This year I celebrate my sixty-first Christmas. As time has progressed, I can see that my attitude toward this special day has changed. I suppose that is natural for any person as he grows older—his perspective on things change. Allow me to reflect on the last sixty years of Christmas in my life.
I grew up in a home where Christ was the center of everything we did. As far back as I can remember, I always knew the true meaning of Christmas; it wasn’t about presents, but it was about the Gift of God being given to us. That was made abundantly clear when I was only five years old and personally trusted Christ as my Saviour. Although, I still loved receiving presents. I remember getting so excited before Christmas realizing that there were going to be gifts under our Christmas tree. That continued into my early adult years. My first year away at Bible college, I really looked forward to being home in Cleveland for Christmas.
Denise and I had a son by our second Christmas as a married couple. We were young Bible college students with very little money. We struggled to stay in school and just get by. We were living in the apartments for married couples at the college. Denise worked afternoons at the hospital, and I worked afternoons until dark doing construction. That first Christmas Denise worked at the hospital, I packed up our young son, Kevin, and took him to the hospital where we ate our Christmas dinner in the cafeteria. We had so little materially and were only able to buy a few toys for our son. As I look back on it now, it wasn’t much, but it brings back a sweet memory of how God has been good to us through the years.
The very next year we were back in Cleveland working on the staff at CBC with the thought that we were going to go to the mission field. However, God closed the door on the missionary ministry after I took a survey trip and sensed that God wasn’t directing me to that kind of ministry at that time. So, for the last forty years, we have been celebrating Christmas in Ohio. I have such great memories of these forty Christmases. I think about our boys growing up in our home, and Denise’s parents, my parents and other family members spending Christmas together. I think about Christmas church services and the people that have had such a special part in our lives through the years.
In 1995 our oldest son graduated from high school and went away to college. That same year I also became the senior pastor of CBC. Christmas had a different feeling that year as we awaited Kevin coming home from school and me leading the church through my first Christmas as the pastor. The next several years passed by quickly and life settled down to a pretty steady routine.
In 2008 life changed for our family when we buried my father-in-law, Jim. That year Christmas was different. In 2010 we buried some very special people who had been a great part of our lives: Dr. Harry Strachan, Pastor Roy Thompson and my mother-in-law, Caroline. That year, Christmas was filled with lots of stories and reflection about God’s grace. In 2012, I laid my dad, Bob, to rest, and once again, Christmas had a different feel. My dad loved Christmas, and he loved his family. He relished watching the family open gifts, especially his great-grandchildren.
I write these words a few days before Christmas 2018. Next year I begin a new phase of ministry which means Christmas at CBC this year will be special for me. I am not sad or melancholy; I am actually very grateful.
I am grateful that through the years I have known the true meaning of Christmas—which is the Christ of Christmas. I am grateful that we have always made the worship of Christ and the church central in our Christmas celebration. I am grateful that I have had the privilege to lead and serve this wonderful church family. I am grateful that God has been so good in my life. I am indeed a blessed man!
I sometimes wonder where I would be in this world if I didn’t know the Christ of Christmas. The older I get the more I appreciate the fact of this most precious gift – Jesus Christ! The One who was born to save us from our sins.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Remember when you celebrate Christmas this year that you are building memories and perhaps you will have the opportunity to share the true meaning of Christmas with someone dear to you!