As we get older, hindsight truly is 20/20; I guess because the road already traveled is longer than the one ahead…and filled with memories. I remember waking up on Christmas morning and reaching for the bag of goodies Mama had given me the night before. Inside was an apple, an orange, pecans, walnuts, peanuts and, best of all…candy. These treats would last the better part of the next week.
I never paid too much attention to stories about Santa and his reindeer, to me it was always just a story… like all the other ones found inside books and shown on TV. Christmas was special because we spent happy times together: decorating a tree and wrapping presents…the most fun of all…then waiting for the day when we could find out what was inside.
Christmas Eve was spent helping Mama bake pies and cakes then looking forward to the rest of the family arriving for the evening meal and gift exchange. By the time I was eight years old, there were only four of us nine kids still at home, as the other five had gotten married and started families of their own. Before long, there were a dozen nieces and nephews added to our already-large family…and we loved being all together.
As I said, we celebrated on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day the ones without in-laws to visit, (my oldest brother and oldest sister) and their kids would come back for Christmas dinner and a day of visiting.
The year I turned 17, in 1966, I learned the true meaning of Christmas and exactly what we celebrate. Two weeks before my birthday, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and songs and hymns we sang like Joy to the World and Silent Night took on a whole new life as the meaning of the words became clear. A year or so later when I was working and had my own money, the joy of giving also took hold. What fun to be able to buy my Mama something she needed or just something pretty cause I knew it would make her happy.
“Who is going to get you something that nice?” I was asked. “Probably nobody,” I told them. “But who cares? The joy is in the giving.” A gift is not something we give expecting to receive something in return. Like the gift of faith God gives each of us freely with no strings attached. It is ours to use or set on a shelf…to accept or refuse. The choice is ours…and deciding to accept it will change our lives forever. Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
As the years went by and America prospered, Christmas became more commercialized and everything was about giving the “perfect gift.” By the time my kids were teenagers it was impossible to keep up with the trends…something I never tried to do anyway. They knew if they wanted the latest video game or anything expensive they had to work and pay for it themselves. Today, for me, the best gift is something I know they want or need… or that will bring back a memory and make them laugh.
We always hear, and sometimes say ourselves, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.” I think this is because it seems to come more quickly each year. As a child it always seemed forever from one Christmas to the next. That feeling we’re looking for is maybe just a memory of Christmases passed when life was not so rushed and people so greedy. When any gift was better than no gift at all and everyone was thankful just to be together…and the joy of giving.
May we all enjoy the feelings of an old-fashioned Christmas this year and remember: the ‘perfect gift’ was born to us this day in the city of David… a Savior which is Christ the Lord! Let us celebrate Him. Merry Christmas!!