As we celebrate Christmas I just want to take this opportunity to share a Christmas memory. Christmas always brings memories. It is so full of traditions that warm the soul and give added meaning to the celebrations. I cannot believe that the emotions and attitudes and sentiments expressed and felt at Christmas time are displeasing to God. What displeases Him is that these things are done without a thought for Him. There is the sin in them. There are many non-believers who get warm and oozy at Christmas time and celebrate without a thought for the Saviour whose birth we celebrate. If only the sense of fellowship with humanity, the willingness to give to others and forgive those who have hurt us, get together with family and just enjoy being with loved ones, were done as acts of worship to God.
So, what is your favourite Christmas memory? I’d like to share with you, one of mine.
In November of 1970, my father, who was the pastor of a church plant in the Atlantic provinces, was told by his church board that they no longer wanted him as their pastor. In fact, they told him that his preaching was juvenile, that he was no leader and if they had their he way would never preach again. His life and that of our family, caved in, in unimaginable ways. There is no way to adequately describe the devastation that was brought into our home because of the things that were said and done.
I do not remember Christmas 1970. My father was unemployed and there was no money at all. I do remember him paying for gas with 200 pennies he had taken put of my piggy bank. I remember that when he was forced to move out of the house that the church owned, I remained behind as a seventeen year old youth and moved in with friends.
Within a year Dad had gotten placed into a little church that was dying. Like so many others I went “home” for Christmas. I went to mom and dad’s place and walked into a home that was not very Christmassy. Life was being very hard. Mom was not well emotionally. The house they lived in had no foundation and it was sitting precariously on masonry bricks. The cold Atlantic winds swept up inside the walls and made it very cold. Rats had infested the attic by climbing up inside the walls that were exposed for anything that could fit into them. There was almost no money.
On Christmas Eve that year my father came into the room where my mother and I were sitting and announced that he was going to bed despite the fact that even though a tree had been obtained it was not yet up. Nor were there any other decorations. The heart was gone from my father to get at it at this late hour.
My mother and I said good night to him. We sat there and I do not remember whose idea it was, but knowing my mother I cannot imagine that it was not hers. She most likely said “I am going to get that tree up if it kills me”. We decided to get it up no matter what. It was approaching midnight and Mom and I got the thing up and got to decorating it.
I turned on the television to see if there was a Christmas special of some sort from one of the two stations that we got. A Cat Stevens special (Yes, that Cat Stevens). So we decorated the Christmas tree as Cat Stevens sang to us about peace trains and the celebration of the birth of Christ.
We got the tree up and decorated and wrapped presents and managed to decorate the room as well. I think I can safely say that this was the most valuable time I ever spent with my mom. We worked and listened to the TV and laughed together as we tried to bring a little bit of our traditional Christmas celebrations into that house. It was well into the morning by the time we finished. My younger brother and sister would be waking soon to come in and unwrap gifts so mom and I said goodnight to get a quick couple of hours.
I do not remember the opening of presents that Christmas. Without doubt there was an obscene amount of stuff due to the largess of my Aunt Mildred. I don’t remember the Christmas dinner or the football games that may have been telecast or anything else that may have been going on in the house that Christmas. But here is what I do remember. I remember my mother and I waiting with anticipation as my father got up to enter the living room to begin the process of opening presents. And I remember the look on his face as he stopped in the doorway and stared at the fully decorated tree and the room all ready for Christmas.
And I will never forget his first comment. It was not some verse of Scripture, a prayer of thanks or a shout of praise. He was a very godly man but he was also a real man who was fully expecting Christmas to be less than what he had wanted. As he stood there the words that came out of his mouth were, “Well, there really is a Santa Claus”.
I have played Santa Claus since then but I have never been the real thing again the way that I was that Christmas. That little comment made my Christmas in a powerful way, not because I was able to decorate a tree, but because the decorating of it made the man I loved most in the world enjoy a Christmas that he was expecting to be less than what he wanted and had come to expect. God did it and I am thankful that He was willing to use me to do something for that man. Thirty eight years later that memory still helps me.
It’s amazing what little things God uses to encourage His children. May the little things you do for others this Christmas be used of God to accomplish far more than you can ask or think. Merry Christmas.
There may be no posts here for a few days. I’ll talk to you soon.
Enjoy your Christmas. Celebrate Christ.