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Christmas Memories

by David Lemming

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year are the words that ring out joyfully everywhere during the month of December. It’s a wonderful time of gift-giving and celebrating together with family and friends. It usually involves eating way too much food as well! Can I get a witness?

Who doesn’t enjoy the pretty lights and brightly decorated homes reminding us that the Light of the World has come to be our Savior? My prayer for each of you is that you will enjoy this season, remembering the happy times of life and the most important Gift from Heaven.

As I’ve aged, the Christmas celebration has changed for me in some significant ways. I suppose it’s the reality that with maturity comes a deeper understanding of what really matters in life. The things I used to think were so important have diminished in their luster and have faded into the background of my holiday celebrations. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Maybe you feel some of these same kinds of emotions about the holiday season.

For instance, as a child, I used to think the most important thing on Christmas Day were the presents under the tree. I still remember getting up to find gifts from my parents all laid out in our living room. As we walked into the room my dad was filming everything we did with his Brownie Camera whose light bar was so bright it made it nearly impossible to look directly at him. He kept encouraging us to look up and most of what you see in his videos are three kids squinting and covering their eyes trying to smile for the lens. The nights before Christmas I couldn’t sleep in anticipation of seeing what “Santa Claus” had brought me. And I still wonder how he eats all those cookies and drinks all that milk in one night without getting sick.

When my wife and I were raising our children it wasn’t the presents under the tree that brought me joy, it was seeing our children’s faces as they opened their gifts on that special celebration day. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy seeing my children and grandchildren open their gifts on Christmas morning and watching their smiles as they trash the room with their paper and boxes discarded on the floor. However, things have evolved for me over these past several years in how I feel about the most important things I give my family during the Christmas season. As much fun as it is to give gifts to those I love, for me, it’s making memories with them that transcends all the temporal gifts we give and receive.

This year we aren’t doing the traditional Christmas thing! You know, getting up early Christmas morning, eating a special breakfast, gathering with the family to open gifts, having lunch together, and then off to take our much deserved long winter’s nap. Actually, we’re planning something altogether different that we’ve never done before. We’re not spending all our money this year on gifts and food so we can do something else that brings us together as a family in a way that creates memories that will stay with us long after the latest tech toys have lost their hype and the holiday foods are all eaten.

Every family is different and I certainly don’t intend to tell your family how to celebrate the holiday season, other than to keep Christ at the center of it all. It’s just that for me at this time in my life, memories are what I believe are the most important gifts we can give to each other. Memories that don’t even have to cost any money or require any special instructions!

To be certain, there will still be a few gifts under the tree to open and I’ll still get joy out of watching my grandchildren’s faces light up as they try on their new clothes or try out their new gadgets. But, what I want more than anything is for them to remember spending time together as a family making memories that will go with them for the rest of their lives. That’s why we are doing things differently this year, so we can enhance that part of the experience. I truly believe that the greatest gifts we give our families can’t be bought with money!  

I was recently thinking back over my years as a child growing up and I really can’t remember very much about any specific gift I received on Christmas Day, except for one. It was a brand new Schilke trumpet that my parents gave me so I didn’t have to continue using a school-issued instrument. One reason I remember that gift so well is because I found it in a closet well before Christmas Day. My mother told me that because I had looked in the “forbidden closet” she was going to take it back to the store since I had ruined my Christmas surprise. I suppose she had a change of heart because on Christmas morning that trumpet was in the living room with some other things they had gotten for me to open. Other than that one thing, the most memorable things for me about Christmas are being together as a family, as well as gathering at my Aunt’s house to celebrate the holidays with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of my mother’s family would get together for a big celebration along with a wonderful family meal. Eventually, we’d sit around my Aunt Daisy’s piano, singing beautiful Christmas songs until it was time to go home in the late afternoon. That memory and others like them are the ones that have lasted after all the other things have long been forgotten.

Let me suggest that possibly giving the gift of memories might be a great gift idea for your family, too. I’m sure you are creating many of those already through the special things you do during the season. What I want for my family is to create more of those kinds of gifts that they’ll take with them for a lifetime and that doesn’t cost a boatload of money to make happen. I hope this year you’ll be able to give some of those kinds of memories to those you love the most. Long after you’ve gone to Heaven they’ll still be talking about “that time” when you were all together celebrating the season and having fun together as a family!  

By the way, the trumpet I received many years ago from my parents at Christmas still exists and is hung on my daughter’s wall in a family memory area of her house. I guess that the “forbidden closet” debacle will also live on in my memory for a good while longer.

Merry Christmas to all of you and Happy New Year! May this season be a memorable one for you and all your family. Don’t waste a day worrying about the past! Enjoy the day God has given you and go make some new memories with those you love.
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