I guess it wasn’t until I was about 30 years old that I experienced my first real Christmas. It was after I became a child of God. That made all the difference in the world in how I perceived Christmas.
Growing up Christmas was all about the local fire department’s annual Christmas party. It was a swell time, and all of us kids looked forward to it. They put on a super banquet with tons of home cooked food, and we all ate our fill. Then the country music band would begin to play and many people would get up and dance. I watched as my folks skimmed over the dance floor to the music, and hoped some day I could dance like them. Some of us kids would get out there and try.
Sometimes they had a talent show with local talent from the community. I was always in awe of this one girl who could do a wicked tap dance. Oh, if I could only do that. After we were full of food and tired of dancing, we would sing some Christmas carols. They gave us a little song book to take home and I remember my little sister and I would have singing contests with them.
Then, we would hear sleigh bells jingling, and old man Inar Anderson would come in the side door dressed in his Santa suit and shouting, “Ho, ho, ho!” Oh, that was exciting! Us kids would all gather around by the Christmas tree, and wait as Santa gave each of us a little box of hard candy that had a little srting cord to hang onto. I loved getting that box of candy! There was always one big chocolate drop in that box and I couldn’t wait to open it and see if it was there. Yum! My favorite!
Christmas at our house growing up was okay. We didn’t have much money but we always got something. We would get a stocking which had nuts, an orange, a tangerine, and an apple. Sometimes there would be a little gift tucked in there too. So, to me Christmas was about the Christmas party at the fire hall and our Christmas morning at home with gifts. I didn’t think too much about Jesus or the Christmas story.
After I grew up and got out into the world Christmas meant something else to me. It was party time! It was a time to get together with friends and have a drink or two to celebrate. Yes, we did a lot of celebrating. We celebrated at work too, as we had office parties. When we’d go and visit anyone they would offer us drinks. So, at that time of my life Christmas meant partying. And I certainly did my share!
In those days Christmas also meant getting gifts for everyone I could, and buying a tree and decorations. As I look back I realize that my focus on Christmas was all wrong. I have to confess that I think I worshipped my tree. I had to get it all set up and decorated just right. I’d put on some Christmas music, actually worldly music, and with a drink in hand I’d sit and look at my tree for a long, long time and just marvel at how beautiful it was. I loved people stopping by to celebrate with me and I loved going to their homes and celebrating with them. Yes, Christmas was a time of drinking and having a grand ole time.
But, then, after I found Jesus Christ as my Savior and went to church I discovered my first real Christmas. Oh, what a difference! It was wonderful! I remember so well that first real Christmas. It just happened that year that Christmas fell on Sunday. We had a short morning service that day. Then we had an evening service at church, and the pastor read the Christmas story from the Bible. It meant so much to me as I really listened to it for the first time, and let the words sink into my heart. It was beautiful!
After that we sang some Christian Christmas carols which were really beautiful, and the words meant something special to me. Then, members of the congregation shared some of the things they were thankful for. It was a blessing and I sat there with tears in my eyes. That Christmas I was sober and my heart was blessed with the beauty of Christmas. I loved hearing how others felt about Jesus and what He did for us. I wanted everyone I knew to feel like I did. Yes, there was more to Christmas than what I’d thought all those years.
Since that first real Christmas the holidays have meant so much more to me. It doesn’t mean partying and drinking any more. Those things were empty. But Christ is real and His Word is alive and can change our hearts.
The Bible describes me before I found Jesus Christ as my Savior and discovered the real meaning of Christmas. I believed in God, but did not realize that I was His enemy.
Rom 8:5-8 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, (7) because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, (8) and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
When I was saved I obtained PEACE with God. How wonderful is that?
Rom 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
This is the real Christmas story. Christ came to earth a harmless little baby, but He was born to die. What love is that? He died for me a hopeless, helpless sinner. I thought about that on that first real Christmas, and my heart was full of joy that God saved me from myself. Isn’t that amazing? He loved me that much!