During this season, we are featuring holiday memories from some of our staff women and pastor’s wives, along with their favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Deep, dark, frozen Alaskan winters huddled around the kitchen table. Only the light of Advent candles flickering while we sang Christmas carols before bed. Knowing every verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by heart by the time I was nine or ten. These images flood my mind when I think of holiday memories that are special to me. Though all of my family members were just baby Christians at that time, I know now my mom was doing her best to help us prepare our hearts for the truest meaning of Christmas.

Fast-forward 20 years or so to cozy nights in Plainview as a young mother myself. Two precious, expectant little boy-faces bathed in candlelight, mostly excited to practice lighting the matches by themselves, of course! Also bathed in candlelight: one older, wiser, more hairy face which was probably just a little less expectant to go along with all my annual attempts to create these beautiful nightly Christmas rituals!! I have to laugh at myself because I was a classic at dreaming up all kinds of great family-enrichment activities and then pressuring Greg to lead them all!

I’m pretty sure our whole family’s very favorite years were the ones when we read a nightly Christmas family devotion called Jotham’s Journey. A young Jewish boy at the time Jesus was born gets caught up in suspenseful and meaningful encounters near Bethlehem. Each day’s story incorporates a Scripture and a spiritual truth to discuss. Plus, if I remember right, the author, Arnold Ytreeide, does a great job of leaving you on a cliff-hanger from day to day so your kids (and may I add, your husband) begs for the next night. That did not happen with all of my motherly schemes, trust me. But that one worked out pretty well (and subsequent books were later added to the series!). You could still bring up Jotham to this day with my grown sons Levi and Luke, and they will know exactly what you’re talking about.

One way or another—over years of burning candles and Advent prayers and mugs of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows and twinkly lights and Christmas carols and late bedtimes and reading stories and footie pajamas—we carved the holy meaning of Jesus’ birth and God’s heart for redeeming the world into the hearts and minds of another generation of merrymakers. I’m forever grateful.

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Cranberry Nut Bread
Out of Alaska’s Kitchens, 1961

2 cups wild Alaskan cranberries, picked in empty coffee cans with your family while one of you watches frantically for bears
OR, alternately, Walmart cranberries, cut in half

1 egg, unbeaten
⅓ cup orange juice
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 cups flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 ¾ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. grated orange rind
¾ cups nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine egg, orange juice, and water. Stir in melted butter. Sift together all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda). Make a well in center and add liquid mixture all at once. Stir only enough to moisten all. Add cranberries, orange rind, and nuts. Pour into large greased bread pan and bake for 70 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

My mom likes to use 3 smaller loaf pans or a 13×9 baking dish, which turns out more like a coffee cake. Adjust baking time shorter.

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Jill Brown has a high value for imparting the values of the Kingdom to the next generation. She is mom to Levi and Luke, and the wife of Greg, one of the elders of Harvest Christian Fellowship.