I was driving to work this December and barely paying attention to the radio station when the DJ asked a simple question, “What are your strongest memories of Christmas?” Before I could consider my answer, two things popped into my head; 1) The year my father declared on Christmas Eve that he was cancelling Christmas and 2) Going to see the movie Misery, on Christmas day. The Misery movie was nothing more than a bad decision. I remember leaving the theater drained of any Christmas spirit. I made a mental note that going to the movies was probably not the best use of precious Christmas hours, maybe a game of scrabble or twister next year. As for my Dad cancelling Christmas, my Dad had it with the behavior of us kids leading up to Christmas and made this declaration out of pure frustration. The thought of not getting presents or a holiday ham was devastating and had an immediate effect on us kids. The dramatic behavior turn around resulted in my Dad reversing his decision. I’m pretty certain my mother helped persuade this reversal.
Back in the car, I was immediately disappointed that these were my strongest Christmas memories. “Wait!” I yelled, “I want a do-over, those can’t be the things I most remember about Christmas!” Actually, while these may be the strongest memories, they are clearly not my fondest memories. I love Christmas. I’m the guy who puts up his Christmas lights in early November while blaring Christmas carols on the radio. My wife pleads with me not to turn on the lights until after Thanksgiving! My fondest Christmas memories include; traveling as a young kid with my family on the Amtrak train from Maryland to Florida to spend Christmas in Disneyworld, organizing my co-workers to deliver presents and all the ingredients for Christmas dinner to family in need when we lived in Arizona, and Christmas 2010 when all our kids still lived at home and my parents came to spend Christmas with us two weeks after we moved into our new house in Colorado. When I stop and think about it, every Christmas has brought fond memories of family time and being amazed by the wonderful gift of salvation that was given to us some 2,000 years ago.
This year I will experience my 50th Christmas. These past 49 events have taught me that Christmas really comes down to two important things. The first being family. Mary and Joseph were away from their home, a warm bed, and extended family & friends that first Christmas. They spent that day in a barn, without heat, and delivered their first born with no medical resources or fresh linens in which to wrap their baby boy. But they were together as a family. This was the savior of the world, yet he entered this world in the most humble of ways. At his birth, Jesus was placed in a manger, with just his mother and earthly father there with him. The most significant moment in human history emphasized the importance of family.
The second is the gift of giving. I first learned the joy of giving one Christmas when my mother decided to give away our electric keyboard to a troubled teen named Quinten. Quinten was living at a place called Boys Village near our home in Maryland. He came from a broken family and was essentially living on the street before he made his way into the legal system. My parents opened our home to Quinten and he spent weekends with us. The keyboard was something that we all enjoyed playing with and learning about music. I remember being less than happy when I discovered that my mother was giving this treasured possession away. I sat with my arms cross as Quinten opened his gift that Christmas morning. I watched as his face lit up and he asked with disbelief, “is this really mine?” He spent the next several hours playing his new keyboard. I realized how much more that keyboard meant to him than it could ever mean to me. I learned that day the awesome feeling of giving (thanks Mom).
The birth of Christ represents both the importance of family and the gift of salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God welcomes us into his heavenly family through the gift of his son. We only need to accept this gift. He expects nothing more in return. And what an awesome gift. Like my siblings and me that Christmas Eve, we are not deserving of this gift of salvation, yet it is freely given, with love, from our Father in heaven. Little did I realize that Christmas Eve, but Christmas cannot be cancelled. We can take back the gifts, throw away the tree, and put the meal back in the fridge, but the gift of salvation, the true gift of Christmas remains. It is ours for the taking, we merely need to accept it.
I pray that the peace and joy of Christmas fills your home this Christmas. Thank you for visiting my blog, I am grateful for all your comments and support this past year. Sharing my experiences and reading about yours has allowed me to grow this year and I have enjoyed building this community of readers.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)