Christmas Past – My Best Christmas Present Ever

This will be my 71st Christmas.  In that time I have been given a lot of Christmas presents.

Christmas gifts

  • Some I loved
  • Some I pretended to like but really did not
  • Some were expensive
  • Some were not so expensive
  • Some were store-bought
  • Some were homemade
  • Some shown that the giver had really put a lot of time and love into the gift
  • Some looked like the giver had just grabbed something off the shelf at the last-minute

But every year as I reflect on Christmas past there is one gift that stands out to me.  It was the best Christmas gift I ever received.

It is also the first Christmas I remember.  I was five years old and I believed in Santa Claus.  There were two gifts I was hoping he would bring me:  a doll and a toy stove with some dishes.

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Although I never felt our family was poor, looking back I realize we certainly were not affluent.  We lived in a three-room house – Mom and Dad, two sisters a brother and me.  I was the baby.  Mom and Dad shared the one bedroom and my sisters and I had beds in the kitchen.  Fortunately the kitchen was very large so the stove, refrigerator and table was at one end and our beds at the other.  My brother slept on a roll-away bed that we opened at night and put in the pantry just off the kitchen.

Looking back I think how hard it must have been to try to buy the presents we four children were hoping for.  How they must have agonized over not having enough money to buy all they would have liked to buy for us.

Christmas Eve my dad took me with him to my grandmother’s house where he added coal to her heating stove and set the fire for the night.  When we returned home I discovered Santa Claus had come.  So excited, I opened my one present and found the doll I had requested.  Looking around I realized there was not a second present for me.  There would be no toy stove and dishes.  My doll was so pretty and I slept happily that night holding her close.

stove

The next day my parents explained to me that Santa Claus had so many kids to buy for and he did not have enough money to get everything on everyone’s list.  However, my dad said he and my mother had a surprise for me.  They had a toy stove for me with some dishes.

Dad brought out the stove.  He had taken a cardboard box, turned it upside down and drew burners on the top.  He then cut out small openings in the front and had put in some little wooden knobs that were painted red, yellow and blue for me to use to turn on the burners.  He also had an oven door painted on the side and cut so that I could open and put in a pan.  Mom had rummaged though her pots and pans and found some older ones that I was able to use.

I was one happy little girl!  I had my very own stove and dishes.

Today I realize most little girls would be upset with such a gift.  But to me it was a treasure.  As I have grown old, the memory of that gift has increased in value.

As a parent trying to make ends meet I realize how much love had gone into their decision to make that gift for me, how much they must have hated that they could not give me a real toy stove and dishes.

Of all the gifts I have received over the years, none mean as much to me as that gift coming from my parents’ heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Do we “Keep Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christmas in Christ?”

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I recently wrote about the controversy we have at this time of year over saying “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” 

Standing in line to pay for my book at Barnes and Noble today, I heard the customer ahead of me complaining to the clerk because he had wished her “Happy Holidays!”  She proceeded to tell him in an irate voice that this was Christmas and he should greet her with “Merry Christmas!”

When he replied not every customer was a Christian and there are several religious holidays in December such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, she became upset and told him “We need to keep Christ in Christmas!”

I wondered as she finally walked away in a very self-righteous mood what would Jesus have done in this circumstance.  Her attitude was anything but loving and kind.

So – I began to wonder:  Are we as Christians supposed to be keeping Christ in Christmas?  Is that what the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is all about?  A holiday where we spend so much time, energy and money baking, shopping, going to parties, putting up lights, waiting for Santa Claus to come?

Please do not misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting these things are wrong – I miss the days when my children tried their best to go to sleep early so Santa Claus would come.  The days when we had a big, beautiful tree full of lights in our living room with presents.  Christmas is a fun-filled family time I appreciate.  But really?

When we talk about keeping Christ in Christmas – it seems to me we are making Christmas the big deal.  Somehow we need to make sure in all our busyness that we add Christ to this day.  So – we add a candle-light service to our list of parties, we put out a manger scene along with the other Christmas decorations and we insist everyone say “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays.”  Then, we sit back and feel so righteous because we have fitted Christ into our Christmas routines.

The birth of Jesus – and its celebration – is much more than saying “Merry Christmas.”  The birth of Jesus shows us God’s love in leaving the glory and splendor of heaven to come to earth as a human.  It is a moment to be savored with awe and solemn reflection – not by a hurried “Merry Christmas” as we pass one another in the stores, at church or in our homes.  That night so long ago may well have not been a “Silent Night” as we love to think of it.  I earlier posted some thoughts on that “Silent Night” image we have of Jesus’ birth.   At our church service we recently sang “Away in a Manger.”  I was struck again by the words “the cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”  Really?  He came to earth to be one of us – to experience our pain, our sorrow, our fears, our temptations.  So – when he awoke in the middle of the night possibly hungry and cold, He did not cry!

Christmas is only the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ.

  • There was his earthly life where I believe he experienced sorrow and pain – and I know at least two times when he cried – at the grave of Lazarus and over Jerusalem just before He went to the cross.  Somehow I believe he cried as a baby too.
  • There was his time in the garden of Gethsemane when he experienced such agony the Bible tells us he sweated great drops of blood.
  • There was the cross where He cried “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  • And, thankfully, there was the resurrection!

So – there is so much more to this story of Jesus Christ than His birth.  But unfortunately that seems to be the one we want the world to recognize and acknowledge.  We don’t seem to care that the celebration of the resurrection is overshadowed by the Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt.  As long as the world says “Merry Christmas” and we keep Christ in the holiday, everything is fine.

Well – I think we need to be more concerned that the world knows He not only came as a baby, but He died and rose again.  And why?

Because He loves us.

So – we need to begin showing that love to others around us.

Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by the love we showed to others.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples

Christmas should only be a part of our life in Christ.  He needs to be recognized and honored by the world all year long.  But the only way that will happen is if we stop being so judgmental and self-righteous and began to love people – even those who don’t say “Merry Christmas!”

I propose we don’t worry so much about keeping “Christ in Christmas” but rather make sure that our Christmas is in Christ – because He is so much more than the baby in the manger.  Let’s keep “Christmas in Christ” and make Him known to the world by our love for others.

 

 

 

Santa Claus – the Man Behind the Myth

Today I am sharing a great post from persecutionblog.com

Great article on the REAL Santa Claus