Spread the Joy of Christmas Year Round

One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas. It’s truly a special time to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I love it when our house is decorated for Christmas, however I don’t enjoy the act of decorating. Here’s where I find inspiration and admiration for Bernice Smith. Bernice is a long time member of Bethel and one of Bernice’s hobbies is collecting Santa Clauses. Bernice has collected so many Santa’s that she has no place to store them so she simply keeps them on display all year long. At Bernice Smith’s home, everyday is a reminder of Christmas Day. Just how many Santa’s has she collected? Bernice says, “Oh my, well over 400 maybe even 500!” I didn’t take time to count, but I’d put the figure closer to 500, it’s a bunch of Santa’s to be sure!

Bernice Smith uses her Santa Collection to share the joy of Christmas year roundIn addition to the Santa’s, Bernice also collects dolls. She has one room with a collection of dolls, antique toys and two dollhouses that her father made. I asked Bernice how she got started collecting all of these things. She said, “I started collecting dolls when my daughters were little girls. I was the oldest of 5 children and my father was in the military and we moved a lot so we were not allowed to have many things because we moved so much. So when I had children of my own I wanted to make sure my daughters could have what I couldn’t.” The collection of dolls started by purchasing two dolls apiece for her daughters Nancy and Sissy. The idea was they could play with one doll and then they would display the other. Bernice told them that they could have nice things if they could take care of them. As time passed her daughters grew out of playing with dolls and Bernice took over and found that she enjoyed collecting and displaying the dolls. So how did Bernice get into collecting Santa’s?

Years ago Bernice noticed that not many folks hung Christmas pictures on their walls, so she started hanging pictures of Santa on her walls. That morphed into collecting and displaying Santa’s. Bernice said, “I loved that all their faces were different. Christmas is such a beautiful time of year and it all ties in with the birth of Christ. These Santa’s took me back to when I was a little girl and I remember learning about the birth of Jesus. When I knew that December was the month of His birthday that was important to me.”

Bernice Smith uses her Santa Collection to share the joy of Christmas year roundAs the Santa collection grew Bernice began to share her collection with others. Bernice has a granddaughter named Mary and Bernice would take a few of the Santa’s to Mary’s school for show and tell and it would bring joy to the children. Then she began to have an open house. She’d begin cooking “a month ahead of time” to get ready for the open house. One by one, people would stream through her house and marvel at the Santa’s, they’d enjoy the food, but I suspect that the thing they enjoyed the most was the fellowship that Bernice created by inviting others into her home. Bernice says, “Collecting the Santa’s and Dolls have brought joy to me and it brought joy to everyone who saw them. I enjoyed it and it was extra joy for me to see the joy it brought to the people who came to see them.”

I wanted to share Bernice’s story with you because Bernice has found a unique way to capture the wonder and joy of Christmas and make it part of her life all year long. Perhaps more importantly, Bernice has found tangible ways of sharing the joy of the Lord. She not only has her open house, but years ago she used to invite the Girl Scouts over to her house and they’d have a fun day of looking at the Santa’s and even making their own Santa. Bernice had a kiln and she’d make ornaments for the Girl Scouts to paint and take home with them. So here’s an example of how someone has taken something that they enjoy and used it to bring joy to others.

One of our Bethel Mileposts is “We’re blessed to be a blessing.”   Bernice Smith has been a blessing to innumerable people in our  community by inviting others into her home to experience the joy and wonder of Christmas.  As I was thinking about   Bernice’s story I thought this article might be more appropriate for the Christmas newsletter, but then I thought that perhaps it’s better that it doesn’t come out at Christmas because we need reminders all throughout the year of the joy of Christmas.  We need to be reminded that the Lord sent his Son to us, to be with us.  That wondrous, Christmas Spirit is something that we need everyday.  So thank you Bernice for that reminder. 

One final thing, I asked Bernice if there is anything she’d like   to communicate in this article.  She said, “Tell folks to save some dates in December for my open house.”  We will let you know when Bernice has her open house.  When she does, do yourself a favor and go.  You’ll marvel at her collection of    Santa’s and Dolls, but the best thing about your visit will be spending time with Bernice.  She’s a treasure and a blessing to many.  Lord, thank you so much for the gift of Bernice’s life.  Thank you for reminding us that the joy of Christmas is a joy we can experience each day.  Help us Lord to use our gifts to be a blessing to others.  Please continue to bless Bernice and her family and please continue to bless our Bethel Church family.  In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.