Christmas cookies are quintessential of Christmas, more than any other dish, I would guess. Everyone has their own recipes and beliefs about what makes something a “Christmas” cookie. You will never be able to convince me that a chocolate chip cookie is a Christmas cookie. I don’t care what you say, it isn’t and never will be. But that’s part of how I was raised– Christmas cookies were cookies that you only had at Christmastime and they were special in that way. Many had nuts and lots of spices, not chocolate or peanut butter or even raisins.
Even though December 25th has passed, today I am sharing with you our family’s recipe for Walnut Crescents, my mother’s answer to her mother’s Mexican Wedding Cookies. My husband earned huge points with Mom when he announced that they were his favorite of my cookies (they are also her favorite and frequently the last to disappear). I’m sharing these particular cookies with you for a specific reason– these cookies are a memorial, a celebration. They became a part of our Christmas tradition in order to remember Christmases past and the mother that made them worth remembering. In a way, they are a lasting ebenezer for our Christmas season.
3 3/4 c flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c margarine
3/4 c light corn syrup
1 Tbs vanilla
2 1/4 c ground walnuts
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
- Beat together margarine, corn syrup and vanilla. Stir in flour, cinnamon and walnuts.
- Cover and chill for about 3 hours.
- By the teaspoonful, shape dough into 2″ long rolls, shaping into crescents and arrange on baking sheet . (These cookies spread very little.)
- Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.
- Allow to cool, then roll in powdered sugar.
You probably just read that sentence and got lost. Let me explain.
First, what is an ebenezer? No, I’m not referring to Ebenezer Scrooge, the redeemed miser of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. An ebenezer, from the Hebrew, means ‘a stone of help’. They were erected by the Israelites to memorialize important occasions of God’s assistance (1 Samuel 7:12). The whole point was to identify, celebrate and remind his people of the goodness of God and everything that He has done for us thus far. Similarly, God commanded his people to annually celebrate certain events in their history, such as Purim (Esther) and Passover (Exodus), so that they would not forget what God had done for them. In this way, the Israelites were regularly reminded of God’s impact on their lives, helping them to grow in thankfulness, trust and faithfulness.
The practice of truly celebrating and remembering the events of the past is fairly lost on our culture. The closest we really do for this is celebrating wedding anniversaries, which are also frequently forgotten or minimized. We have lost the skill of memorializing. Perhaps we never truly had it. But we need it.
All too frequently, we find ourselves wondering ‘where is God in all of this?’ That’s an easy question to ask when things are tough and it feels like you’re starring in a 21st-century remake of Job. But setting up ebenezers through our lives allows us to move past this question, reminding us of his presence in our lives in the past, encouraging our faith in his current and omnipresence. We are also less prone to ask this question when we are regularly faced with the reality of our assistance when we aren’t struggling. We can entrench these truths, this evidence, into our hearts and minds and then, when we are struggling, the truth doesn’t seem quite so far away.
Now, I don’t write this to imply that making a certain Christmas cookie once a year will keep you from ever doubting God’s presence. Certainly not. David wrote psalms as ebenezers, but even he wrote “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22) But yet, we know that God will never forsake us. That’s not what he does. He stands beside us even when we cannot sense his presence. On the contrary, we are to “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
Unfortunately, we are forgetful, unfaithful, broken humans who never seem to remember the depth of love our Heavenly Father has for us.
Fortunately, our Heavenly Father is none of these things. On the contrary, Jesus said, “all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) If you are a confessing Christian who has asked Jesus into your heart, he will never cast you out. That is his commitment to you. So now it is your turn to remember his commitment to you.
This new year, establish an ebenezer. It could be in the form of a physical sign or stone that you keep in your home, a book or scripture that you read or recite regularly, a meal or dish that you make with distinct purpose every month or every year. Do something real and intentional to commemorate what God has done in your life. Create something visible to remind yourself of just how far he has brought you. Establish something habitual to ground you into the truth of his word and the truth of his love.
Here I raise my ebenezer; hither by thine help I’m come. And I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God. He, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood. – Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Robert Robinson, 1757)