by James Summers
I love this time of year.
Things start to slow down and fall into focus during Thanksgiving week, which of course coincides with the traditional buck season in this part of the world. Hours spent in the woods, alone with nothing but my own thoughts, goes a long way to remove the clutter of the everyday chaos which fills our daily lives. We begin to slow down and enjoy the fellowship of our family and friends.
The cool, damp quiet of the late fall evenings settles in early. The Creator seems to be calling us to slow down, to rest a bit and savor the time.
This week our family will make our annual visit to an old friend’s tree farm and pick out a tree that barely fits in the living room. We will stand in the cold and talk with our friend until well after dark, then invite him to supper some evening after Christmas. He will remind us to be sure and cut about an inch off the bottom of the tree stem so that it can drink better, and I’ll say we’ll need to cut about 5 inches off for it to fit under our ceiling. I like the top to almost touch the ceiling, so that when we place the angel on the top it will bow down in reverence to One whose birth we celebrate.
I will place a couple of my favorite ornaments on the tree – ones we made from wedding cards on our first Christmas together. Then I will sit and watch for a while as my wife and sons decorate the tree with ornaments gathered over the years. Each ornament has a story to tell and a memory to awaken. Tears will fill my eyes as I savor the moment, and I’ll be reminded that Jesus came to the world to bring us peace.
And love and fellowship and forgiveness.
And hope. And life.
At last, when the decorating is almost finished, I’ll get back up and sort through the box to find my other favorite decoration – the chrome colored plastic icicles. The boys and I will start placing these on the tree; my wife will roll her eyes and take her turn to watch. Then she will dig out her grandmother’s nativity set and place it on the mantle. That will remind my oldest son to pull out the nativity set that he made in church when he was six. He will set it up on a table in the upstairs hallway, while his brother and I hang socks by the fireplace.
After Thanksgiving, Christmas music starts to fill the house – especially at supper time. Songs of our Savior’s birth will mix with occasional songs of nostalgia about “Christmas time” and home.
I know there are those who disdain Christmas trees and celebrating pagan holidays and all the commercialization. Maybe they’re right. I know that Jesus wasn’t likely born in winter but in early spring, probably about the time that Passover lambs were being born. I know that Jesus probably wasn’t born in the “barn” style of manger that is so often depicted. I know the wise men probably didn’t find Jesus on the night of his birth. And, I agree, there was no little drummer boy.
But I have to say, the “bleak midwinter” is a good time to celebrate Jesus’ birth:
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
Christmas is a gift of common grace to our world. The goodness of Jesus, of celebrating His birth, overflows to more than just “believers,” and gives us a taste of God’s good will toward all men. Yes, it is a shame that the gift of grace has been corrupted by selfishness and skepticism, but we can still celebrate. We can experience the glory of Christmas and of God’s good grace. And we can share with others these good gifts of peace and joy and love and forgiveness and hope and life by humbly stepping into their world as Jesus did ours.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
James and his wife Wendy serve on the CHEWV board and oversee Home School Day at the Capitol. With a heart for discipleship, James writes from his view on the mountain.