Some of my earliest memories revolve around Christmas, and I can’t reflect on Christmases past without thinking of my mom. It was my mom who started us all thinking about Christmas and prepping for it by October 1 at the latest. Christmas music could be heard long before Thanksgiving, and you could just see the energy level rising in her small frame. Her eyes had a sparkle that was contagious.
There are many memories I cherish about my mom and Christmas, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned from Christmases past – from my mom.
Christmas is about the good news.
Jesus has come to bring us gifts. He came to bring the gifts of both forgiveness and a new kind of life, eternal life. My mom loved to give gifts at Christmas. There wasn’t a shred of thought about what she would get, but like Jesus, Christmas was a time to give gifts to people she loved.
Christmas is a time of joy and celebration.
The promised Messiah has come. The Messiah of the Bible was promised and forecast from the time of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) onward. For thousands of years people had looked for and longed for Him to come, and when He finally came, the angels rejoiced. The wise men came bearing gifts to celebrate. My mom exuded joy every Christmas. It was a time of celebration. Christmas only came one time a year, but she tried to make it last as long as possible, generally October – January in our home.
Christmas was an awe-inspiring surprise.
Immanuel came in the form of a human baby. Very few people got wind that the Messiah was coming. Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth. But when He finally came it was in a humble manger, not with military parades on a white horse (which will come later). But there was an awe-inspiring element to this lowly arrival, orchestrated by God Himself. There was a star in the sky that led the wise men to the birthplace of this King. Angels appeared to shepherds and made a celestial announcement of Jesus’ birth, and the shepherds joined Joseph and Mary in the stable delivery room.
We always had a live Christmas tree in our home – the biggest that would fit our ceiling height. It was always the centerpiece of our Christmas decorations, and there would always be a few presents under the tree as we approached Christmas, usually ones mailed to us by relatives and a few close friends. On Christmas Eve I was always rushed off to bed very early so I could get a good night‘s sleep before the big day (fat chance that was going to happen). But it was all about giving my mom and dad time to put all the presents under the tree. My dad would assemble some things and make sure batteries were installed where needed. My mom would go to all her “special places” to pull out all the presents she had been gathering since January, 11 months before. They would add a few more touches to the tree and then leave all the lights on the tree lit.
I recall so many Christmases getting up at 5:00 or 6:00am and sneaking into the living room where the Christmas tree stood, tall and festive. The whole house was dark except for this awe-inspiring tree undergirded by many presents. I would sometimes just sit in amazement at this breathtaking spectacle of a tree and its presents decked in cheerful colors and sparkles.
We could look at all these things and see a woman who was caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. Or see the whims of an over-indulgent mother. Maybe. But what I’ve learned from watching my mom and being infected with her zeal for Christmas is that Christmas is about the good new of Jesus who came to give gifts to those He loves. It’s a time of joy and celebration because the Savior has come. It’s awe-inspiring, exciting. It’s Christmas!