Our finest gifts we bring/Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum/To lay before the King… —The Little Drummer Boy
When I was growing up, I stood in my church’s Living Nativity scene. Every year, for four nights up to and including Christmas Eve, I dressed up as any character needed. Since we stood in half-hour shifts, we needed two Josephs, two Marys, four angels, four shepherds, and six wise men each night. Baby Jesus was played by a doll from the church nursery and we also have a live donkey and sheep.
The first year I participated, I was in third grade; I vividly remember that I was chosen to be a wise man, probably because six were needed. I learned that we weren’t supposed to move or look at the people who came to see the nativity scene, but to reflect upon the Christmas story and baby Jesus. Real Christmas carols would be played the whole time. We could wear our coats underneath the baggy robes, but not gloves—whoever heard of a wise man wearing gloves? One of my Sunday school teachers applied spirit gum to my chin, and then an itchy beard. At least I didn’t have to hold a cold metal shepherd’s crook barehanded the whole time. No, the wise men bore gifts from afar, beautiful sparkling boxes that represented gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Sweet. A revolving Christmas tree light bathed the scene in changing colors, and nearsighted me loved watching the glitter sparkle blue, green, red, and yellow.
I loved my time of bringing the Christmas story to life. In later years, our pastor recorded a voiceover of the gospel accompanied by carefully-chosen Christmas carols. During the Isaiah prophecy passage, for instance, we heard O Come, O Come, Immanuel. Lovely!
Then! Oh, then! When our half-hour shift was over, the lights went dark and Crew Two took our places. Inside the Fellowship Hall, it was toasty warm and smelled so good. Hot chocolate! Christmas cookies! Treats! Then back outside for our second shift. When I think of all the planning that went into this one special time of year, I’m very grateful to my childhood church, Huber Heights Church of God. What a wonderful gift!
Speaking of gifts, I’m behind in my Christmas shopping right now. I’m pretty sure the good Lord never meant for the Christmas season to be the burden that it sometimes is. In the tradition of the three wise men, I’d like to share a gift that you can traverse afar and know it will be appreciated. How about some banana bread for breakfast? I was not a banana bread fan UNTIL I tried this banana bread recipe from a great Amish cookbook. Here are the secret ingredients that I’ve never seen in any other banana bread recipe: brown sugar and lemon juice.
- ½ cup margarine (I use butter)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 mashed bananas
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups flour
- 3 tsps. baking powder (not soda)
- 1 cup nuts (I omit)
- Beat all ingredients together and pour into loaf pan. Bake approximately one hour at 350 degrees.
- Those Spartan recipe instructions again! Amish women have been making this recipe for generations and they presume you know how to cook. But in case you’re new…
- These bananas are perfectly ripe for banana bread. The peel will slide off and the bananas will mash easily. Never throw away an overripe banana again! I also melt the butter in the microwave.
- Mix together the first five ingredients in one bowl. Whip up the eggs with a fork before adding. The salt, flour, and baking powder go in a separate bowl. I mix up the wet ingredients and add the dry little by little.
- Rather than use a regular size loaf pan, I grease these mini pans with Crisco and use a ½ cup measure to evenly divide the batter between the four pans. IMPORTANT: if you use mini loaf pans, bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of a loaf; if it comes out clean, it’s done! When the loaves are cool, wrap them in colored cling wrap, pull the ends into a bunch and tie it off with some sparkly ribbon. But don’t be surprised if the first batch is consumed by your grateful family!
Stephanie Reed lives on the outskirts of Plain City, Ohio, site of a once-thriving Amish community. She gleans ideas for her novels The Bargain, Across the Wide River, and The Light Across the River from signs glimpsed along the byways of Ohio.
Her latest release is The Bachelor.
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