Monday, December 24, 2012

My Simple Christmas Message To You...

I remember Christmas when I was a child.  Being the son of a Baptist minister we were in church on Christmas Eve every year.  When we got home, sometimes we would open presents on Christmas Eve, sometimes we’d wait until Christmas morning.  If Christmas Day happened to fall on a Sunday we always got to open our presents the night before because we would be in church first thing Sunday morning.

When we were little our parents would send us five kids to one of the upstairs bedrooms for a little while so “Santa could come”.  They did try to keep the story alive as long as possible but having four older siblings, I can’t really remember a time when I actually believed there was a real Santa because there was just something wrong with it.  I’m not sure I could tell you what that was (and I don’t remember any of my siblings flat out telling me the truth) but I was always happy that there were going to be presents, regardless of where they came from!

Whether we opened presents on Christmas Eve or waited until Christmas morning we, as a family, always read the Christmas story from one of the gospels before the presents were handed out.  We took turns every year, usually with one of the younger kids volunteering because it made us feel big.  And it didn’t matter if we had just come from a Christmas Eve service at the church – we read the gospel anyway.  It was a tradition that lasted until most of us were gone from home.  It was a good tradition.

One of us would volunteer to be “Santa” and pass out the presents to everyone.  Having a total of seven people in the family meant lots of presents, even if they weren’t all very fancy.  (My dad worked hard but he wasn’t wealthy by any means.  It was amazing he could feed five kids.)  Each of us got a pair of new shoes and usually at least one gift that we asked for, as long as it was affordable.  My dad’s parents gave each of us a new $20 bill every year and my aunt and uncle on my mother’s side gave us each a box of assorted chocolates.  I guess it was just easier for them to do that.  But we always looked forward to both gifts because they were ours and we didn’t have to share.

Back then it was quite common to have snow for Christmas.  In fact, when I lived in West Virginia (until I was 9) we always had plenty of snow.  One year I got a new sled – the kind with the wooden deck and the metal runners.  My brother showed me how to sand the paint off the runners and wax them to make it faster.  There was a hill at the end of our street that ended in a creek and another on the other side of the creek that had a path which wound through the woods until you got to the water.  Once in a while they would close off one of the streets a few blocks from home that was a good sized hill and we’d go sledding down the snow packed street.  It was great fun!

Mostly what I remember about those Christmases is the family celebration.  We’d have our own Christmas then visit our grandparents in two different cities in West Virginia while we were all out of school.  I remember it as a great family time, full of love, God and the joy of the season.

Of course, when I had a child of my own I became Santa (and I became an elf because it seemed everything Christopher wanted had to be put together…!)  I actually miss that part and would like to go back just once.  But life goes on.

So on this Christmas Eve of 2012, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas filled with the love and joy of Christmases past, when life was simpler and being happy about the birth of Jesus was the reason for that joy.  If you’re not a believer, I wish you the same joy but doubt you’ll experience it as the rest of us do.  Christmas is about the celebration of Jesus Christ and the love He gives to each of us.  It’s about the love of family and good friends.  Christmas is about love.  May that love effect each and every one of you in its own way. 

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