The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Before we start this article and CHRISTmas series I want to let you know to look for a Top CHRISTmas list at the end of each article leading up to CHRISTmas!
As I prepare this article I’m listening to Classical CHRISTmas music and I’m reminded each evening when I come home that Ami, my wife, nearly always has the CHRISTmas lights on. She usually asks me if I like it that they’re on when I arrive home to which I always heartily answer, “Absolutely!” Because I really do!
Don’t know about you but I have great CHRISTmas memories…Early on it’s always been about the lights, decorations and trees (which were always live as I didn’t know they had fake trees when I was growing up). Even if we’d known about fake trees, we likely couldn’t afford them, which probably helped fuel my “obsession” with real trees to this day…that and the awesome smell…even though it’s getting harder to afford those!?!
Most importantly, my greatest memories every year always draw me back to the Nativity, the angels, the shepherds, the manger and the Biblical account of CHRIST’s Advent, His coming to earth in the form of a helpless Baby ultimately to save us! More on that throughout this series!
Memory #1 – CHRISTmas? A Bundle of Switches and a Lump of Coal
Many memories of CHRISTmas flood my mind and fill my heart but there are 2 specific CHRISTmas memories that push to the forefront of my thoughts as I begin this series. The first is one that hopefully few but likely many can relate to…I was 7 years old, my brother, 5, and sister, 3. We came running, and I was jumping, down 10 steps at a time not even worried I might go right through the front door. I remember we’d not been, let’s just say, particularly good that year and sure enough, as promised, Santa had us on the “Naughty List.” He left us each a bundle of switches under the tree and a lump of coal in our stockings hung on the fireplace mantle.
What?!? Was it really true that Santa Claus would leave these “gifts” to children that were disobedient and maybe even a little defiant? Yes He would.
After my parents made us go to our rooms to think about it and making sure that our tears and remorse were real, they called us back downstairs. Much more slowly than our earlier pace, we sadly sauntered down to offer heartfelt apologies. To our childish delight, presents had magically appeared and our stockings were full! I remember getting a Big Wheel that year – what better gift is there for a 7-year old boy!?! My brother and I wore out the heavy duty plastic wheels before the next summer was over! How could I ever forget that CHRISTmas or the related lessons?
Year after year, no matter how difficult, CHRISTmas was always special and I have nothing but wonderful memories of the season. Sadly, I know that’s not true for everyone and maybe that’s why my wife and kids think I go just a little overboard each year but I love everything about it!
I like to be first on my street, if not neighborhood, with lights and tree up! Sad, but can’t help it. Even more sadly I must admit in full disclosure…a couple years ago I lost to a blow up Santa and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer display! I love it!
Memory #2 – Our First Family CHRISTmas…spent in a Hospital
The second vivid recollection was the year our first child was born. He was born on December 21 and the plan was to be home by CHRISTmas Eve and celebrate our first CHRISTmas as a family. I had decorated the house prior to heading to the hospital. The team I was coaching at the time had given us a white rocking chair for the occasion and I had come home on the last day of practice before CHRISTmas break and fallen asleep on my wife’s pregnant lap.
A couple of hours later she awakened me and said, “It’s time!” I helped her into the already packed car and we headed to the hospital. From the moment we arrived we should have known it was going to be memorable. It was all worth it as I held our son while my wife slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
The doctor came in the next morning and said they would need to place our son “under the lights” in order to help him overcome the jaundice (infection) that he had. He was placed in isolation on December 23 and was there for 3 full days.
There went our “perfect” CHRISTmas plans in our new home with our first child. We ended up staying on the top floor of the hospital, which had been converted into a “hotel” type setting for just such occasions to accommodate the family of patients that needed to stay under hospital care.
To exacerbate the situation, except for a limited holiday staff, we were the only ones on the entire floor!
As CHRISTmas Eve rolled around, my wife (neither of us had been able to hold our newborn since the first few hours after his birth) became understandably dejected and tearfully expressed, “This is not how I envisioned our first CHRISTmas as a family to be.”
I truly believe The Holy Spirit gave me my next idea. I went to the greatly reduced holiday staff on the floor and asked if I could gather any/all CHRISTmas decorations on the floor (except for those at their workstation) and put them in our room? They gladly consented and I grabbed a couple fake trees (maybe the only time ever?!?), garland and lights and every other CHRISTmas décor that I could find and brought them into our room. It was beautiful and right on queue, as we looked out our window, God blessed us with a snowfall that glistened through all the lights as we looked out over the city from our seventh floor room.
I called our families and they sacrificially but excitedly agreed to bring all the gifts, food and trimmings the next day…CHRISTmas Day…to celebrate with us in the little hospital/”hotel” room! It was magical, except that we couldn’t hold our son…
Until 2 days later when he was released in good health and we took him home! The evening of December 27, I sat rocking my son in our brand new white rocking chair right next to the CHRISTmas tree as his eyes locked in, literally, for minutes at a time on the twinkling lights on that tree! Tears ran down my face as I thanked God for CHRISTmas and His greatest gift as I sat rocking a very similar gift in my arms.
For these memories (the good and the bad) and all the others, I choose to see everything…time with our families, the lights, trees, decorations, food, stories (even Santa and all related stories – St. Nicholas – real life ‘St. Nick’), my CHRISTmas ties, the music (love it) and every memory in light of The Spirit of CHRISTmas and the real reason for it…CHRIST…God With Us. I encourage you to consider doing the same thing, no matter what past experiences or memories hold.
The Greatest CHRISTmas Memory and Gift
How do you choose to see CHRISTmas and how does it affect you and your family?
The Greatest Memory and Gift of course is that CHRISTmas is CHRIST! That’s what we’re going to unpack in some unique ways over the next two weeks leading up to that most wonderful of Holidays in which we received the Greatest Gift of all – Jesus – God as a Baby in a manger…God in the flesh! After all, that’s what it’s really all about – God dwelling with us, making a way through His Son (Immanuel – God With Us) and His Spirit (abiding in us) – this is CHRISTmas and if we choose we will see it all around us throughout the season and beyond, even in the tough times.
This CHRISTmas is one of the most difficult and even while I’m sad it only heightens the meaning and Joy of CHRISTmas. In the last four months two dear and precious family members passed away – one was my 80 year old Mom and grandmother to my children and nephew. Her final days were full of Joy because she knew Christ had made a way for her and she had fully accepted this Babe in a Manger as her Savior and Lord. I know where she is and I will see her again some day because Jesus came! The other was my wife, Ami’s, stepfather who passed away very peaceably at the age of 89 after two to three years of gradual decline. We are assured both at this season and all year long because the prophecy and promise that came true on that First CHRISTmas… Matthew 1:21-23
Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – What are your favorite CHRISTmas memories? Which memories are not so pleasant? How have you chosen to view the memories and how has that affected you, your faith and your family?
Love and Lordship…Action Item(s) –
- Read the Scriptures in this article and ask The Holy Spirit to teach you.
- Journal how your CHRISTmas past has impacted your CHRISTmas present.
- What will you choose to do with the memories or feelings that bring you down?
- List some things you can do to experience the Love, Joy and Peace of Christ this CHRISTmas for you and your family. Follow through even when it’s not easy.
All-time Top 6 CHRISTmas movies…let us know your favorites/what we left out?
- The Nativity (2006) – brings the True story to life!
- A Christmas Carol – starring Alastair Sims (1951) – how Christ changes lives!
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (animated, 1965) – The True story read on TV!
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – the difference one life can make!
- Miracle on 34th Street (both versions, 1947/1994) – the need for Faith!
- How The Grinch Stole Christmas (animated, 1966, 2018) – really about loving each other!
Bonus: I highly recommend you take 24 minutes to watch The Chosen’s “The Shepherd – The story of the First Christmas.” See it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paOjgZZDads&t=13s. You will be blessed!
Make it a great CHRISTmas season with family and loved ones in and for The Lord and God bless in Christ (Isaiah 9:6)!