Before we start this article and CHRISTmas series I want to let you know to look for a Top 10 CHRISTmas list at the end of each article!

As I begin this article my beautiful wife comes in the room and plugs in (or flips the switch) and on comes the CHRISTmas lights (you’ll notice I always spell CHRISTmas in this fashion on purpose).  As she does so she asks, “Does that help?”  Of course it does, so I give her a hearty, “YES!” 

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.  

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 at the end of this article and throughout this series!

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 down the stairs, we sadly sauntered down to offer 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-yr. 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.  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…last year I lost to a blow up Santa and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer display! I love it! 

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 the limited holiday staff, we were the only ones on the entire floor! 

As CHRISTmas Eve Day 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 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. Nicolas – 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 few 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 (Emmanuel – 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…just in recent years I’ve attended services of 2 families where a family member passed away in the weeks leading up to CHRISTmas – one was an 84 yrs. old wife, mom, grandmother and a life well-lived; one was a 37 year old young man (former player of mine) who’s life was seemingly snuffed out all too soon, leaving a wife and children…we can see it and live it out now and all year long because we have this prophecy and promise that came true on the First CHRISTmas…

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.                                                                                                              Isaiah 9:6

Now, before I go, here’s that Top 10 CHRISTmas list that I promised you:

Top CHRISTmas Movies

All-time Top 10 CHRISTmas movies…let us know your favorites/what we left out?

  1. A Christmas Carol – starring Alastair Sims (1951)
  2. The Nativity (2006)
  3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (animated, 1965)
  4. Miracle on 34th Street (both versions, 1947/1994)
  5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (animated, 1966)
  6. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  7. A Christmas Story (1983) – this one is for my wife!
  8. The Santa Clause Trilogy (1994, 2002, 2006…so I’m stretching the list a bit…warned you about me and CHRISTmas)
  9. Rudolph, The Red Nose Reindeer (animated, 1964)
  10.  Christmas Vacation (1989)
  11.  Elf (just so several friends won’t get mad at me!?!) (2003)

Make it a great day and a very Merry CHRISTmas in Christ!

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 and your family? 

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Take some time throughout this CHRISTmas season (and beyond) to choose a memory or tradition that impacts you think about whether you need to let go of it or hold onto it in order to experience the love, joy and peace of CHRIST that is CHRISTmas.