A True Story
“Get in the car! Now!”
My dad, his face beet-red and his voice booming, hustled my older brother and me into the back seat of his old Chevy. Dennis and I, in the neighborhood of 11 and 8 years old, knew not to resist dad when he was agitated. Yet we didn’t know why he was mad, or where he intended to take us.
Our hearts racing and our minds perplexed, we waited until dad retrieved a book from the house. Without speaking, he drove a half-mile up the dirt road that ran beside our house in rural North Carolina. He pulled the car off the road and appeared to be driving straight into the woods, but he took a path that had once been an old sawmill road, just wide enough for the car to fit. There, shrouded by tree limbs and with cedar trees lining the path, my dad left me a legacy of faith.
A cotton mill worker with a seventh grade education, Dad loved Jesus passionately, studied his Bible diligently, and taught an adult class at our church. Day after day for the past couple weeks, he had heard his two sons speculate about the presents we hoped to get at Christmas. He had heard us exude excitement over a box of fireworks we could start shooting off on Christmas Eve. Just moments before he ordered us into the car, he had heard once again our exuberant anticipation of the gifts and the fireworks.
“Toys and firecrackers–that’s all I’ve heard out of you two!” Dad bellowed after parking the car. Then from his spot behind the sterring wheel, he turned around to face us, opened his Bible, and read aloud zealously:
“Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken….”
He read aloud all of Luke 2: the events leading up to, including, and subsequent to the birth of Jesus. We heard the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, heard about Mary’s deliverance of the baby, Jesus’ presentation to Simeon in the temple, and Anna’s praise for the arrival of the “redemption of Jerusalem” (vs. 38). He didn’t use object lessons. He didn’t extrapolate on the content or ask us any questions about it. He let God’s Word concerning Jesus’ birth speak for itself. When he finished, he emphatically spoke seven words that resonate with me over six decades later:
“Now that’s what Christmas is all about!”
Without another word, he drove us back to the house. Oh, we still enjoyed the toys. And typical of boys, we imagined that friends miles away could hear the “Bang!” of every firecracker we lit that Christmas. But we never forgot Dad’s “sawmill Christmas story.”
Christmas isn’t about what we get from others, or what we give to them. It’s about the costly gift we received when a holy God condescended to be born in a manger. It’s about the helpless baby with wrinkled skin who was born for the primary purpose of dying.
For me, and for you.
That first Christmas was the ultimate example of “penetrating the darkness”!
Remember: the meaning of Christmas isn’t inside us. It’s a historical event. It’s just as real when we don’t feel it as when we do; when we aren’t “in the Christmas spirit” or when we’re feeling giddy like a young child.
The meaning of Christmas….just is.
If you don’t believe me, go read Luke 2.
What is your all-time favorite Christmas memory? Share it with your kids or grandkids this year.