I have experienced over half a century of Christmases. Of course, there are some good memories. Here are a few of those memories:
When I was growing up at Iron Springs BIC, we would go Christmas caroling with the church family after the Christmas program. We would borrow a truck from my Uncle’s orchards, put hay in the back, and all pile in. We’d drive around the neighborhood making strategic stops along the way, but rarely getting out of the truck. Then it was back to the church for cookies and hot chocolate.
One of our family traditions was going to Eyler’s Valley Chapel for a Christmas Eve service. This was (is) a small stone chapel without electricity in the Catoctin Mountains between Emmitsburg and Thurmont, Maryland. These services were really popular you would be jammed in there like sardines. One of the highlights of the service was the special music. There were several regular singers and Dad’s favorite was Sherman Mason, Jr. He had a great tenor voice and did an awesome job with “Go, Tell it on the Mountain.” Of course, when we’d get home Dad would have to imitate him. Dad can sing, but he isn’t Sherman Mason, Jr.
When I think about Christmases past, one that always seems to stick out is the Christmas of 1994. It was the last Christmas I served as pastor at Sherman’s Valley, BIC Church in Bedford County. It fell on a Sunday, so we didn’t travel home for Christmas Day. Mom and Dad came to be with us for the day. It wasn’t our regular routine, but there was just something special about that day.
Another fond memory took place when our family was still living in the parsonage. A few families decided to gather at the church to sing and pray together Christmas morning before we went about the holiday. We wanted to be intentional about focusing on Jesus.
Good memories are a gift from God; they are treasures we can hold on to for a lifetime. They keep us connected with loved ones that are not with us anymore and give us reason to reconnect with those whom we might have grown apart from. They can also help us to be intentional about our future. We take good memories and try to emulate them year after year – that’s how holiday traditions are formed. We can also take bad memories and be intentional about not repeating them - making changes to improve experiences that will become good memories.
When we think of Christmas memories, there is one measurement that should guide us and that is the birth of Jesus. We remember the gifts we received, the food we ate, the family we were with, but do we remember Jesus? As believers we try to counter the commercialization and secularization of Christmas by proclaiming “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Do our actions, words and even our memories prove that to be true? This Christmas let’s show others around us that we are truly remembering Jesus.