Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Holy Night"1 (Lyrics)
Isaiah 9:6 – For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NLT)
As I grow older, I yearn for the Christmases of my childhood.
Being the first grandchild in the family for the first four years of my life meant a great deal of spoiling — by parents and grandparents. Though I don't remember those years, pictures relay the joy and giving that took place. Prior to my paternal grandmother's retirement, she bought presents with abandonment and worked to make Christmas a special day for everyone — especially the grandchildren. Presents waist-high lay under and around the tree waiting for eager little hands to open them.
Christmas at my maternal grandparents' house was practical. They were more into the fellowship — telling stories, hunting, cooking, and eating — than the giving of presents. One or two gifts was all that I could expect.
When my giving grandmother retired and could no longer afford to buy mounds of presents, Mom took over the tradition and continued it until she retired. Now, my wife tries her best to keep the abundant giving alive. But things have changed.
My early Christmases were about togetherness. The togetherness lasted for hours — even days. They weren't pop-in visits from children and grandchildren. We hung around, talked, laughed, hunted, and watched ball games together. Never did I hear, "We can be there at ____, but we have to leave by ____."
In the midst of my childhood Christmases, we always remembered the reason that we were celebrating: to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. He overshadowed the presents rather than the other way around.
Blessings were said at my childhood Christmas meals. As at Thanksgiving, we remembered that God was responsible for all that we had and were enjoying.
My childhood Christmases were also times of joy — and not just over presents. We were glad to see each other, to celebrate Christ's birth, to eat a meal together, and to open presents — just to enjoy one another's company.
Divorces and remarriages have now changed the structure of our immediate and extended family, multiplying in-laws and grandparents and dividing our time into tiny increments that temper the joy of being together. Though some of the things from my early Christmases are missing, I still enjoy the Christmas season.
Don't let the changing seasons of your life steal the real meaning of Christmas. Remember the birth of the Saviour, and celebrate it with family and friends.
Prayer: Father, we celebrate the birth of Your Son — and giving — as the real meanings of the Christmas season. Amen.