Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 28, 2003


Listening to my heart at the end of another Christmas Day


          The orange glow in the western sky catches my eye. The sun is going down at the end of another Christmas Day.

            I welcome the silence and the opportunity finally to kick back in my recliner and enjoy a few quiet moments. The children and the grandchildren have returned to their homes, leaving Grandma and me to ourselves.

            It has been a good day. Both sons who could not be with us called to wish us a Merry Christmas. Mark was sick with most likely the flu. Matt was in South Carolina with his wife Tammy’s family.

            Mark’s wife Sherri was here today with Anthony and Robert. John was sick like his dad and unable to be with us.

            Tim and Karen and their children -- Joseph, Hannah, and Sarah -- shared lunch, along with Steve, Amy, and sons Jake and Josh. The women did themselves proud in preparing a delicious meal.

            I smile as I reflect on the two hours we spent opening our presents. Fifteen of us took turns opening a gift until at last all the gifts were unwrapped. Had there been forty of us, we would have been unwrapping gifts until midnight.

            Most of the gifts that had around the tree are gone now. All that is left is Grandma’s little pile and mine.

            Gazing at my gifts, my first thought is how unlike past Christmas gifts they are. Strangely, I have no coffee cups, no handkerchiefs, no ties, and no after shave lotion. Though none is expensive, I like each gift.

            Three of my gifts are woodcarvings. One, made in the Holy Land, depicts Jesus washing the feet of Peter. It will have a special place in my study. It is the only gift I saw today that was not made in China.

            A second carving was that of a squirrel, Jake’s reminder of our recent squirrel supper. The other carving was a small bear that, with a quill in his hand, appeared to be writing. Josh said it reminded him of me writing my sermons. To help me write more sermons, he also gave me a ballpoint pen with “Grandpa” written on it.

            Another gift was a charcoal drawing of an eagle, handsomely done by the son of our good friend Jack Wood. Jeffery is a good artist.

            One family splurged by giving me a tractor. It is a fine replica of the Ford 8N tractor that I owned for many years. I may put it on the shelf beside Jesus and Peter.

            My wife reminded me that I should never have sold the tractor. She loved to use it in bush hogging our property. I sold it only after our plantation shrank from 10 acres to two. I got her a riding lawn mower but she still wants her old tractor back. I may have to rent it from the new owner so she can have some fun again.

            A new DeWalt drill set will be handy. It has the new loading and release fitting that makes it easier to switch from one drill bit to another. But guess what? It too was made in China. I have about decided the Chinese are making most everything sold in the USA.

            A “digital” tire gauge was another gift to me. Have you noticed how that word “digital” is popping up everywhere? Ask someone what it means and I guarantee you the answer you get will be gobbledygook.

            I asked a salesperson to explain “digital” television to me, and all I knew when he finished was that it would cost me more. However, it sounds good and impresses people. I think next time I preach I will tell people that my message is a new “digital” sermon.

            My wife gave me a “Twin Sandwich Maker.” It was a gentle hint. She has made me so many sandwiches for me that she figures it is time for me to take over the sandwich making for a while.

            She also gave me a box of solar “accents lights.” She has always wanted some because they are pretty at night. I like them too. Now I will no longer stumble in the dark while taking out the garbage at night.

            Our Christmas gifts are valuable to us not because of their worth but because of the love and laughter they bring us on this wonderful day. We enjoy the surprise and thoughtfulness of each gift, especially those given us by small children.

            The greatest gifts are not things. What truly blessed us today is that our children and our grandchildren wanted to be with us, to talk and laugh with us, and to enjoy the gift of being a family.

            As the sun sets, our room becomes gently darker. Grandma’s eyes are closed and her chin drops down on her chest. Despite being sick, she has worked so hard to get ready for Christmas.

            Everywhere I look, I admire her gift for decorating the house. She knows just where to put a little angel or three tiny reindeer. How blessed I have been to have her by my side for more than 51 years. Her gentleness and her love have decorated my life.

            Leaning back in my recliner now, I close my eyes, with a smile on my face. I too will fall asleep soon, but not before thanking the Father for the greatest gift of all, the birth of a baby boy in Bethlehem, who showed us the true meaning of love and joy and family.

            Christmas – there is no other day like it! * * * * *