Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 16, 2018


 Getting ready for Christmas once again


            Our Christmas tree is up once again. Took me 15 minutes. Got it out of the box it came in. Had no trouble finding it. I keep it in the garage. It’s three years old but the lights still work and it looks mighty fine.

            Each Christmas Dean suggests we buy a “real” tree. I talk her out of it by reminding her that “real” trees are actually dying trees. We have to stand them in a bucket of water to keep them alive until Santa comes. Killing trees is bad for the earth.  It robs the planet of oxygen needed by the exploding world population. So I say, use an artificial tree and save the world.  

            Every year I promise myself that I will never put a box in the garage without writing on the outside a description of its contents. But I get in a hurry and forget to mark the boxes. So in early December the frustrating ritual occurs again: we have to open 19 boxes to find the 10 boxes full of Christmas decorations. The Lord willing, this year I will not forget.

            Dean loves angels so we have about 77 of various sizes. She knows them all by name so I keep emptying boxes until all the angels are on display again. Her sister Dot, who went to live with real angels 22 years ago, gave Dean a lovely porcelain “village” which is always prominently displayed. I am still looking for the box it is stored in. But I will find it. It won’t be Christmas without it.

            Decorating the home is hard work but it is also fun. Some people are better at decorating than others. Dean is good at it. She makes our house come alive with three trees, dozens of colored lights, 77 angels and 49 candles. And why not? Being content with dull, drab and dreary is no way to live.

            I feel sad when someone says they dread Christmas. Bitter memories are behind that dread and they add depression to the yuletide season. I understand that and hurt with those who can’t stand Christmas. But I have wonderful memories of Christmas. It has been the most special day of the year for me all my life. I loved Christmas as a child and I loved it when our children were small. And I love it when grandchildren and great grandchildren gladden our home with their presence at Christmas.

            I love the songs of Christmas, the sacred and the secular. I get chill bumps when someone sings “O Holy Night” and I love the thrill of singing “Jingle Bells” with little children. Christmas music puts a spring in our step and a smile on our lips. And only Scrooge fails to smile when someone sings “I Saw Mama kissing Santa Claus.”

            I love the food of Christmas but even more the thrill of having our family share a meal together. All families have problems. Differences divide families. Bitter feelings can stay alive too long. But somehow sharing a Christmas meal can inspire the forgiveness that restores relationships. I have seen it happen. I pray it will continue to happen.

            Christmas is many things. It is about snow, tinsel, gifts, lights, angels, candles, candy, Santa Claus, stockings hanging over a fireplace, singing, worship, and a thousand other things. Can we include Santa without giving up our faith in Jesus? I think so. I think Jesus likes to see us exchange gifts and share our love for one another. But I believe he wants each of us to find a way to be a blessing to the poor. Christmas always means more when we share the gifts God has given us with “the least of these,” our brothers and sisters who need food, heat, clothing, shelter, a blanket and enough love to make it through the night.

Followers of Jesus will focus more on Jesus than Santa. Jesus, after all, is the reason for the season and his birth is what Christmas is really all about. Had that baby of all babies not been born in Bethlehem, there would be no Christmas! Amidst all the wrapping paper, the tinsel, the gifts, the music and the smell of good food, Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s decision to become flesh and dwell among us. Far more important than the story of Santa coming down the chimney is the glorious truth that the holy child of Bethlehem can cast out our sin and enter our hearts with his redeeming love.

In every home, in every family, before sleep overtakes us on Christmas night, let someone say, Thank you loving Father for sending your son Jesus to save us from our sins and show us how to live! + + +