Reflecting Christ in Christmas
About the Guest
Christmas memories are some of the sweetest remembrances we have. Barbara Rainey reminisces about the Christmases of her youth, and her mother, dropping in by phone, surprises her with a few memories of her own. Barbara shares what it was like in the Rainey home with six children helping her decorate, and tells what led her to create Christmas ornaments that focus on Christ. Also chiming in on the Rainey Christmas experience are Rainey daughters, Rebecca and Laura.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey tells what led her to create Christmas ornaments that focus on Christ.
Reflecting Christ in Christmas
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So let’s spend some time thinking together about how we can make this Christmas more meaningful—more focused on what Christmas ought to be all about. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. So, where did your wife get so fired up about Christmas? How did that happen; do you know?
Dennis: Well, you’d have to go back to when she was a little girl, I would imagine. I think Barbara, being the creative woman that she is, probably began to dream and fantasize about ways that she would celebrate Christmas with her family. Why don’t we just ask her? She’s here.
Bob: Well, she’s here. We should just ask her.
Dennis: Hey, Sweetheart. Welcome to our broadcast.
Bob: Was it childhood where you got all fired up about Christmas?
Barbara: Yes, I think so, initially; but it wasn’t just experiencing it, as a child. What I remember, as a child, is that I would watch my friends—who went to Christmas Eve services—and our family didn’t do that.
I remember thinking, “Oooh, there must be something special about going to church on Christmas Eve,” and these other traditions that I saw in other families. I sensed that there was more meaning to the Christmas holiday than what we experienced in my family, growing up. I longed for that meaning. I wanted to know why it was so important. I mean, I knew Jesus was born on Christmas; but I knew there must be more to it than that. I wanted to find out why it was meaningful and how I could make the experience of the Christmas holiday more meaningful.
Bob: Actually, this question was troubling enough to me that I asked our team if we could do some research, and investigate a little bit, and see where this came from with you. I think we have found an answer.
Bob: Could you go ahead and play that tape please?
Barbara’s mother: [Phone recording] She was the oldest with three brothers. I noticed her artistic talent early. She started drawing pictures, and took some art classes in school, and has always been artistic. She liked to help decorate the house and always wanting to arrange flowers.
I always tell her that it skipped my generation. My mother was rather artistic and good at writing. I always tell her that she got it from her grandmother. She has always been good at all those things. She just kind of took over and insisted on doing all the wrapping. She wrapped everybody’s except her own. She liked to make fancy bows, and match her ribbon to her paper, and all kinds of things. She was real particular about how she did it. She wanted to decorate the tree. Of course, she was really good at it; and I had a lot to do. So, I didn’t mind at all that she took over. [Laughter]
Dennis: And besides, she admitted it skipped her. It wasn’t her thing.
Bob: Explain to our listeners who we just heard.
Barbara: We just listened to my sweet mother. She was so kind to let me do that because she really did let me take over. She was busy!
I was the oldest. I had three younger brothers. She was busy cooking and doing other things. She really did let me take over. I had set up this wrapping center in my bedroom in the basement. I had a bedroom in the basement—we lived in a tri-level. I set up this wrapping center, with a card table, and all of this stuff.
My mom didn’t get this piece right—I did wrap my own presents because my brothers didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So, they brought them; and they taped them. I didn’t want to know—I wasn’t one of those who wanted to know. So, I wrapped all of my own presents, too. [Laughter]
Dennis: I have two comments. [Laughter]
Bob: I’ll bet you do. I’ll bet you have more than two!
Dennis: I probably do, but I want to start with two. The first one is not about Christmas.
Dennis: I should have known that she was this creative person when I was dating her. We went down to Baytown, Texas, where her family was living, at that time. I walked in the house—and there was this one bathroom that they had let Barbara paint, as a teenager.
Dennis: It wasn’t fire engine red; it was beyond fire engine red. [Laughter] She’s making a sign that I’m stretching the story a bit.
Bob: Stretching the truth?
Dennis: The other really came as we got married. Then, I began to see her take over in our family. I mean, I began to carry the boxes. It started out quite simple, Bob—
Dennis: —when there were just a couple of boxes that I got out of the attic; but by the time we had raised some teenagers, it took me and the boys—
Barbara: Here it comes! [Laughter]
Dennis: We actually got a Ryder rental truck. [Laughter]
Barbara: Now, you need to confess your sin because you are going so over the top! [Laughter] We put up one tree a year.
Dennis: But the point—
Barbara: We do not have that much.
Bob: And I’ve been to your home at Christmastime. There’s a little work that goes into transforming your home from a normal home to a Christmas home.
Barbara: Yes, there is a little work; yes.
Bob: And you do it joyfully every year?
Barbara: It was a joyful experience for the most part. I enjoyed doing it with my kids. I enjoyed participating with them and bringing them into the process, but we’re a normal family. We had squabbles over who got to put up the manger scene. We had squabbles over, you know, “It’s my turn to do this,” or, “…my turn to do that.” I remember the years that our boys were teenagers. They just—and I wanted everybody to participate.
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Barbara: I wanted this to be a group—family activity—you know, play the music, have the cookies—we decorate the tree together—
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Barbara: —and the boys sat over there, in a vegetative state, on the couch. They didn’t want to have anything to do with it. [Laughter] So, we went through lots of seasons.
Dennis: We generally started decorating the tree on an evening after dinner. I would say it took a couple hours. This is where I saw my wife really take great delight in creating something of beauty around Christmas—that really declared what Christmas was all about.
I can say—all the way back then, when we were raising our children—her creativity was coming out. She would kind of murmur under her breath—I bet she did this for 20 years—she said: “I just wish someone would create something about who Christmas is all about. We just don’t have the reason for Christmas at the center of what we’re decorating and what this is all about.”
Bob: So your ornaments on the tree, back then—were they snowmen, and Snoopy®, and all of that?
Barbara: We had some snowmen. We had some snowflakes, and we had some candy canes. We didn’t have Snoopy. We didn’t have football players, and we didn’t have a lot of the things that decorate trees today. We had a manger scene that was always in a very prominent place. We always—we read the Luke 2 Christmas story, but I wanted more than that. I wanted to have more ways to engage with my kids, at Christmas—more ways to teach them because holidays are such a great time.
They’re such a great teaching opportunity for families because kids sense—what I sensed as a child—there’s something really important about this holiday that we celebrate every year. They want to know what it is—they want to know what the basis is: “Why is this such an important event?” I think it’s a natural teaching time for moms and dads to impart truth about Christ to their kids at Christmas.
Dennis: Yes. One of the ways that Barbara really built tradition around Christmas is—there were always two gifts that she would give the kids—a great Christian book and also an ornament.
Dennis: She’d buy them and wrap them up and give them to the kids so she could hang them. When the kids grew up and had their own families, their ornaments—that they collected, all the way through childhood—went with them to their family tree.
Bob: Ah, yes! We have heard the stories. We’ve heard the legends of these ornaments being given to the children.
Rebecca: [Phone recording] That’s another thing that she would do. We all would get an ornament from her. Every year, at Christmas, we would all get an ornament. That was part of what we would open on Christmas Eve. We would hang it on the tree together—is our new ornament.
Everyone had kind of a theme with their ornaments. Mine was Santa Claus—I always got these little Santa Claus ornaments. Then, you would get some other things—that weren’t exactly your theme—but she kind of went with a theme for a while because I think she had to have some kind of plan for picking out that many ornaments every year. I have a ton of homemade ornaments. I think she spent all of her creative energy into the tradition portion of how we celebrate Christmas—“What do we do?”—you know, that kind of thing.
Laura: [Phone recording] Some of my fondest memories probably are the fact that my mom and dad would give us our own ornaments every Christmas Eve. We would always get to open a little something on Christmas Eve. It was an ornament for each of us to take with us someday, whenever we had our own homes and families, and could decorate the tree with these ornaments they had given us ever since we were born.
I have a collection of, you know, 28 ornaments that range from little teddy bears all the way to really beautiful, sparkly acorns—more fancy ornaments. That’s probably one of my most favorite memories.
Bob: Well, there you go. It seems like you were hitting home with, at least, a couple of your daughters.
Barbara: It sounds like it.
Bob: We heard from your daughter, Rebecca, and from your daughter, Laura, there; right?
Dennis: And, as I was talking about that, I didn’t know you had made those phone calls.
Barbara: Neither did I.
Bob: We snuck those into the studio! [Laughter]
Barbara: You sure did!
Dennis: Yes, but you can kind of hear that that’s part of building memories. I promise you—if we’d had what Barbara has now created, she would have figured out a way to have made each of these Adorenaments®—and there’s a play on words there of adoring Jesus Christ—of making them the gift that she passed on to the kids so the kids were reminded, not only of a great family tradition and of Barbara’s love for them, but also of the reason for the season.
Bob: Did you ever think about doing homemade ornaments for the kids and having them focused on who Jesus is since you couldn’t find them in the stores?
Barbara: I think, if I had thought of it and could have figured out a way to do it, I would have. I just looked—as I would go and buy the things that I bought—I was always looking for something that would be about Christ. I just never found them.
Bob: So, since the kids have been gone, and you’ve had a little extra time on your hands, you’ve come up with an idea for a collection of tree ornaments that—each year, you’re developing new ones—with the idea that there might be a tree, at some point in the future, that is nothing but the names of Jesus—titles for Jesus; right?
Barbara: That’s right. Originally, I just wanted to create a set of ornaments that families could put on their trees that would talk about who Jesus was.
Then, as I started doing the research and the study, there are some scholars who say there are as many as 300 names for Christ in the Bible. I just have a real burden that we, as believers, would celebrate Christmas in such a way that our homes and our families would proclaim the message of Christ—so that someone would walk into our home, for instance—and on our Christmas tree, there would be, maybe, 30 / maybe, 40 names of Christ—all different—all designed slightly differently.
The tree itself would proclaim a message. People—who don’t know Him—would come in, and maybe tilt their head, and get a quizzical look, and say: “Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me about those names.” It would be a way, not only to teach your children who Jesus is, but it would also be a way that we proclaim our faith to those who visit. I mean, most of us have parties. We have people over. It’s a very social time of the year—Christmas is. We need ways that we can proclaim our faith at Christmas.
Bob: Well, apparently, there are a number of folks who agree with you because last year, when you created your first set of seven Adorenaments—Christmas tree ornaments that are about Jesus—you picked names from Isaiah, Chapter 9—
Bob: —Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Barbara: Prince of Peace.
Bob: And then, you picked three names from Luke 2. What were those?
Barbara: Christ the Lord, Jesus, and Savior.
Bob: Again, we have the Christmas names available this year. We’ve gone back and done another run of those, but you’ve come up with seven new names.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: You call them the “Royal Names of Jesus”?
Barbara: That’s right. The second set, available this year, is His royal names. These are Jesus’ kingly names. We know He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords; but He is also the King of Israel. He is also the Son of David. He is also the Lion of Judah, and the Prince of princes. So, we’ve created a new set of Jesus’ names that are all in different shapes of crowns.
On the band of the crown is written each of those seven names. In addition, if you have the set from last year—that are His Christmas names—you can add to your collection, this year, His royal names—which are in the shape of a crown so that, hopefully, in the years to come, there will be a real complete picture of who Jesus is for us.
Dennis: Bob, there’s a little-known truth that I don’t think you even know. I actually contributed to this with my artistic abilities.
Barbara: He did, actually. I will verify that.
Dennis: I’m trying to find my contribution, here in the box—
Barbara: —King of Israel. Here, I’ll find it.
Bob: I think we left that one out of the box. [Laughter] We only went with the pretty ones.
Dennis: It is missing!
Barbara: How did you only get three in that box?!
Dennis: I don’t know what happened to that, but I want to show Bob my contribution. Barbara was designing these—and I have to tell you—she spent months designing these. I said, “On this one, it says, ‘King of Israel’.”
Notice what’s right there, in the middle, Bob.
Bob: The Star of David.
Dennis: The Star of David.
Bob: That was your idea?
Dennis: That was mine.
Barbara: It was his idea!
Dennis: I asked to be put on the box—
Bob: As a contributor?
Dennis: —as a contributor. [Laughter] And she didn’t want to do it!
Bob: Speaking of being a contributor—one of the things about all of this that you’re creating is that you want these Adorenaments, not only to make a contribution to homes across America, but you want the proceeds from Adorenaments to make a contribution, as well.
Barbara: That’s really right because something that’s really near and dear to my heart is the plight of orphans around the world. Dennis and I have talked often about orphans and about foster care. One of our children is adopted. So, we’ve had this desire and this passion for all of our lives.
As a part of what we’re creating through the Adorenaments with Ever Thine Home® is—a portion of the proceeds, from every sale, will go to support a ministry that works with orphaned children around the world.
Bob: So, if somebody buys a box of Adorenaments to give it as a gift or to use it for themselves, they’re really also making a contribution to the needs of orphans—
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: —from all around the world. We did have a chance, as you’ve already heard, to talk with your mom a little bit about Christmas, when you were a little girl. It was interesting—she shared about some of the traditions in your home. Here’s what Christmas was like, from her perspective, when you were growing up.
Barbara’s mother: [Phone recording] We did let the children—I think for three or four days before Christmas—we let them each open a package a day because, as I said, we got so many packages in the mail from my family. They were allowed to open one package a day. On Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story. For dinner, we had soup and cornbread—always on Christmas Eve—because that’s what I had, growing up. My mother always had soup and cornbread.
I’m sure it started out because it was easy with the big dinner on Christmas Day. That’s about all I think we did special. Try to get them to bed before Santa Claus came—was the biggest problem. [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, Bob, I looked at Barbara’s face. It completely lit up!
Barbara: It was just sweet to hear her talking about what we did, from her perspective because she did—we pestered her! My brothers and I pestered her: “Please can we open our present today? Please can we open our present today?” because we lived hundreds of miles from any of our nearest family. So, we always got this big box in the mail. It was just the biggest deal to get this box full of presents. We started begging, early on. She gave in, apparently. [Laughter]
Bob: She told us that you were something of a present hoarder yourself.
Barbara: Oh, yes, I did that, too. I confess.
Barbara’s mother: [Phone recording] We always had all of the packages under the tree. Of course, Santa Claus brought them, when they were small enough.
She had a brother a year-and-a-half younger than she was, and one six years younger, and another one twelve years younger. So, she always told her brothers what to do. At Christmas time, the packages were all handed out—one at a time. They were supposed to open them, one at a time, so we could all see what they got.
I had lots of aunts and uncles and relatives that sent them packages at Christmas. She always managed to just push hers behind her. When we were all finished opening packages, she had a big bunch left. The boys always thought that she got more than they did because she had a lot left over. [Laughter] She knew how to pack it away from her brothers alright.
Barbara: But it wasn’t because of that—it was because I didn’t want it to end. I wanted Christmas to last forever. I wanted to stretch it as long as I could stretch it so I would kind of put my stuff to the side. I just wanted to make it last forever. It wasn’t that I was trying to outdo anybody or I was trying to—that’s the whole reason. But I did do that because I wanted to make it last forever.
Dennis: Oh, yes, she did it! She still tries to do it, even now. [Laughter] I’ve watched her do it over the years.
Bob: Well, I’ll tell you, your mom is proud of you. She expressed a little of that to us as we talked to her.
Barbara’s mother: [Phone recording] I guess I would tell her how proud I am of her—of all the things that she has accomplished. Sometimes, you wonder how this child of yours can do the things that they can do. It’s really—it’s really amazing the things that she does. I appreciate it a lot, and I love her a lot. I’m proud of her—very proud of her.
Bob: That’s nice to hear; isn’t it?
Barbara: Yes, it’s very, very sweet.
Dennis: She’s a good woman—
Barbara: She is.
Dennis: —a great wife for over 63 years. She was a great mom, and grandmother, and a great, great grandmother to our 19—soon to be 20, by the way.
But I was just thinking about how names matter at Christmastime because when Jesus was born, that’s one of the first things that was declared. In Matthew, Chapter 1, it says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means God with us.”
Names matter because they tell us about the person that they represent. I think this is one of the coolest things we have every offered, in over 21 years here on FamilyLife Today, to help families truly pass on the truth about Jesus Christ to future generations.
Bob: I think folks are probably going to want to go see what these ornaments look like. Of course, to do that, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for the Adorenaments. Again, we have His Christmas names, which were released last year—and this year, His royal names—brand-new.
You can order, online, from us at FamilyLifeToday.com. You might want to consider getting sets of Adorenaments to give to friends or family members. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you find for Adorenaments to see all of the resources that Barbara has been working on and order sets of Adorenaments for your family.
You can also order by phone if you’d like. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Now, I know a lot of websites today are having cyber Monday specials. I think our team has put together some specials you may want to check out. Click on the link for “Cyber Monday” when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out some of the special offers we’re making—things that would be great Christmas gifts for your family. Check it out at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, if you have listened to FamilyLife Today for any length of time, you undoubtedly realize that we are, like most of the programs you hear on this station, listener-supported. It is folks, like you—who listen, who partner with us, and who make this daily radio program possible.
What you may not have realized is how significant the month of December is for ministries like ours. A significant portion of the donations that we receive each year come during the month of December as folks do end-of-the-year giving. We had some friends of FamilyLife who realized this and who wanted to provide some additional incentive to FamilyLife Today listeners to make an end-of-the-year contribution in 2013.
What they did was—they got together, and they agreed that—for every donation we receive from listeners during the month of December, they’re going to add a donation of their own—three times the amount of your donation.
So, if you were to make a donation of $25, they would donate an additional $75. We’d get $100 out of your $25 donation. They’ll do that, up to a total of $500,000 from FamilyLife Today listeners.
We’re pretty excited about that. We want to take full advantage of that matching-gift opportunity. So, what we’re asking every listener to consider doing, during the month of December, is make a year-end contribution to FamilyLife Today. Be as generous as you can be, realizing that any donation you make is going to be matched 3-to-1. If we hit our goal of half a million dollars from listeners, that means a total of two million dollars donated to FamilyLife Today.
If you would consider helping us out, can we ask you to go, right now, to FamilyLifeToday.com? Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online year-end donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. If you’d like to mail a check to us, our mailing address is FamilyLife Today, P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you’re able to do in support of FamilyLife Today. Please pray for us—that we would be able to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity, during the month of December.
We hope you’ll join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to continue our conversation about how to make Christmas more meaningful in your home. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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