Somewhere along the way, Christmas became morphed into a nice “Hallmark Channel” feel-good story told with hot chocolate in hand before a cozy fire. What is there not to like about a young couple away from home delivering a baby in a stable? Light the star, cue the shepherds and “Action!”
Don’t get me wrong, I have many great memories of Christmas and still love the season. When I was a child, I was always in our country church’s Christmas program. I remember being one of the three little wise guys (I mean wisemen) walking down the aisle wearing my mother’s terrycloth robe and a cardboard crown covered with aluminum foil. On cue we came down the aisle to the lyrics of “We three kings of orient are…” carrying a colored vase that was recovered from some saint’s grave after the flowers wilted. I was anxious not to mess up my one line in the play, “I bring myrrh.”
Most everyone secretly wanted to get through the performance, probably the audience as well. Short plays were the best because there was a gift under the tree with my name on it, and I was hoping it wasn’t a comb and brush set like the year before. I had cap-gun or a Barlow knife on my wish list.
The tree was always a real tree (an Eastern Red Cedar to be specific) usually cut from our farm decorated with decade-old decorations from a cardboard box complete with squashed reused icicles. It was glorious to my young eyes.
My Daddy, who made it alive through the Great Depression and World War II, always made sure there were two big boxes with apples and oranges to give away. He made sure no one left the Christmas program without an apple and orange. Being a small boy who loved cookies, I couldn’t understand the fuss he made about apples and oranges. Hard times makes you appreciate simple things that you want to share.
He also had a few other Christmas traditions such as buying one of those huge peppermint sticks (about 1 inch in diameter and about 8-10 inches long). He would break it up with the handle of a dinner knife and eat it with crackers. When I got old enough to hold a thought in my head for thirty seconds, I realized he was going back to a favorite Christmas memory when his poor Mama was able to buy him a big peppermint stick and maybe an orange.
My parents were not preconditioned to go overboard with our Christmas gifts. But they didn’t think it odd to be overboard about church and Jesus. It wasn’t necessary to have a sit-down lesson in December to explain the reason for the season. We learned about Jesus and Christmas by a yearlong osmosis. Before I could count to five, I knew that Jesus died for our sins and our eternal destination was heaven or hell depending upon what we did with Jesus.
Christmas is more than a cute story with green twigs and red and silver balls thrown in for the fun of it. Christmas is not a mythical tale but a great turning point in the history of the world. God the Son came to earth—Immanuel.
God didn’t send His Son so we could have Christmas. We have Christmas because God sent His Son.
Jesus was born because it was necessary for Him to journey in flesh to die for men of flesh who were inherently sinful. The manger of Bethlehem is in the shadow of the Calvary cross.
The world and the people in it are lost and estranged from God because of sin. God requires a payment for sin and the redemption price had to be a perfect sacrifice. Jesus, the Son of God was the perfect Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He died so we could live in a relationship with God in the now and in eternity.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV).
Decorate the tree, light up the star, and wrap the presents; but make sure you receive the greatest gift—Christ the Son of God, our Redeemer.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).