My British mother loved tradition and “properly” celebrating Christmas was important to her. Dad, my brother, sister, and I all contributed to that tradition. Dad carefully searched for a full, beautifully symmetrical, appropriately sized live tree, and each of us had our part in decorating it. Dad had also built a manger for the all important nativity scene which was prominently displayed each year.
Christmas music filled the home. The addition of a fully decorated tree with sparkling lights, tinsel, ornaments and wrapped gifts, plus the smell of pine and all the deliciously prepared traditional food only added to the excitement and anticipation for our little family. We were a “religious” family, so attending church service on Christmas Eve was also part of properly celebrating this important holiday.
Our dad was a hard worker and always busy doing. When he wasn’t at work, he was home either building or repairing something. He was somewhat of a perfectionist and there wasn’t much he couldn’t do well. He also insisted on the same high standards of his children.
It was difficult for him to express his love physically or with words to us kids. He more easily demonstrated his love through his skillful ability to design, fix, build and make just about anything with limited tools and equipment. So, the Christmas he made, especially for me, a letter opener…given after most all the other gifts had been opened…remains to this day my favorite, most deeply imprinted Christmas memory and significant possession.
Now, around 65 years later, I look back on that “love letter (opener) from Dad” with yet deeper and wiser appreciation. It was a unique expression of love from my father just for me, given freely as a special gift without any expectation or sense of entitlement on my part.
Seventeen years later, I was made more deeply aware of the importance of another love letter…one of eternal significance…and one that had been in our home all along, just never opened; of course, I’m speaking of the Bible.
In 1972 the book was opened and as I read God’s words to man, revealed through the apostles and prophets, my eyes and heart were opened to the amazing love of God, expressed through His Son, Jesus. The depth and reality of what Jesus did, what He actually accomplished for me and for all that place their trust in Him, was transforming. The burden of religion with all its man-made rituals and obligations was seen for what it is…man’s futile attempt to please, earn God’s favor, and attain heaven through one’s effort.
As God’s love letter was received and Jesus accepted into my heart as Lord and Savior, “religion” began to dissolve and a deep “relationship” was created with One I could now also call Father. No longer was God perceived to love based on performance. I discovered that all my efforts to be good enough in order to gain heaven would always come up short. Only in Jesus Christ and Him alone was I accepted and declared righteous. So the message of Christmas is that God came to earth in the form of a man to accomplish for us what we can not, no matter how hard we try, no matter how “religious” or “spiritual” we think ourselves to be.
“For by grace you’ve been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Just how great is that One born in a stable so many years ago? “For a child will be born to us, a son will be give to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. On the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)
Of what importance is He to us personally? “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
So how can this become the greatest Christmas ever, one that will be imprinted in your mind and heart forever? If God is tugging at your heart, receive by faith the love gift God gave us so many years ago. Trust in Him and what He came to do for us. Believe His words: “It is finished.”
May each of you have a blessed Christmas.