With so many changes we experienced this year, Christmas almost snuck up on us. To be honest, we had fair warning that the holidays were approaching, first with our trip to Log Cabin Village, then with the lighting of the TCU Christmas tree, but the craziness of finals week and end-of-semester duties caused us to take our eye off the ball for just a second. The next thing I knew, my parents and MaMa were arriving and we had not done the majority of our Christmas shopping. In typical fashion, we rallied and got all of it done with time to spare, and we even managed to attend a few more Christmas festivities. Whether it was watching The Littlest Wiseman at the William Edrington Scott Theatre in Fort Worth, going to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags over Texas, attending multiple Christmas parties or watching The Polar Express at the IMAX Theater, there was still plenty of Christmas Spirit to go around in the Alexander home.

This Christmas we primarily stayed in Fort Worth, with a few side trips to the Gooch Farm, Christmas Eve at Granny and Granddad's, and a day trip to Granbury with GiGi and PawPaw. We also traveled to Bowie to see some friends, stopped in to see Big Daddy, and got to celebrate New Year's Day at Aunt Betsy's house with the Kelly's. It seemed as if every day brought a new adventure with someone who is special to us. We were especially glad to have GiGi and PawPaw with us for an extended stay, including Christmas Day.

Speaking of Christmas Day, I am happy to report that we made it another year without getting any coal in our stockings. Sam and Nate must have been pretty good this year (which they were, I can attest) because they made out like bandits. They got Razor Scooters, real Legos and a cool firehouse from Santa. They also got real digital cameras from GiGi and PawPaw and working walkie-talkies from Gina and me. There were several other cool gifts in the mix, but I better show some restraint before anyone starts to think the boys might be spoiled. Sam and Nate even got into the Christmas Spirit by buying their own gifts for the first time with their own money! Gina and I have started letting the boys earn money by doing different things, and they used part of their earnings to buy gifts for each other, GiGi and PawPaw and their parents. I have to say, they did really well and were very thoughtful in their selections. Buying gifts and watching people open them is a lot of fun, and honestly, I enjoy it a lot more than opening presents. Then I again, I haven't opened the keys to a BMW or Corvette yet, which I assume is way better than giving gifts.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the thing we love most about Christmas, which is Jesus. With so many distractions and activities and shiny new things to wrap, it's easy to forget the reason we celebrate in the first place. In a small town in Israel, a man and his young bride traveled to take part in the required census. The woman was pregnant, and Joseph, the man, could not find a suitable place for them to stay for the night. So, the inn keeper agreed to let them sleep in the stable with the animals. Mary, the young woman, gave birth right there in the barn to a baby boy she named Jesus. This was no ordinary night, and he was no ordinary baby. He had been prophesied for hundreds of years, since the beginning of time, really. The plight of man is a sinful nature which cannot be reformed, cured, rectified, or ignored. Jesus entered the world as all humans do, lived among us, and eventually died to remove the sins of the world. His salvation is offered to anyone who accepts it in faith. He died so that we could live. It all began in that lonesome barn tucked away somewhere behind a crowded inn. While the Romans counted people, Mary counted tiny fingers and toes. As clerks listened to men state their names and those in their household, Mary listened for cries and whimpers. As Caesar took inventory of his dominion, a new Kingdom was quietly established. An everlasting Kingdom established by a King who wants nothing more than your heart and your desire to follow Him no matter what. It's humbling, really, to consider how all of this started and what it really means.

Of course, we have hundreds of pictures from the holidays this year. Gina, the official Alexander photographer, makes sure of that. Of course, Sam and Nate have started taking their won pictures, which you will notice from their distinct lack of focus. You can see the photos in our December 2012 album, but I'll warn you, there are a lot of them. Then again, there should be a lot of photos because we are blessed in a lot of ways. I think Sam and Nate agree ...