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Memorable Christmases

On this day, Christmas Day 2020, my mind has been reviewing Christmases past, from my childhood through adulthood and into senior-citizenhood. (I think that's a word. If not, I just made it one!)

As a youngster, of course, my primary focus was on the gifts I might get. There were various family traditions, such as our Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange with my paternal grandparents. There were church cantatas, in which I usually had a part. For example, I lost count of the number of times that Steve Rule, Jimmy Blizzard, and I sang "We Three Kings" in the programs.

I also have a lot of memories from childhood of Christmas music playing everywhere. In our home. In the stores. On the radio. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Silver Bells," "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," etc. Mother was fond of reminding me about her behavior expectations by singing, "You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry, you'd better not pout, I'm telling you why--Santa Claus is coming to town!"

But ultimately, the highlight was the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning, and their nature changed as I got older.

My earliest gift memory was the year I received a cowboy outfit--hat, fancy black-and-red fringed shirt, gun belt and holsters, and twin pearl-handled six-shooters. A few years later, it was my first bicycle--the one that I first saw when I snooped, peeking into that mysterious narrow cardboard box in the basement several days before I was supposed to see it. (It was a narrow box because the handle bar was not yet attached.) The Christmas before I went to college, it was a Royal manual typewriter. How I loved that machine! I wish I still had it. Especially when I have frustrating computer problems.

Not all Christmases were so happy. One year, we kids pressured our parents into letting us open "just one gift" on Christmas Eve. Except for gifts from our grandparents, we never opened any gifts from our parents or each other on Christmas Eve. Those were all reserved for Christmas morning. But that year, "just one gift" became "just one more," and "just one more," and so on, until all our gifts were opened. On Christmas morning, we had nothing under the tree but empty boxes and a mess of torn wrapping paper. Mother cried. I'll never forget how sad we felt that day.

When I became a married adult, things changed even more. I remember learning an important life lesson when I bought a special (and I thought expensive and imaginative) gift for my wife for our first Christmas as a married couple. I beamed as she opened that vacuum cleaner, but my smile turned to embarrassment when I saw her face. Let's just say it wasn't filled with the exuberant joy of the season. I recall seeing the excitement and joy on our children's faces over the next several years, though, as we grew our family. (I now get to experience the same reactions on my grandchildren's faces.)

But as I had learned as a youngster, not all Christmases are all happiness and joy. I recall the year that I returned for the holiday during my freshman year of college. Just days before that Christmas, my maternal grandfather died of a massive heart attack. Years later, my sister had just returned home for the holidays during her senior year of college, and she was driving Mother and Daddy to church for their cantata. A drunk driver topped a hill at high speed and hit them head-on. Mother died a few days later, just before Christmas.

The most memorable Christmases vary for each person, but the truly most memorable Christmas of all time occurred about 2,020 years ago in Bethlehem, when "the word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). His name was Jesus, Immanuel, "God with us" (Matt. 1:23). But more important than His birthday was His purpose for coming: "He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:29). He accomplished that by substitutionary (for you and me) death on the Cross and His resurrection from the tomb. He is now preparing an eternal habitation for all who believe on Him (John 14:2). And He's coming again--soon!

Are you ready?

This message is the whole reason for our Christmas celebrations. As the holiday saying goes, it's the "reason for the season."

I hope you know Him and therefore have a truly merry Christmas. If not, you can by seeking Him. After all, wise men still do.

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