Advent, Holly, Poinsettias, Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Yule, Christmas, Trees, Wise Men, Shepherds, on and on we could go! The words and phrases of the Holiday season. We throw them around wil-ly-nilly without really giving much serious thought to them. Each one may have some special meaning to us. They all may have special meaning to us! But when we really get down to the nitty gritty, what is the real meaning of Christmas? The answer to that question, obviously… this is the time of year that we celebrate the birth of Christ. Who knows if Christ was really born on December 25th? That’s only one of 365 days in our present calendar.
Furthermore, we operate under a different calendar than those who lived in Jesus’ time. My gut feeling, and from all that I can gather, the birth of Christ more likely occurred in the spring of the year- more like our present month of April. Still, does it really matter that we do not know the exact date or the exact time of year? I don’t really think so. What does matter then? What about adding some more words and phrases to our holiday celebrations? Can you think of some? What about honor, revere, esteem, respect and many others that cause us to think about the meaning of Christmas?
Sometimes we get so caught up in the celebrations, that we forget, or at least let it slide unto the background, the real meaning of Christmas. I think back in times past, so many of our ancestors did not have the means to celebrate Christmas like we do today. The food, the gifts, the decorations, and so many more of the “trappings of modern-day Christmas were most likely not a part of our ancestors’ Christmas celebrations. many of you are not users of the social media plat-form Facebook. But on Thanksgiving Day 2021, as we awaited the arrival of our loved one for our traditional Thanksgiving meal, I was led to write some thoughts from my own personal family history. Since many of you did not get to read my post, I thought I would share it here in my monthly pastor’s article for the Homestead newsletter.
“Benjamin and I are here at the parsonage by ourselves today. Mrs. Preacher (Teresa) is working on this Thanksgiving. The house will be jam packed later this evening when the entire family gathers. We are cooking, cleaning, watching Christmas videos on YouTube, and counting our bless-ings. As we say every Sunday at the end of our worship services, God is Good…All the Time. We may not always understand at that particular “time.” But I firmly “believe that “all things work to-gether for good to those who love God.”
So, I have just been thinking about the holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas, of the year 1936. Eighty-five years ago, a little widow lady was trying to keep food on the table and clothes on the backs of eight youngsters in the middle of the Great Depression. The coal mines had just closed a few years before, leaving her now deceased husband without work. I have often wondered as I’ve gotten older how her faith was tested as she dealt with the situation as best she could. If one wanted to call an entire year a disaster, 1936 would have been that year. And it was going to be a long time before this dire situation showed much improvement.
What was so disastrous about that year of 1936, you ask? June 26, 1936- her 41st birthday, she lost her mother-in-law. Two weeks later, July 8, 1936, she lost her mother. The next day, July 9th, as the family gathered at the Eastland Cemetery for her mother’s burial service, a sudden storm came up. Her beloved husband had been holding the baby standing under a tree in the cemetery. As the wind increased, the thunder began to roll, and the lightning began to flash, he passed the little one through the car window to its mother. He took his place back under the tree with some of the other men to wait out the storm. Suddenly, a huge flash of lightning shot from the sky, striking the very tree where gathered those men. Three of those men were knocked to the ground by the bolt of lightning. One of those men being her husband, another being her brother. The last being a neighbor. Her husband lay dead from the massive lightning strike and her brother was knocked senseless. He would pass away the following February of 1937, never having fully recovered from being struck.
Skipping ahead a few months, here come the holidays. Eight children left at home, the oldest boy just 17 years of age. “I’ll bet he was a big help to his mother,” you’re probably thinking. Well, think again. He was a deaf mute and would soon leave home, his destination being the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Don’t you know that little widow lady’s faith and will was certainly tested. Now you’re probably wondering who this little widow lady was? She was my “tough as nails” little grandmother. To me and twenty-nine other grandchildren, she was “Fat Granny.” I have no idea how she came to be called that because, at least in my eyes, she was not fat. To many nieces and nephews, she was Aunt Maude.
She came from hearty stock, so she had to be tough to bear the burdens of widowhood with eight mouths to feed. She went on to live on this earth almost 95 years, passing away June 5, 1990, three weeks to the day, shy of her 95th birthday and almost 54 years after the passing of her husband. So, during this holiday season 2021, I choose to count my blessings that I have clothes to wear, shoes on my feet, a warm house, food to eat, a wonderful family, TWO wonderful church families, and lots of friends. I am blessed.
I have preached eight funerals so far this year. Some dear friends are missing their loved ones during this holiday season. Brother Nelson and sister-in-law Doris left us for their heavenly home last February. There is just brother Bethel and me left on this earthly plain. Homer Jr, Garry, Basil, and Nelson have joined our and parents and loved ones in heaven. I shared at the funeral I preached Tuesday, with each passing year, there are more of “my people” in heaven than there are here. Who knows what this next year will bring? But this much I know. God is Good…All the Time! Enjoy the holidays! Hug them a little tighter! Benjamin and I (and Mrs. Preacher too) love you all!”
How about this holiday season, let us put a little more emphasis on how blessed we really are! Jesus Christ, our Savior, was born in Bethlehem, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross that we could be saved from our sins. And John 10:10 shares with us some particularly important words from Jesus Himself. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” We are living that abundant life, dear friends! It may not be a life of luxury, wealth, and “stuff,” but if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, it is an abundant life filled with the joys being a Christian. And what better time than now to enjoy that abundant life found in Christ!
From your parsonage family, we wish you a warm, spirit-filled Christmas season! Mrs. Preacher, Benjamin, and I love you all!