by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Our gathering almost didn’t happen. Full agendas and busy schedules were dictating the days ahead. The Christmas season can be that way. Countless parties, invitations and things to get accomplished leave little room for adding anything else to our calendar.

How many times have you said, “We’ve got to get together sometime?” But that time never happens. And we have good reasons, too. There are just not enough days in the month of December to do everything we wish we could.

It was at the glowing insistence of a little child that we moms compared calendars and schedules to see if we could find a day that would work for our little get together. We found one day that was more-or-less “open” for both our families, and it was in fact the very next evening. So we said, “Let’s do it!” And after some quick planning for an easy meal, our evening soon arrived.

We decided we would share a favorite story, poem or passage in addition to singing holiday favorites.

I selected a book I’d bought some years ago and had not read in a long time. It was titled, “A memory of Christmas tea” written by Tom Hegg. It’s a sweet story with a lesson I needed to hear.

We learn in the story that the heroine had received a great aunt’s Christmas china, and each year the niece displayed the china along with her other Christmas décor. But the china was given with a condition — that the niece share a cup of Christmas tea with someone else in the same way her great aunt had shared with her for many years.

This was a promise she had not kept with anyone. She had many reasons — excuses — that leapt to her mind. “Not enough time” pretty much sums up her list!

The niece recounts what sharing a cup of Christmas tea with her great aunt was like. Apparently, when this aunt sat down at tea, the niece had her undivided and complete attention. She listened to and lovingly encouraged her niece. And the niece felt the love and high expectations her great aunt had for her. Time seemed to magically stand still when the two of them shared a cup of Christmas tea.

Needless to say, the story has a happy conclusion. One evening while the niece is alone in her house with a stack of work brought home from the office, someone knocks at her door. And soon she fulfills her Christmas promise to her great aunt and shares a cup of Christmas tea with a guest. Forgetting about all she had to do, she soon gave her guest her full attention and said, “All I knew of time was that the time was ours to share.”

After reading the story, I was grateful for the reminder to slow down and focus on what is most important in our lives.

We didn’t share tea with our friends, but we did have eggnog. And time did magically stand still while we enjoyed every minute of our evening together — with no thought of anything else. And all we knew of time was that the time was ours to share with some very dear friends.

Time spent with family and friends is truly the best gift we can give and receive. The blessings and benefits last a lifetime. So make the time, my friends. Nothing is as important, precious and memorable as moments shared with those we hold dear. And there is no better time to be together than the present.