Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 25, 2005


The spirit of Christmas can last all year long if we are willing


          Thank God Christmas Day is here! Now maybe we can put to rest all the haggling about “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas.” I have grown weary of the ugly debate. Nobody wins when we start bashing one another over a phrase that ultimately has no eternal significance.

          It is sad that so many people and businesses opted for Happy Holidays to avoid using the word Christmas. Like many people I have choked on the words Happy Holidays. And, I admit it; I have been partial to businesses that were not ashamed of the word Christmas. Evidently it was not a good business decision since many Christians boycotted stores that chose not to mention Christmas.

          This may lead the atheists who own stores to put up Merry Christmas signs in order to increase sales. I can imagine them giving us a big smile and a hearty Merry Christmas as we spend our hard-earned money buying stuff made in China. While we pat ourselves on the back for forcing businesses to say Merry Christmas, the atheists and the Chinese are stuffing their stockings with our money and singing “Jingle Bells” all the way to the bank.

          Christians can still celebrate Christmas if every store in town advertises Happy Holidays. We can probably celebrate it with greater joy if we have not spent money we don’t have buying gifts that people don’t really need.

          Like most of us, I will be “happy” if Santa has a surprise or two under the tree for me. But when all the wrapping paper has been stuffed in the garbage can, and all the decorations have been put away, I will remember that none of that stuff matters much. What matters is that we remember what Christmas is all about – the birth of the baby who is our Savior.

          Actually I had already celebrated Christmas. I did it last Sunday when my congregation allowed me to sing “Sweet Lil Jesus Boy.” That dear song reminds us all what the real problem in our world really is – “We didn’t know who you was.” Millions still don’t know who Jesus is. That is the disturbing reality of Christmas.

          Last Sunday I also shared the poem I love more than any other, the one William Ragsdale Cannon wrote and printed on the Christmas card he sent me in 1957. I share it now with you as the best Christmas gift I can offer my readers:


I cannot give the reason why

A circumstance so old and small

As Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem

Should be remembered by us all.


Earth was not young when he was born.

Age after age had come and gone.

Nor did time cease its endless track

For countless years continued on.


His was a simple life to live

In haunts of pleasantness and pain.

The Roman world but passed him by;

On Caesar’s throne he did not reign.


Now Rome and Caesar’s dead.

Their deeds are like a tale that’s told.

While men still look to Bethlehem

God’s life to find as they of old.


It all seems strange, like fancy wild;

It cannot be, and yet it is,

And will be still when time’s no more

And earth is gone, and all that is.


I cannot give the reason why

And yet my heart is all aglow,

For God was in that baby boy

And love is all we need to know.


          The good bishop was right. Love made God come as a baby boy, and finally, nothing matters more than love. Hate, violence, and anger lead us straight to hell. Only love leads to God and the joy of heaven. When the end comes, and the dust clears, the only thing remaining will be love.

If you and I can find a way to stop criticizing and hating others, forgive those who have wronged us, and start loving God more than stuff, we can have a MERRY CHRISTMAS! Once we do that, the Spirit of Christmas in us has the power to last all year long! + + + +