I have always loved Christmas. As a child, I couldn't wait until Christmas would finally arrive. Our family tradition was to go over to my Grandpa Burke's on Christmas Eve and then our house on Christmas Day. There at my Grandpa Burke's, all of my dad's brothers and sisters would gather with their children (my cousins), and we would eat a big meal and then gather in the living room. None of us kids ever ate much at those meals, we were too excited about the gifts!
Someone would be designated as the gift 'passer-out-er,' and soon we would hear "To......Jason! From Papa and Mama." We would sit and and enjoy watching Jason open his gift, only because we knew our name was soon to come. Mama would always get her clock each year, as she loved collecting them. Papa would get a new tool, usually a hat, and something else he'd probably never use. One of my dad's siblings would get a 'gag' gift from their siblings (most of which I still will not talk about).
FINALLY, I would hear "To...Travis! From Mama and Papa." Oh the anticipation, oh the joy, oh the excitement of opening that gift! I remember getting a Fonzie Radio one year, a pool stick another, and lots of cars and trucks and such.
Eventually, the last present was opened, the last scrap of wrapping paper was picked up, and we were heading out to the car with a big black trash bag containing our gifts.
Now for our family (my parents and sisters), we were scheduled to open gifts on Christmas morning, but my dad (when it comes to Christmas) is a softy. By the time we would drive from Trotwood back to West Carrolton here in Ohio, we had him convinced to let us go ahead and "open just one present."
That one would end up being two, then three and then eventually all of the gifts. Each gift would be opened after the objection of mom. I can still hear her, "Wayne Lee, there won't be nothing left for in the morning!" And, there never was; but that was fine by us. It was perfect just like that.
Christmas morning was for playing with the new toys and enjoying the bounty! Dad would always read to us Luke chapter 2, and some how mom usually had a last present hid some where to unwrap (she knew what would happen too).
There we would sit in our PJ's listening to the Christmas story smelling mom's breakfast casserole cooking. Dad would pray, thanking God for His blessings, but especially for Jesus.
Well, here we are and now I'm the dad. On Christmas Eve we go over to Stacey's parents, and Christmas Day is spent at home. Now, I'm not a softy like dad when it comes to Christmas presents, I'm as hard nosed as they come-you will wait till Christmas morning! Dad...well, we still have to keep the presents away from him or he would be giving them out 2 weeks early.
On Christmas morning, I'm still the first one up. I love heating the living room, lighting the tree, and situating each present just perfect around the tree. Then I wait...and wait...and cough real loud...and let the dog out loudly...and amazingly the kids wake up soon after. We gather around and I read Luke 2. While I read, Stacey usually has some breakfast in the oven warming up. The kids are anxiously listening to the Scripture. We pray and thank God for His blessings, but most importantly for His Son and our salvation.
The kids then open up the gifts while Stacey and I will catch each other's eye through out it all, so thankful for our children and our family. The rest of the day will be filled with playing that new game, assembly of some sort, and laughs...lots and lots of laughs.
But, it's not over, because the day after Christmas we go to Papa Joeys (my parent's house). Remind me later to explain Papa Joey's name. We will gather at Papa Joey's around 9 or 10. Papa Joey will already be crying in gratitude for his family. The children will be counting their gifts. Rachel will figure out which gift is her make up set, I will find out which one is my chocolate peanuts, and Chrystal will be posting pictures on facebook.
After being there 11 seconds, dad will say, "Well,let's open presents!" After 30 seconds of cheers and jumping up and down by the grandkids, one of us be designated "present-passer-out-er." Papa Joey will read Luke 2 and give thanks for the blessings of the Lord and especially His Son-our Saviour. Soon you will hear "To.....Alex from Mama and Papa Joey!" The children will all watch with anticipation for their name to be next. One of the babies will cry wondering why they haven't gotten a gift yet. Mom will watch with a giant smile on her face sipping coffee. Dad, he will still be crying.
Finally, the last present will be opened, the last scrap of wrapping paper will be picked up, and after some games and the kids playing with their new toys together, everyone will load up the bounty in big black trash bags and head home.
I write all this to explain Christmas. There is no Scriptural mandate to celebrate the birth of Christ. He was not born on December 25th. I'm not worshipping a tree. We will have church-both services-when Christmas falls on a Sunday. I'm not a pagan, nor do I really think this holiday was ordained by God.
But, Prov. 10:7 says, "The memory of the just is blessed:" God wants our families to be happy, a haven from the world, and a heritage to pass down. Part of that heritage are blessed memories. I don't know how many Christmas' we will have with Papa Joey and Papa Napier. Some day, my children will have Christmas at their own house with their family. But, I can't wait to hear about how they all read Luke 2, carried out presents in big black trash bags, talked a papa into giving an early present, and...well, you get the picture.
Christmas as a holiday isn't Scriptural...neither is July 4th, neither is Memorial Day, neither is Thanksgiving Day; but they can be used to practice Biblical principals. I choose to use Christmas as an open door to witness, and a time to make blessed memories with my family. I'll be enjoying this week like few others in the year...I'll be securing the heart of my children...I'll be making memories that are blessed and to be passed down...I'll be using it as a time to teach my children about the Saviour...I'll cry in rejoicing in God's blessings. How about you?