Christmas is a festive, joyful, celebratory time of the year. It is the time for acknowledging that God was manifested in the flesh, that Jesus, the Messiah, came as the virgin born Lamb of God to die for our sins. We love traditions at our house and have developed quite a few over the years. I would like to share some of them with you.
- We do a lot of decorating for the Christmas season. It is a colossal chore and involves carrying large Christmas trees from basement closets and storage rooms to the locations where they typically belong, placing nativity scenes in several places, hanging wreaths inside and outside the house, adorning mantels with garlands, crosses, Bibles, candles, holly, reindeer, small packages and lights, and placing centerpieces on several tables. If our marriage survives all the laborious Christmas decorating, then we know it will survive for another year. (lol)
- Martha Jean is the shopper, because I actually don’t know what they sell in stores. I avoid malls and retail stores as if they only dispensed communicable diseases; and I almost exclusively watch the TV Land channel on television and they only advertise burial insurance, medical supplies, LifeLocks, and walk-in bathtubs, so how would I know what they sell in stores? I do occasionally go shopping on the Internet, but it is only when I am directed to do so.
- At Christmas time we have been known to take a slight detour in our television watching, surf over to the Hallmark channel, and watch a couple of the Christmas movies at night in our pajamas. They are good, clean movies, generally chick flicks, and all having the same storyline. These films are all situated in small towns with some city slicker ending up in the quaint little village because his car broke down or he was looking for a momentary escape from his hectic existence in some busy metropolis. He accidentally meets this charming young woman, overcomes the awkwardness of the initial meeting, eventually defends her honor in some chivalrous manner, wins her favor, falls in love, and they live happily ever after.
- Martha Jean does a lot of cooking for the family, the neighbors, friends, and me. She makes spiced tea, the best fruitcakes ever, buckeyes, sugar cookies, etc. – the list is endless. We are expecting 21 folks for Christmas dinner. It may be a holy night, but it won’t be a silent night for sure. It is a tradition that has been firmly in place for over 50 years. Thank God for all the in-laws who have arranged their holiday schedules to accommodate ours.
- We also send a Christmas letter, mostly to family and friends in churches we served in the past. I write a synopsis of what our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren have experienced during the course of the year and mail it assuming that everyone has been anxiously sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting its arrival in mid-December.
- Christmas music is a vital part of the holiday season. My Sirius radio is turned to channel 70, the place on the dial devoted to Christmas music throughout December. We also go to at least two church Christmas programs in December. We always go to our own church’s program, which was last Sunday. This weekend we are going to the one at First Baptist Church Atlanta. These programs are comprised of music and drama and really get us in the spirit of Christmas.
- We generally go Christmas caroling with our church group one night during December. One December we had a man in our group who couldn’t sing on key if he were threatened with death by hanging, but we had a great time sharing the message of Christmas in song. There were some good singers in our group who were loud enough to neutralize his monotone vocalizing.
- We drive around to see the Christmas lights in the area. Smyrna Village, near where we live, has a beautiful display of lights. Life College in Marietta has a magical light display called Lights of Life; and, of course, everyone knows about the lights at Lake Lanier and Callaway Gardens. Martha Jean always likes the classic masterpieces that are elegant and well-designed; and I always profess to like the blow-up decorations with the multi-colored lights just to prove that I have not forgotten my hillbilly heritage.
- After the Christmas family dinner everyone will be directed to the felt/velcro advent calendar. There is a little pouch or pocket for each day of the month. Some of the pockets hold the gifts of the wise men, some hold the shepherds, others have the wise men or the animals that must have been present around the manger scene, some hold angels. Each day in December we take something from the pocket for that day and put it in the appropriate place in the nativity scene at the top of the calendar. The Christ child is in the December 25th pocket and on Christmas day one of the grandchildren is selected to remove the Christ-child from the pocket and place it in the manger. This is one way we acknowledge the true essence of Christmas.
- Everyone has a stocking filled with presents and goodies – that is, everyone except Martha Jean and me; and that is but a prelude to the gift giving that follows. By the end of the day the discarded Christmas wrappings and boxes are placed in enough garbage bags to give the American Disposal crew the kind of anxiety that leads to nervous prostration.
However, in all our Christmas preparations we try to keep in mind the incredible gift God presented to us through the birth of His Son in Bethlehem. For God to send His only begotten Son into this sinful world, knowing He would be despised and rejected of men and crucified in order to become our Redeemer, is love beyond description.
We also realize there is no better time to share the Gospel than during the Christmas season when the attention of the world is directed to what happened 2,000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. I have discovered that people are very receptive to the Gospel at this time of year.
Christmas is also a great time to think about what we can give to Jesus, especially since it is His birthday. During this season we have found great delight in giving backpacks to the children of Appalachia, gift cards to Mission Dignity, shoeboxes to Samaritan’s Purse, and a special gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions. Christmas is a great time to discover that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.