistler, 1990

Here is the 1991 card and poem:


Christmas Is For Children

Christmas is for children,
Angels within themselves.
Christmas is for children,
With Santa Claus and Elves.

Christmas is for children,
Sheer joy and ecstasy.
Christmas is for children,
And visions that they see.

Christmas is for children,
The story oft’ retold.
Christmas is for children,
No matter young or old.

Christmas is for children,
A donkey leads the way.
Christmas is for children,
One born on Christmas Day

                      -Jim Kistler, 1991

And 1992’s card and poem are shown here:


Something About Christmas

There’s something about a Christmas storm,
      Snow clouds hovering above,
That reminds us of the warmth of friends
      Bearing a message of love. 

There’s something about the holidays,
      Pine branches heavy with snow,
And hauling a tree across white fields
      As we once did long ago.

There’s something about the scent of pine
      Filling the winter’s night,
That sends us back to childhood dreams
      And the warmth of firelight.

There’s something about the glow of Light
      That makes every house a home,
As it calls us back through memory
      From wherever we may roam.

There’s something about a Christmas Day
      That fills our hearts with joy,
As we once again come home again
      Because of an infant Boy.

                                       –  Jim Kistler, 1992

 In 1993, we received another card.  It looked like this

1993 Kistker front and back (2)  1993 Kistler inside (3)  1993 Kistler inside (2)

The way Jim incorporated Christmas songs into his 1993 poem is creative.

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing,
Voices raised in caroling
Promising a new born King.
Hark! The herald angels sing.

 Silent night, oh, silent night,
Crystal clear and crystal bright
Faces glow with candlelight.
Silent night, oh, silent night.

Little town of Bethlehem,
Hear the song we sing again;
Peace on earth, good will to men
Comes the news from Bethlehem.

Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Filling hearts with memory;
Oh, how we would love to be
Underneath your Christmas tree.

                                   –Jim Kistler,  ‘93

Nineteen ninety four (1994) brought this card to our mailbox:

1994 Kistler front  1994 Kistler inside (2)

The typed poem is here:

The Joy of Christmas

No bigger thrill, no greater joy
Found in every girl and boy
When their first dazzling Christmas tree
Fills heart and soul with ecstasy.

All a glitter and all aglow
The child looks up through falling snow;
Lights reflecting from their eyes
Far brighter than the starlit skies.

Reach back in time and there you’ll see
A child you know through memory;
Then feel the thrill of yesterday
When first you saw a tree that way.

Once, long ago another Child
Looked up from where he lay and smiled;
Gift of a prophet’s prophesy
More dazzling than a Christmas tree.

                                       –Jim Kistler  ‘94

Then, in 1995 we received a card that explained the background of the poem Jim recited to our son in 1988.

See Part 2 to continue this story.

[NOTE:  The poetry in this series is not my own, but expressly belongs to the Jim and Hazel Kistler family and should not be copied without permission or proper credit given.]  

About Climbing Downhill

Wife and mother of grown kids, in my 60's and dealing with MS, making life's moments count and trying to offer something of value to others along the way. https://climbingdownhill.wordpress.com
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8 Responses to A Treasured Tradition – Part 1

  1. JoAnne Simon says:

    True friendships are to be treasured.

  2. Pingback: A Treasured Tradition – Part 2 | Climbing Downhill

  3. Pingback: A Treasured Tradition – Part 3 | Climbing Downhill

  4. Pingback: A Treasured Tradition – Part 4 | Climbing Downhill

  5. Pingback: A Treasured Tradition – Part 5 EXTRA! EXTRA! | Climbing Downhill

  6. Pingback: A Treasured Tradition – Part 6, Personal Touches | Climbing Downhill

  7. Pingback: What Were the Odds? | Climbing Downhill

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