Christmas can be a wonderful time of year and for many of us the holiday season brings back some very fond memories. Join us for a trip down memory lane…
It was Christmas Eve 1971. I had lived in the UK for just two years and was on holiday in the north of England with my brother who had recently come to Christ. I was impressed by his witness to Christ and we attended an old-style gospel service where Dr Alan Redpath was preaching. His sermon was based on the question of Jesus to the paralysed man at the pool of Bethesda, “Wilt thou be made whole?” Though presented in antiquated Elizabethan language, this question gripped my entire being, and I felt myself instinctively responding, “Yes, I want to be whole!”
I am one of those who just loves Christmas and all that goes with it! The years have flooded my recollections of Christmas past with scores of happy memories but all of them include the joy of being with family: doing strange things like eating satsumas I found in my sock, playing football in the snow in my new Morton strip, playing with the children’s new toys at ridiculously early hours and finally, lying back full of turkey and all sorts of calories surrounded by those I love. Can’t beat a good Christmas!
My favourite Christmas memory? Well certainly our first one in Glasgow, Scotland, Christmas 1990 stands out quite clearly. We spent Christmas Eve visiting the Barra’s market at midnight, an atmosphere never to be forgotten. I’ll never forget arriving down at the freezing church at 9am on Christmas morning to put the heat on, making sure I wore as many as possible of the presents bought for me by people in the church! Or checking out the kid’s pressies at the front, including a new baby that the older sibling had requested in last year’s Christmas service! Or driving down the motorway for six hours after the service, with all the services closed, and arriving at mum’s in time for Christmas tea to start our second Christmas.
I had pleaded with my parents for a new bike for Christmas. I was about 13 years old and on Christmas morning I was overwhelmed to find a new drop handle racing bike waiting for me. I proudly rode the bike around outside our house thinking I couldn’t be any happier. Foolishly I conceded to the request of the lad next door to ‘have a go’ on my new pride and joy.
How I regretted that decision as he failed to stop on one of his runs in front of the house and smashed into some gates, bending the front forks and, though he didn’t write off my bike, he just spoilt its perfection for me. I must confess that I did much damage to neighbourly relations by promptly punching him in the face. I regret that punch, but probably not as much as he did. We did make up, but he never went near my bike again!
When I was a child, Christmas was a time I looked forward to because of what I was given – I would struggle to get to sleep on Christmas Eve with sheer excitement for what I hoped would follow in the morning. Now as a parent I still look forward to it – maybe even more! I get really excited in anticipation about my kids’ reactions to their presents and when they eagerly tear off the wrapping paper I’m watching their faces – I love seeing the smiles of gratitude – I love seeing them blessed. I guess it gives me a window into how God feels when he lavishes his blessings on us.
I have many memories of Christmas, from the great times with family and friends to the children’s nativity plays that went gloriously wrong, to the packed carol services with so many people present, singing the carols in full voice. There is one that stands out. As pastors who remain in a church for a long period of time, we can begin to fear Christmas because we think we’ve preached it dry – of course that is never the case. I remember one year taking a line from a BT advertisement – “It’s for you!” – and applying it to Christmas. It just seemed to fit. It cut through all the commercialisation of Christmas to the true meaning. It’s not for the kids. It’s not for the supermarkets. It’s for you!