My grandmother and grandfather had seven living children (they lost three at birth). All but my mother and sister lived in Atmore and worked in the family business. We would gather at my grandmother’s house for a delicious meal of turkey and dressing, ham and assorted vegetables and breads and, of course, wonderful desserts. The men would eat in the dining room and the women and young children would eat in the kitchen. Afterwards, we would gather in the living room around the aluminum Christmas tree for the exchanging of gifts. All the children and grandchildren gave my grandmother gifts and, in turn, she always had special gifts for us.
After a fun and long night, we headed back to Evergreen where on Christmas morning, we would open our gifts from Santa. The rest of the day was spent playing with all the new toys. This all changed when my sister and I married our spouses. Gone were the trips to Atmore to be with my grandmother.
When Marybeth and I were newlyweds, our family would fly us out from Dallas/Fort Worth every Christmas to spend time at our homes. I was a poor seminary student, and we owned two worn out cars that would not have made the trip half way across the country for Christmas. We had to keep it fair. We spent 2 1/2 days with Marybeth’s family and 2 1/2 days with mine.
Each family had their own traditions. Marybeth’s family would gather at their home on Christmas Eve for a meal and then open presents on Christmas morning. We stayed around for Marybeth to do some post-Christmas sales shopping and then took off in a borrowed car for the five hour trip to Evergreen to see my family. There we would spend a good time opening presents and visiting all the relatives.
When I finally graduated from seminary and God providentially located us closer to family, we continued on with the Christmas traditions until the children started coming along. They added a new wrinkle in the Christmas traditions because they made traveling more difficult and also gave us an excuse to develop our own traditions.
When we moved to Virginia, Christmas became even more complicated. We always had to be at church on Christmas Eve for the special services and then would wake up quite early on Christmas morning, quickly open presents and pile into the minivan for the nine hour trip to Atlanta for 2 1/2 days with Marybeth’s family and then the five hour trip to Evergreen for 2 1/2 days with my family. Then, after all the family time came to an end, we piled back into the overloaded minivan for the long trip back to Tidewater, Va., just in time for school to start back.
Those days are memories now with the passing of Marybeth’s dad and my father, my mother’s sickness and the marriage of our middle son. All of this has disrupted our Christmas traditions and has forced us to start new ones.
Christmas is the most sentimental of all the holidays. It is during Christmas that we celebrate the birth of Christ. It is a time of gift giving and being with family. Therefore, I have found that most people approach Christmas with great joy. For many it reminds them of their childhood and the good family times that took place then. I find that many people are more open to the Gospel during this time of year. Of course, Christmas is a busy time of year in Jasper. Already this month I have enjoyed the Messiah performed by the Walker County Christian Chorus and a wonderful Christmas handbell concert by our First Baptist Church Handbell Choir. This weekend we will be having a big Christmas production, “Joy to the World,” performed by Jasper’s First Baptist Church choir on Sunday evening, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. and Monday evening, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m.. This is going to be a great time of worship as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The following week, we will be having our Children’s Christmas Musical at 6 p.m.on Sunday, Dec. 22.
One of my favorite services is the Christmas Eve service. Here at Jasper’s First Baptist Church, we have a very simple, meaningful candlelight service where we sing Christmas carols, read the story of the birth of Jesus from the gospels, and close it out with the lighting of candles. This service reminds us of the Scripture which states that Jesus is indeed the “light of the world.” Likewise, we believers are also called to be “lights of the world.”
This Christmas season, why not let your light shine by acts of kindness, being generous to the less fortunate and having a positive attitude toward others. Also, remember, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the greatest gift of all. The gift of salvation. That was something you could not buy with all the money in the world. It only comes from making Jesus Christ Lord of your life.
Remember to worship the Lord this Christmas.
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is the senior pastor of Jasper’s First Baptist Church www.jaspersfbc.org