I remember when I was growing up in the Orient area, near Gresham Oregon, just two miles from where I live now. I enjoyed sledding and especially loved those Christmases when it was snowing (which was a number of them, though not as many as I would have liked).
But mainly when I think about Christmas, I think of my mom. Although she was not a Christian when I was growing up, she embodied the spirit of Christmas. She decorated the whole house, top to bottom, and to this day there are many things I experience around Christmas time that remind me of her.
My family celebrated on Christmas Eve and that was also when we had our big meal. Our Christmas dinners were a Thanksgiving-like meal complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, homemade rolls dripping with butter and strawberry jam, and big glasses of cold milk. My mom loved to play Pinochle, so often after we ate, we would play Pinochle and board games like Monopoly and Parcheesi.
On Christmas morning, we would open our stockings and have all the candy, including malted milk balls, Butterfinger candy bars, and always Whitman’s Samplers, which came in little Christmassy boxes with four chocolates in them. My brother Lance and I would trade with each other for the ones we really liked.
All of that was wonderful, but I didn't know much—if anything—about the true meaning of Christmas. Yet it's interesting how, when I later came to know Jesus and for the first time understood what Christmas was all about, I could still look back at those years with a sense of awe and delight. There was something so good and right and fun about Christmas that allowed me to almost retroactively read the meaning of the incarnation back into my childhood, even though the gospel wasn't part of my life or home then.
One of the greatest joys of my life was having the privilege of leading my mom to faith in Christ, within the first year after I became a Christian as a teenager. After that, Christmas—including the years my wife Nanci and I had with our daughters Karina and Angela as they were growing up—had the meaning it should have always had. As a family we were able to experience many of the same traditions I had experienced as a kid, but with the real meaning behind them. Seeing my daughters praying and knowing that Christmas was really about Jesus made all the difference. Now, we get to experience this with our four grandsons, and every year Christmas is even more delightful than the year before.
Photo by Tyler Delgado on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.