This is a continuation of sharing the cards and poetry received over many years from our friends Jim and Hazel Kistler. See Part 1 for the beginning of the story, which will make this post more meaningful.
Nineteen Ninety-five’s (1995) card gave the history of the poem Jim had recited to our son in 1988.
The poem had been written by his mother in 1925 specially for 7-year old Jim’s church Christmas Sunday School play. It reads like this:
Dear Santa must be hungry coming such a long, long way,
To make us children happy when we wake up Christmas day.
So I put a piece of cake for him upon the pantry shelf,
Hoping dear old Santa would be sure to help himself.
Next morning when I woke up and saw the toys, oh, boys,
I clean forgot the piece of cake for looking at the toys.
There were heaps and heaps of things, a bat, a ball. A drum,
And then I spied the empty plate without a single crumb.
Somehow dear Santa must have known I put it there for him.
For on the plate there was a note which said, I thank you, Jim.
All the following years of Jim’s life, he retained that poem of his mother’s in his mind and heart. Sharing it with others honored his mother and shared joy with many. He wrote this about his mother:
….Some 30 years later [after I recited the poem] one of our sons recited the same poem in his Sunday School play and both sons committed it to memory. Mom was a woman of many talents, not the least of which was poetry. She was an artist in the true sense of the word, had a beautiful contralto voice which I can still hear as she sang in the choir of the Methodist Church, and bellowing [our names] as she called us home for dinner at the end of a busy day. Her paintings were special: a mountain, a seascape, a flower, a bird, or a Christmas card. Weeks before Christmas you could find all the family sitting around the table, each with a different color, painting the family card Mom created and Pop printed in black and white. The finished product was as brightly multicolored as any you find today, with the family sitting around a Christmas tree, or a fireplace, or skiing, or sledding. During the war years Mom drew maps locating the positions of her sons all over the globe. It’s a memory that comes alive every year, just as is the memory of her rising early in the morning to catch up on her correspondence with her many friends and relatives, some of whom were still living in Switzerland, and handwriting to them in beautiful German script. So often I thought of her sitting there, writing to her three sons, all in combat zones, and wondering how she was bearing up under the pressure of a terrible war, never really knowing where we were or how we were faring. It is my pleasure now to remember her in this way, to pay credit where credit is due, and to give thanks for passing along to me at least one of her wonderful talents, the ability to poetically express feelings that could never be expressed in any other way. It is not so far removed from those early days of childhood that we can’t remember when the thrill, the excitement, the ecstasy of Christmas came as much from the eager anticipation of the arrival of Santa way back then, as does the eager anticipation of the Christ Child today. Then, as now, it was and is ‘WITH GREAT EXPECTATION, WE WAIT AND HOPE FOR HIS COMING’.
Jim’s love of his mother and God is so evident in his words.
This is the card his mother sent out in 1945 after all three of her sons returned from the war. This was a personal homemade card of professional quality. Her artwork and the sentiment are both wonderful and require time to fully absorb and appreciate.
Then, in 1996, this Christmas card was received:
Here is that poem typed:
Christmas brings us many things
In many different ways,
The warming sight of candle light
Spreading far its golden rays.
Children singing Christmas hymns
Gathering ‘round Christmas trees,
With bells that ring while caroling
Bringing back the memories.
Christmas opens wide the door
To treasures of yesteryear,
When hearth and home, and winter’s storm
Always filled our hearts with cheer.
Christmas comes all together
When we wake up Christmas morn,
For nothing quite was like that night
When that little Babe was born.
Jim Kistler, ‘96
The card in 1997 was a bit different. Jim’s note explained: “Christmas 1997 – Early in December last year our church Performing Arts Director called and asked if I would be willing to write and read at the Christmas Eve Children’s service, a poem on the order of Clement C, Moore’s ‘Visit From St. Nicholas’ using instead the biblical story of the birth of Jesus.” If memory serves me correctly, the Church’s Christmas Eve service included a part where the children searched for the baby Jesus. Jim wrote an impressive poem which he recited at the service.
We received it beautifully printed.
Here it is typed for your reading:
‘Twas the night before Jesus when all through the church
The children were stirring to get on with the search.
Exhilaration and excitement filled the night air
In the hopes that the Christ Child soon would be there.
For the message that came from the prophets of old
Was soon to be fulfilled as it was foretold.
Said Isaiah, the prophet, “Prepare Ye The way”,
The Messiah will come on this Special Day.
So children go find Him, make all His paths straight,
Break down all the barriers, tear open the gate.
John the Baptist will help you, for he knows the One;
Beware of pretenders who say they’re God’s son.
All the angels from heaven gathering above,
Will sing Alleluia with expressions of love.
A bright star will foretell He’s soon to appear,
And a trumpet will sound when He’s finally here.
So hurry dear children, it’s time that you start
On the search that will keep Him forever in your heart.
Now Lindsay, now Derek, now Tyler and Soquel,
There’s a great Christmas story we can’t wait to tell.
On Amy, on Allison, on Bobby and Sean,
Do you think you might find Him outside on the lawn?
Have you searched the Sanctuary, under the pews;
We’re depending on you to bring the good news.
Looking around the organ might be a good place;
If you try hard enough you may just win the race.
Did you search the choir room, behind every chair;
Or look in the nursery – you might find Him there.
Maybe looking in Grantham through all of the rooms,
Have you searched in the kitchen, behind all the brooms?
Don’t give up, keep looking; set a quicker pace,
Be the first who will see the smile on His face.
Suddenly at the Narthex, the trumpet’s horn,
Could this be the announcement the Child is born?
The children so eager to see what was in store
Rushed up the long aisle and tore open the door.
When what to their wandering eyes should they see
But a tiny infant just as cute as could be,
Sound asleep in a manger, on a bed of straw,
Was the little Lord Jesus for all to adore.
Nearby Joseph and Mary, and shepherds with sheep
Abandoning their flocks for a new watch to keep,
And the stars in the heavens all twinkling and bright
Lent brilliance and beauty to the silent night.
Then a chorus of angels, all gathered to sing
Glory in the highest and Hail to the King.
But before they got to the final amen
The wakened Baby, nodding, went to sleep again.
Way off in the distance, three wise men from afar
Guided to the infant by a bright Eastern star,
Lay down before Him myrrh, incense and gold
Praising God for the gift the prophets foretold.
All the children now nestled at home in their beds
While visions of the Christ Child still danced in their heads.
Happily and joyously blessed by His grace,
Went to sleep, like that Child with the smile on His face.
And so my dear children forget not His birth,
Nor the promise that comes to bring Peace on Earth.
Praise God, Alleluia, for Isaiah was right –
Happy Christ Child to all, and to all a good night.
-by Jim Kistler, Christmas ‘97
The next post will continue with my collection of greetings from our friends.
[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.]