I grew up in a family that loved Christmas. Daddy especially. Recently, at our SISTER’s gathering we talked about favorite Christmas memories and I shared about going with my two sisters and Daddy in the car to “look for Santa” on Christmas Eve. Mom stayed home in case Old Saint Nick stopped by while we were gone (which he always did!) for we didn’t have a chimney, so it was necessary that she open the door for him to visit our house.
We’d drive around town looking up into the cold night sky trying to spy that sleigh pulled by reindeer. I remember the anticipation of Christmas, the cozy feeling of the heater in our car and the even cozier feeling of spending time with my Dad. Daddy always worked hard and we often went along with him out to the farm or traveling to rodeos where he loved to compete, but this was different. He was just there. For us. With us.
And he was as excited as we were as we circled our small town until we drove near a tower with a flashing red light. Daddy would say, “I think that’s Rudolph’s nose!” And even though the tower was there year round, it was Christmas Eve, a magical time, and we all agreed that Santa had come to Protection, Kansas as evidenced by seeing Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh.
We’d drive home and run into the house where gifts now lay under the branches of our Christmas tree (always a live one–a Scotch Pine, if Mom could find it). And we’d learn that, sure enough, we just missed seeing Santa at our house.
For the most part, I couldn’t tell you about the gifts under the tree, but the scent of Old Spice cologne and being with my family, I remember.
After we were older, we would attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at church instead of look for Santa. Daddy wasn’t much on church attendance, but it was one time we were all in church together and I loved it.
When Man of My Dreams and I married, many of our Christmas traditions were the same–Christmas Eve candlelight service, opening presents on Christmas Eve, stockings came Christmas morning along with extended family time Christmas day.
To me, Christmas always meant the time together on Christmas Eve. And the same for him, so it was simple to merge our traditions together as well as creating new memories and traditions with Lauren and I and Kary and the boys. Traditions that continue to evolve as we add to our family with SIL, Nathan, and soon to be, DIL, Jessi.
But it wasn’t just Christmas Eve that was magical to me. I loved the season as soon as Thanksgiving waned and the Christmas lights came on downtown. As a child, it was the most wonderful time of the year!
The days leading up to Christmas were filled with learning Christmas songs in school in anticipation of an evening Christmas program. Those were days I fell in love with O Little Town of Bethlehem and Little Drummer Boy. We sang carols in church and Sunday School and we memorized lines and Scriptures for another program at church. There was something magical about sitting in the dark Sanctuary of the Methodist Church–the wooden pews gleaming in the candlelight, our church family crowded into pews in our Christmas finery and coats and hats and gloves, all celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. It made a big impression on me as a child to see the adults of the congregation solemnly act out the story of the birth of Christ. I was in awe of the booming bass voices of men who in every day life were farmers and insurance men, but on Christmas Eve were transformed in their gold paper crowns and resplendent in bathrobes decorated with braid, singing We, Three Kings, as they walked down the aisle to offer gifts to baby Jesus. And the solemn joy of seeing the “light of the world” passed from one to another as the darkened sanctuary reflected both light and voice, singing together, “Silent Night. Holy Night.”
“Community” has become kind of a buzz word for making connections, but it is based on what we had there in Protection, Kansas. Community. The coming together for the common good. Making connections. Caring about each other.
Not just at Christmas, but every day.
When I was in college, there was no such things as cell phones. If you wanted to make a call in those days, you used the pay phone and called “collect” to talk to your parents by dialing “0” before the number so that the operator would answer first and you would give her your name and tell her you were calling collect. She’d wait on the line until the person you were calling would accept the charges.
I’ll never forget the time I mis-dialed the number. The operator came on to ask if the man answering the phone would accept a collect call from Kim Webster. It didn’t sound like Daddy, but the connections weren’t always clear, so I waited until the man accepted the charges and then said, “Hi, Daddy!”
It wasn’t Daddy. It was a widowed man in town who I didn’t really know well at all and he was a bit confused about why I’d called him. I embarrassedly told him I’d misdialed and apologized. “Nope. Nope. That’s all right,” he said. “I was afraid maybe you were in trouble and needed help or something. Glad to know everything is okay. Tell your Daddy I said hello. He’ll be glad to hear from you, I know.”
One of the reasons I love Christmas is because it is the time of Peace on Earth and Good Will Among Men although it seems less and less so in this world that seems to hate everything associated with Christ.
But Jesus came to Earth to bring peace to the hearts of men, no matter their circumstances. Jesus came to fill hearts with love just as God poured out His love on us by sending His Son to save us.
That is what makes this such a wonderful time of year where people give and receive gifts and are a bit kinder than normal. Even when they don’t know Jesus or understand what the celebration is all about.
But what would it be like, if Christmas wasn’t just a few weeks in December, but God’s LOVE poured out each and every day?
I think I know, having grown up in a small town that many would call obscure and out of touch, but filled with people who cared….just because you were another human being sharing this life together.
We need more of that. We need more love in this world. We need more of the idea that even though the world is fractured and broken, God came to heal ALL of us through His Son. And that we all can make a difference to another human being in our corner of the world.
When I dialed that wrong number, I wasn’t in need. I’d just made a mistake. But what a comfort to a lonely college girl to know that if I ever was in need, there was a whole community full of people who would answer….just because.
As Christmas fades and we put away the decorations and “get back to normal” let us do this. Let us take CHRISTmas with us into 2017. The world is sorely lacking just in human kindness and knowing someone cares. Let’s be that someone…to someone.