Memories of Christmas Past
by Steph Beth Nickel
About this time of year I get the warm fuzzies. Today I’d like to share six of my favourite memories and what they can teach us about the Greatest Gift of All Time, the reason for that very first Christmas so long ago.
A Much-Too-Large Christmas Tree
I remember my dad hauling in a freshly cut Scotch pine each Christmas—only to have to drag it back outside to cut off several inches of the trunk and a number of the bottom branches. Funny how it didn’t look near as big in the forest!
Philippians 5:17 says we are to “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.” (ESV)
To fulfill our God-appointed purposes, we must be pruned and reshaped. As in everything, Jesus set the ultimate example.
Shimmering Tinsel … Hung Strand by Strand
Each year we would carefully place the tinsel on the tree two or three strands at a time. Sure it would have been easier simply to toss it on, but the end result wouldn’t have been near so lovely.
That first Christmas was a long time coming. God’s people had been waiting for centuries, eons even. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.” (ESV) (emphasis mine)
Things aren’t always as easy or as immediate as we’d like, but we must trust the Lord to work out His plans and purposes in His perfect time.
An Overflowing Stocking
My parents were incredibly generous. My stocking always had to be taken down from the doorway in which it was hung (we didn’t have a fireplace) and placed, stuffed to overflowing, on the couch. It was usually topped with a stuffed animal that peeked over the back of the couch at me when I padded down the hall early Christmas morning.
This reminds me of the prodigal. When he returned to his father to beg for a position as one of his servants, he was in for a welcome he never expected. His father poured out abundant gifts on his undeserving son—and threw a huge celebration to boot.
My parents were generous, but it’s nothing compared to the lavish gifts the heavenly Father pours out on His children.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Christmas Lights
Well, back in the day, our Christmas lights weren’t exactly little, but “twinkle, twinkle chubby Christmas lights” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
At any rate … the multi-coloured lights that adorned our Christmas tree and the front of the house lit up the dark, cold nights of December.
In John 8:12, Jesus tells us, “I am the light of the world.” (ESV)
In Matthew 5:14, He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (ESV)
Again, He sets the perfect example for us. We must shine brightly and add beauty to this dark world.
Fun with My Father
I still remember the snow forts and non-traditional snowmen my dad made for me. He had old metal drums that he would fill with snow, invert, and carefully remove. Viola! Who says snowmen have to be made of three snowballs of various sizes? And you mean other kids didn’t have snowmen sporting the occasional fleck of rusty metal? (Ok, so it’s a wonder I didn’t get tetanus, but hey, Dad and I had a good time.)
Sure it’s serious business being the Saviour, but Jesus was approachable. After all, moms and dads brought their children to Him to be blessed. And the Lord didn’t send them away—like His disciples tried to. Instead, Jesus gathered them to Himself and blessed them. What a beautiful picture!
Romans 8:15 is a wondrous verse. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Abba is a familiar term, the equivalent of “Daddy” or, as one of my friends puts it, “Papa.” Is that not mind-boggling?
My Precarious Uphill Climb
My dad had a friend who owned several acres of woodland, but my favourite portion of the property was a long sledding hill free of trees. I could ride my Crazy Carpet down, down, down. But when my dad wasn’t around to shuttle me to the top on his massive Snow Prince snowmobile, I had to make the trek to the top of the hill on foot.
One winter we experienced some freezing and thawing and there was a layer of ice over several centimetres of snow. The only thing … the ice wasn’t of a consistent thickness. I never knew with each step if it would support my weight. Sometimes it did. And other times, I broke through and sank up to my thigh. It was slow going but fun nonetheless.
Life’s like that sometimes—minus the fun. We take a step forward and we’re not sure if life will support our weight. Will we stand tall or break through? But, as Christians, we have one of the most amazing promises ever uttered.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)
All things … let’s hold onto that promise as we go forward.
What are some of your favourite Christmas memories? Have they taught you anything about the Greatest Gift? If so, we’d love to hear about it. [Scroll down to join the conversation.]
[English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]
Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)
Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.