Christmas is Family Time

Christmas as a family time may be traced back to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story is that Augustus Caesar decreed that all the world should register for a census at their ancestral homes. The young woman who was betrothed to Joseph was pregnant. So, Joseph placed her on a donkey to travel to King David’s home, Bethlehem of Judea.  At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Mary and Joseph’s son in Bethlehem.

IMG_0351Recently My Joy and I were guests of a family with international roots and branches.  The grandfather had a machine shop in Canada.  Now some of the grand children  came from Australia through Ontario to Goshen.  It is a family of  engineers and musicians.

image0If a census required me to return to my ancestral roots it would take me back through time to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and the people pictured on the left.

(This picture and next are from old albums. I apologize for the poor  quality.  Most  people on them are deceased. Click on the pictures and they will enlarge to a slide show.)

The picture above was taken in 1903. My maternal Grandfather, Jacob A. Martin, is the gentleman seated with his third wife on his left.  His thirteen children were born of his first two wives.

My mother is the little girl in the front row seated second from the right. Notice that none of the young women are wearing prayer head coverings. My grandfather was a deacon and did not believe in Sunday Schools for the Mennonite church.  So my mother’s older sisters and brothers never became members of  the Mennonite Church.

IMG_0360The family gathered again in 1926-7 for the picture on the right.  The passing 23+ years had made changes. By this time the grandfather was deceased and my mother was married.  Standing in the middle of the back row is a woman holding a baby wearing a white cap. That woman is my mother and I am the baby. (Click on picture to enlarge it.)

Notice that in this picture some of the women are wearing prayer head coverings, a sign that they had become members of the Mennonite Church.

Under the influence of the father of his second wife who was also a deacon, my grandfather Martin was persuaded to drop his opposition to Sunday School.  Hence most of his younger children became members of the Mennonite Church.  In spite of obvious differences, this family continues to have regular reunions.  And the descendants continue to make changes in their faith and lifestyle. We should tell our children that change is a gift to the church.

I remember Lehman family reunions. The brothers and brothers-in-law vied in their ability to churn a special flavor of homemade ice cream.  Unfortunately, after grandfather Lehman died  the family  discontinued regular reunions. I don’t know of any pictures taken at Lehman family reunions.  Perhaps a cousin who reads this post has such a family picture and can share it with me.

J. Irvin & Ruth Lehman; Walter and Ada LehmanHere is a picture of my father and mother and one of his brothers and his wife. My parents, J. Irvin and Ruth Lehman, are standing.  Seated are Uncle Walter and Aunt Ada Grace Lehman, the parents of Ada Grace and the other eleven children they parented.  Uncle Walter farmed the land owned by his father, my grandfather, and where he raised his ten children.

This is a time to explore and enjoy the myths of the season, but also to get out old family albums and tell  our children and grand children the stories of their ancestors and the gifts they have given them.


About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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5 Responses to Christmas is Family Time

  1. Irene Bechler says:

    We, too, enjoy family pictures, and remember, during this season especially. Interestingly, I have many pictures of my father’s parents and family, and none of my maternal grandparents. We do have pictures of their children and grandchildren. A Joyous Christmas to you and your family, Martin.
    I wonder if years from now our “stories” will become “myths”.

    • If our stories can’t be documented I suppose they might rightly be considered mythical in nature. I think Lee Roy did good work in putting his journey, and yours, in print and documenting it. The temperature here was 4 degrees above zero during the early morning hours. The ground was dusted with snow during the night, and the last I looked there was snow in the air. – Martin

  2. Wilmer says:


    I have some pictures from 2 Lehman family reunions. One was in the barn at Vern’s in 1967 and the other was at the Light House in 1980. I will try to get some copies made for you.

    • Martin says:

      In both 1967 and 1980 I was in Florida so I am sure I am not on the pictures you have. I will appreciate copies because I would like to see others of our family. You and I have connections to both the Martin and Lehman families as you are happily aware.

  3. Miriam Burkholder says:

    Enjoyed seeing the old photos…and the picture of my grandparents Walter & Ada with your parents. I recall visiting great Uncle J Irvin’s in their Menno Haven cottage with my mother Ada Grace Burkholder. I enjoyed their little green house they had there… with their plants. Thank you for your weaving old stories with new! Blessings!

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