Christmas music was playing on the radio station recently as we headed toward the airport. Shar asked, “Have I ever told you about the time my brother woke my sister and me up in the middle of the night Christmas Eve?” Then she told me about how her older brother had her and her sister looking out the windows because he thought he saw Santa’s sleigh. They excitedly looked, but didn’t see the sleigh. She concluded the story by saying, “that stinker.” To which I responded, “I’ll bet that’s a special childhood memory for you.” “Yea, it is” she replied.
Memories surround Christmas. Hopefully, all of us have a treasury of good Christmas memories. Soon, Shar and I will decorate our house for the season. Almost every Christmas ornament in our home tells the story about a special friend or time in our lives. It’s an odd collection of pieces that only has value to us. As we take these family treasures out of the boxes and wraps that guard them, we remember fondly the stories behind them.
Some have not been on the tree for years, perhaps decades, like the aluminum pop can string from our first Christmas as a married couple. Like many newlyweds, we couldn’t afford enough ornaments to decorate the whole tree. To fill the empty spaces, every night as I was stocking the pop machine at the grocery store where I worked, I emptied the pop off tops into a bag and took them home. We strung them together to make a shiny, long aluminum rope to wrap around the tree. My creative decoration, along with a single strand of lights, one box of bulbs, and popcorn rope that Shar made began our Christmas decoration collection.
One of the decorations we cherish was given to us by a missionary kid in Brazil. We had the privilege of celebrating Christmas that year with several other missionary families. He used a scroll saw to make every family a sign that says, “Feliz Natal,” (Merry Christmas). It was such a thoughtful gesture. Our hearts were broken for him and his family several years later when we got the news that his dad had been tragically killed in a car accident in Brazil. That ornament reminds us of his family and the sacrifice they made for Jesus. It also reminds us of our missionaries serving in far away places and our responsibility to “hold the ropes.”
As we go through the boxes, it’s like rediscovering the stories all over again as we take each ornament out. There are little crocheted mailboxes that Shar’s grandmother made for each of us and our children. We have popsicle stick ornaments that our boys made when they were in elementary school, not exactly works of art, but precious to us. There’s something in those boxes from just about every member of our family. Several years ago, we bought an ornament that reminds us of Shar’s dad who is with the Lord. Our collection has grown to include ornaments are grandchildren made for us.
From the boxes, we will take out ornaments given to us from people in the various churches we’ve served. Each reminds us of a period of our lives and the rich relationships we have had with God’s people during our lifetime together.
There’s one ornament given to us by a deacon and his wife that reminds us of what holds all of our Christmas’ together — a long spike. We hang it on the tree every year as a reminder of what Christmas is really about — Jesus. The real tree of Christmas is not the beautiful Evergreen that adorns our homes, but the old rugged cross of Calvary on which Jesus died. The spike is tucked away in the branches of the tree, but we know it’s there. We show it to our grandchildren and tell them the story of Immanuel - God with us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.