Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas of '83

I will never forget Christmas of '83.

I grew up in the 1960's in the heart of the Midwest, at a time when we still sang Christmas carols in school - even the good ones that talked about Jesus. Hark the Herald Angels, Joy to the World, O Holy Night, We Three Kings... being in chorus through all my years of school I sang them every year, and knew them all very well.

The problem was, I knew the songs but not the Savior; I was not yet a Christian. Of course, Christmas was still special - that kind of special so hard to describe but clearly felt by everyone, no matter what their background or faith. The songs... the lights... the trees... the packages... the whole spirit of the holiday was glorious and wonderful, so different from the rest of the year. No one could really define why or how, it just was.

And I loved it. The winter snows brought icicles and snowmen, sledding and ice skating, all the things that trimmed out the holidays so perfectly. Caroling down the streets of our small towns was everything Norman Rockwell could have envisioned - winter mittens and woolen coats, galoshes and bright scarves with air so cold you could see the long notes hanging in the air above the mouths of the singers. People would actually come out of their homes and stand on their porches to hear the singing, that awesome singing.

It was all so special.

Living on the farm as a small child, I know we had some tough years. We were not what you would consider 'poor', but sometimes we were probably as close to poor as we could get without actually being there. My parents worked hard. Dad had a full time job in the city, plus worked the farm all the other hours of the days and weeks. Mom took care of the family, the household, and the farm too. We all had chores to do, caring for the animals and crops, building fence and working the fields, everything that makes a farm come together. It wasn't uncommon in those days for rural homes to still use outhouses, and for people to carry water to the house from a well somewhere. We installed our first bathroom when I was twelve, before that it was a long winter walk to the back yard facilities, and warm baths in a washtub. Life was very different from what we have now, but we didn't think anything of it, we just lived it. We were a family - we had birthdays and hot summers and an old black and white TV.

And we had Christmas. That chilly old farmhouse with the oil stove and snow-filled winds whistling outside the windows just made it more special - we had Christmas. We always had a real tree - my dad always liked real trees - and Christmas morning was everything a child could want. The awesome feeling was there all those years, that special holiday feeling.

Now fast forward... past my childhood in the sixties into the tumultuous seventies, and on into the uncertainty of the eighties... to that wonderful moment in my life in 1983 when I accepted Christ and became a Christian. The miracle change took place - the Bible describes it as being 'born again' - where we devote our lives to Jesus and become a new creation in Christ. It was an amazing event for me, opening my eyes to so many truths I had never seen, and real answers to questions I had asked for years. My life was genuinely turned around - I had become a Christian!

As wonderful as that time was, the transformation beginning in March of that year, I was in for yet another surprise as the months wore on. My new life was wonderful, glorious, and blessed - I knew I had finally come home and found in Jesus all that I needed for life and love. My life began to blossom that year, and grew more blessed as the year passed.

Christmas came. The trees, the lights, the glitter and festivities. Shopping, presents and bows, and family dinners. And we sang.

We sang.

We sang the songs of Christmas, the sleighing songs, the snowing songs, the winter songs... and the Jesus songs. And that's when it happened - something exceptional took place in my heart.

The songs came alive! For the first time in my life, those wonderful songs were not only special and seemingly magic, my eyes were opened up and I saw the same Jesus in them that I now had in my heart. They made sense now! It was like a whole new revelation, a brilliant new flash of light that came on and stayed forever, the truth of Jesus! The same songs that were always so special were also now even more beautiful and personal - songs of the birth of the same Savior I had come to know earlier that year - Jesus the light and life of God.

And it was wonderful.

Although I didn't hear the voices of angels, I very clearly heard the message. "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

That was Christmas of 1983, the year I finally understood that special meaning in Christmas, that wonderful feeling that sets it apart. Just as there is nothing like the feeling we experience around the holiday, there is also no feeling like we experience when we receive Jesus as Savior. If you're reading this, and you want to feel Christmas all year, the good news is that you can. Call on this Jesus, the baby born in a humble manger, this Savior who paid the price for our sins on the cross, this risen Messiah who now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, and who dwells in our hearts through faith. Jesus - the answer to all our problems.

Come. Let us adore him, today. Yes, come, let us adore him - Christ the Lord.

Yep, I'll never forget that special Christmas of '83. 

And it just gets better every year. 

God Bless!

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