When people recall their early childhood, it is quite common for Christmas to be at the forefront of their memories. Christmas is always the most special day of the year for the average person. I have the same experience when I think about the days of a year. Christmas always stands out. New Year’s Day is a time of celebration as we anticipate the coming year. July Fourth is a day upon which we thank God for our freedom and for those who have secured it for us. Thanksgiving is remembered and revered for celebrating those who braved the dangers to form a new nation and for the bountiful harvest that God gave those people. We also remember the native Indians who were, in large part, the reason those first Americans survived beyond the first year. But, none of those great celebrations can top the day we call Christmas.
In my home, the real reason for Christmas was not forgotten. My parents made sure that we children understood that Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in the little city of Bethlehem. They stressed the fact that we cannot let the secular world and the giving of gifts overshadow the primary reason for the celebration and that is for us to focus on the fact that on Christmas, God came to live among us as Jesus. I have been to that place in Bethlehem where Jesus was actually born. It is an awesome experience to stand in that little cave and realize that in that same, small room God actually invaded history in Jesus and made salvation possible for us. At the dinner table, we always thanked God for his gift to us even before we thanked Him for the bountiful table of food we were about to consume with family and friends. Yes, we always tried to celebrate Christmas with the proper focus.
Christmas, being the special day it is, was also filled with fun. Nothing wrong with fun on that day if we keep in perspective the reason for our time of fun and celebration. My father, Frank Harrell, loved Christmas! He tried to make it extra special for his children. He reverted to a childlike mind at Christmas and enjoyed every second of it. He was a real artist and could make a tree come alive with the way he decorated it. One of his favorite things was fireworks. I felt sorry for our neighbors early Christmas morning. He always bought a massive amount of fireworks and some of them sounded like a cannon was being fired when they exploded about 300 feet in the air. They shook the neighborhood. No one ever complained. But the moment of the day was when the kids would be allowed to come into the room where Santa had left the greatly anticipated toys they had said they we hoping for. No one could go into the living room until my father had gone several miles away to bring our grandmother over to see us when we got our first glimpse of all that Santa had left plus all those gifts that others had given us. Ours was not a rich family by any means but we knew how to celebrate Christmas! It was such a special day that the way I remembered the length of a year was to measure it from Christmas to Christmas. It made the year seem awfully long but it was my child-like method of measuring the next 365 days. It wasn’t too long before we caught onto the “Santa” thing but we would never admit it because we were afraid that if we did, Santa would not leave us anything next year.
I remember how the living room would look after everyone had opened their gifts. Colorful wrapping paper was scattered everywhere. It was a mess! But no one cared. It was too much fun to worry about anything! I can remember saying as we cleared all the paper away: “Well, it’s not but 364 days until we can do it again! Measuring the year!
It’s awfully easy to focus on the Christmas morning celebration, but let me encourage our readers to keep things in perspective and make sure that the children understand the greater reason for the most celebrated day of the year. This can be done when you explain to them that on the day we celebrate as Christmas, God gave us the very best gift that has ever been given. And, let them know that the reason we give gifts is that God gave us a wonderful gift in His Son, Jesus. So, we celebrate the giving of THAT gift by giving gifts to those we love.
Of course, the world has misused this wonderful day as it misuses most things which are trying to pass along a good meaning but the right “reason for the season” must always be passed along to the younger generations so that God’s People will always understand why all the celebration at Christmas.
Over the years, my wife Carolyn and I have endeavored to keep the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of our celebrations of that Wonderful Day. While we let the kids be kids with Santa Claus, we also made sure that they understood what Christmas was all about to the point that we would have “Happy Birthday Jesus” written on a birthday cake. Then, later on when we cut the cake we would sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Silly?
Maybe to some people but it kept the right thoughts in their minds of the children concerning what Christmas is really all about.
There is much more that could be said about this subject but suffice it to say:
“MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE” may your day be a joyful and bright one and may you pass along the celebration of this wonderful day and especially the reason for it.
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com