Ok, admit it. By now, you’ve probably watched an occasional Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel; it’s possible you started doing this even before Thanksgiving.
It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street were taken off the shelf so you can watch them for the thousandth time, possibly while wrapping gifts or decorating your tree or baking the Christmas cookies and fudge.
The Christmas songs have been playing in your car and possibly in your office for at least a month. The sound of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” still tugs at your heart no matter how many times you hear it. So why do we continue to watch the same movies and listen to the same Christmas music each year with so much fondness?
I’ll tell you why. Because it’s Christmas! Christmas reminds us of our happiest moments. As we begin embracing this time as the preparation for the upcoming celebration of Christ’s birth, it’s only fitting that the enthusiasm begin early. I don’t want to discount that 2016 has been a challenging year for many. It has! But, I also believe Christmas makes us realize the importance of appreciating the joy in our lives and bringing joy to others because that is what this season is about!
For example, take a look at the tradition of the Christmas tree and Advent wreaths. Who doesn’t look forward to decorating your home and your tree? Every year families everywhere begin their holiday with these symbols in their homes. I do want to add as a reminder that there is significance in the wreath and trees. Evergreens symbolize the eternal life that Jesus brought to us. Remember, everything at Christmas is symbolic of that most important day we commemorate the birth of Jesus and the gift Jesus brought us all.
Maybe the source of our happiest moments is as simple as a Christmas memory. I know I have a few wonderful memories of Christmas, both from my childhood and my own family. I remember when my youngest sister Debbie and brother John were still young enough to believe in Santa Claus. We were never able to afford a large quantity of gifts. We didn’t focus a lot on the Santa myth. My mother did simple gifts on Christmas Eve. In reality they couldn’t afford a lot of gifts for their family. Christmas Day was the time for Church and dinner and gathering as a family. It didn’t matter to us, since being together in and of itself was the important thing. But, I do remember this one year when my Dad really wanted my youngest siblings to experience the joy of Santa Claus. He decided to put a couple of gifts on the back porch in a pile of snow and before their bedtime he rang a couple of bells. They looked confused so he told them to look on the back porch. It’s hard to know who was happier with his Santa scam, my brother and sister or my Dad. He explained to them that our house was likely Santa’s first stop. They totally bought it. My Dad was so pleased that he succeeded in making Christmas memorable for them. He displayed a big smile for several days after his Christmas surprise.
Then there was the year my mother asked we not send gifts. She said, “I’m not going to be around much longer. Don’t waste money on me. Save it for your own families.” Reluctantly we accepted this request from her until I found a light pink sweatshirt with a sweet bouquet of flowers located in the center of the shirt. I bought it with the matching sweats and sent them to her. Initially she was upset with me. “I thought I told you no Christmas gifts!” she said. I told her that as soon as I saw them I thought she needed to be an owner. They just looked like something she would like. The minute she opened this gift, she expressed delight in it. “You shouldn’t have done this. But, I love them, what a beautiful color they are,” she said. She wore them as often as she could; she couldn’t wait to get them from the dryer so she could wear them another day. She died in March of that following year. A discussion of what to let her wear when we had her funeral lead to this favorite pair of sweats.
There was always fun, food and music at our house at Christmas when I was growing up. These memories are what influenced me to try and create happy memories for my own family.
So, what is the source for this special time? The answer is simple! We look for it in the Gospels.
The Gospels of Luke and Matthew describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem in Judea to a virgin mother. In Luke’s gospel Joseph and
Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census and Jesus is born there and placed in a manger. Angels proclaim Him a Savior for all people and shepherds come to adore Him.
“An angel of the Lord stood over the shepherds. They were terrified. But the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And all at once, with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favors.’ ” Luke 2: 9-13
Even our exchanging of gifts which began over two thousand years ago when Jesus was visited with the gifts of the Magi; are representative of an expression of giving love. For many, it’s not the receiving of gifts that are as meaningful as it is about the joy we experience from giving them. Hopefully it’s a time when we extend the giving of gifts to those who need our gifts of love the most.
As we approach this season of love beginning with Advent and ending with bells ringing at Christmas, let’s not forget it all began with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all!
Copyright 2016 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh