There seems to be a desire in the heart of everyone to be home for Christmas.
No matter where we roam, I believe the heart longs for home at Christmastime. Christmas at home—the very thought revives old memories, emotions and longings. In sweet recollection, we relive the past with friends and loved ones; some of them now gone. Memories are a gift from God that death cannot destroy.
My earliest memories of Christmas are compounded of the tantalizing smell of warm candle wax, combined with the tangy fragrance of pine needles. We had no electricity, and the pine tree, (always a short-needled hemlock) was studded with tiny brass candle holders that clipped on the limbs. In the holders were placed tiny, twisted candles that were lit on Christmas Eve.
I can’t remember the presents, but I do remember cuddling up close to Mom while she recited to us the old Christmas story. I can see the firelight twinkling, casting shadows in the corners and lighting up Mom’s face. I still think it is the greatest story ever told—of God’s immeasurable love to man in sending down His most perfect gift—Jesus. I could feel myself on a lonely hillside with the shepherds; watching the sheep under a star-studded sky. The fire in the gas stove would turn to a flickering campfire in my imagination, and I would draw my shepherd’s robe tighter around me and listen to the low murmur of conversation from the other shepherds.
Mom’s voice would quicken with excitement as she described the sudden appearance of the angel bringing “good tidings of great joy.” I could see the glory of the Lord shining about me, and the shiver of fear that ran through my body was real. In my mind’s eye, the room was populated with a host of angel singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward man.”
Then as she described the hasty trip to Bethlehem, made by the shepherds to see for themselves this marvelous thing that had come to pass, I felt myself running along after them. My shepherd’s cloak flapped around my short legs as I scurried to keep up with the excited shepherds. Breathless and tired, we would reach the stable.
As Mom’s voice went on and on, I would enter the stable with the shepherds. The stable would have a warm, inviting smell just like our old barn—the dry sweet odor of hay, and the homey, sweet smell of the animals. Awed, I would tiptoe to the manger where the tiny baby lay. Mary would be there of course, tired yet radiant. We were familiar with the sweetness of newborn babies, yet this was a special baby—and lying on the hay in a manger!
We invariably interrupted Mom at this point in the story. We were highly incensed because there was no room for Jesus in the inn. “We would have made room for Him, Mommy,” we would say indignantly. “Mary could have had my bed!” (And yet, no room no time for Jesus, is the cry of men today.)
To many people, the story ends there. Jesus, the baby, is something that they take out, just as a Christmas ornament, to dust off and display for a few days during this season of the year. After Christmas, He is put back on the shelf with the other decorations and forgotten about until next year. I’m so glad that the story did not end with the birth of Jesus. The story of the Nativity is a beautiful one, and I love it. But the life, death and resurrection of the man Jesus means everything to us today.
Of course when I was a child, I was not aware of all of this. I rejoiced in the story of Baby Jesus, which through the years has not lost any of its charm. It is the background of my Christmas memories, woven through with the threads of family love, and tied with the precious memories of happy times together. Christmas is a time to show love unashamedly; to tie the family ties a little tighter, and to express appreciation for each member. It is a time to get together, to pile high the groaning board, and to rejoice in the security of family love.
Most of all, it is a time to reflect on the greatest gift the world has ever known, and what it means to us individually. Yes, Jesus is more than a baby born in a manger. IN St. John 1:14 it says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” What does this mean to us? In the words of Isaiah, chapter 53:1—5, it says, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground:
“He hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid our faces from Him: He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”
No wonder that the angel carried good tidings of great joy. I pray that the presence of Jesus in each of your hearts will bring great joy. May God’s love be with you as we celebrate the birth of His Son.
How I wish I could thank each of you personally for the beautiful Christmas cards! Thank you, Pastor Jess Farley, for your nostalgic essay on “I’ll be home for Christmas” and to Mr. Dotson for the book “The Foxfire Book of Simple Living.” I love and appreciate all my readers. May your Christmas be warm and blessed.