Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 15, 2002


How can something wonderful like Christmas become so perplexing?


            Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year! Right? Well, wait up a minute. Let’s discuss the matter.

            Christmas is many things, some of which are indeed wonderful. I believe you will share my enthusiasm for these aspects of Christmas:

            * It is a time for making children happy. Even poor children love Christmas because some of them do not know they are poor. Those who do will be glad to receive even a meager gift; an apple and an orange in one’s stocking beats an empty stocking.

            My wife and I still hang up our stockings by the fireplace. She plays like Santa and puts a few surprises in my sock, and I do the same for her. No diamonds, mind you, but always some small things that bring a smile on Christmas morn. Some items are always included: an apple, an orange, and chewing gum. Who would want a stocking without those things in it!

            Buying gifts for children is at the very heart of Christmas. No matter how annoying it is to fight our way through the stores filled with eager shoppers, we will find a way to purchase a gift for our precious little ones. I must confess that it is often disappointing to see a child toss the gift aside and play with the wrapping paper.

            * It is a time for colorful decorations. We all love it. We like to drive around and see the lovely way homes and yards take on a beauty not seen any other time of the year. For my money, some folks hang up too many lights, but it is a free country so those who like gaudy can go for it. Personally, I can do without a thousand lights hanging from the eaves of my home.

            I like putting up imitation deer on the lawn. That is mainly because my wife insists on it. So this week my two old wooden deer were stationed in the yard again. No lights; red bows around their necks are enough.

            I do wonder about how deer invaded Christmas. Old Rudolph seems as important as Santa. That story about “Donna” and “Vixen” (or was it Nixon?) must be responsible for our fascination with deer. If my life depended upon it, I can never recall the names of all those deer in that story. My mother would be ashamed of me.

            Why not camels instead of deer? After all, the story of Christmas springs from the Bible, and that provides us with the image of dreary camels, grazing sheep, and cattle lowing. I will not be surprised if someone advances the theory that the wise men hunted deer with bow and arrow from the backs of those camels. After all camels can go 40 miles an hour, and the wise men would not have needed a tree-stand.

            * It is a time for cards. With lovely cards, we delight in remembering friends, and in being remembered. Our first Christmas card came the day after Thanksgiving; that friend reminded me of my mother who, well into her nineties, was always ahead of schedule in sending out cards at Christmastime.

            With Christmas cards, I have a good plan. Forget keeping a list of friends. Just get some cards ready and send one back to everyone who sends one to you. That works well except for those tardy people whose cards arrive on December 24.

            The custom of sending cards gives us a chance to blow off some steam about friends who have forgotten us. You can get even by not sending them a card. Our policy is to stop sending people a card to those who have not sent us one in the last ten years.

            This policy makes you feel really good – until you run into one of those old friends who says, “We decided to give the money we had been spending on cards and postage to the Children’s Home.” That’s when you want to find old Scrooge and spend a few minutes at the altar.

            I mention this so that all my friends who are crushed by not receiving a card from us will suppose we gave the money to the Children’s Home instead. Hey, give me a break. We really may make that choice again; we have done it many times before.

            * It is a time for wonderful music and inspiring worship. Christmas music is the best there is. December is the month I will always remember as the best during the years we worshiped with the good people at Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika.

            I can hardly imagine Christmas without hearing Joy Samford sing “O Holy Night,” or standing with that great choir behind me while singing with the congregation “Come, Let Us Adore Him,” or “Joy to the World.” Norm Brunelle, Trinity’s music minister, is at his best during this holy season.

            At Trinity, on Christmas Eve, the pastors will probably serve Holy Communion to over 400 people. A few will be crusty old reprobates who do not worship every Sunday, but for some reason they will yield to the drawing power of the Christ Child and get on their knees the night before Christmas.

            Man, if you think there’s a chance you may not make it to heaven, at least try to find your way to a church during Christmas and be blessed by the finest music available anywhere. I want at least one more time before the angel band comes for me to hear my friend, the Rev. Clifford Jones, who pastors Greater Peace Baptist Church, sing the “Amen” chorus. Brother, he can sing about that “tiny Baby” in such a way that you want to get on your knees and worship that child.

            When I began this article, I had in mind mentioning some more of the things that bother me about Christmas, things that can make it frustrating and perplexing. But shucks, I have gotten so excited about the nobler aspects of Christmas that I have forgotten those negative things I wanted to mention.

            I reckon that is how Christmas is – there is something about it that makes you want to ignore the bad stuff so you can focus on the things that make Christmas such a wonderful time of the year. I think I will. How about you?