From radio talk shows to letters to the editor to casual conversations, this seems to be the conversation starter—“What is your favorite Christmas Memory?”
Some are heartwarming such as a military family member surprising loved one by coming home. Some are nostalgic such as traveling to the snow covered farm to visit grandparents and being surrounded by the aroma of food. Some talk about their best gift or favorite foods while others immediately go to the dark side and recall travel fiascos, family squabbles and the Christmas tree catching fire.
How about you? What is your favorite Christmas memory?
I’m back in Austin, Minnesota, and it is finally Christmas Eve. My parents worked retail, so December always meant hard work and long hours. But around 3:00 on December 24, the store would close and they would come home. Grandparents were helping in the kitchen with food preparation. Children were excited about the growing pile of presents under the tree. And the anticipation in the room was bursting.
Because we could open gifts after dinner, eating was a slow torture. The adults would take their time enjoying the food and talking. Each time we thought the meal was done, someone would ask for a second helping or another cup of coffee or it was time to bring out the desserts. When the final piece of pie was consumed, then came the agonizing ritual of clearing the table and cleaning the kitchen. More waiting. More agony. More torture.
Until my mom would say something like, “How about we open gifts?” As if she were having a random thought. As if that weren’t on every child’s mind. As if we were going to do something new. “How about we open gifts?” Isn’t that the reason, the only reason, that we live and breath and have our being this night?
The presents are distributed by the youngest. Decorative paper and pretty bows that grandma wants to save are shredded and cast aside. And the mayhem begins with squeals of delight and words of thanks.
But the memories do not stop there. If they had, it would feel incomplete. For shortly after the frenzy of the gifts, we would be scurried away to get ready for church. Brush your teeth, comb your hair, change your clothes. It wasn’t a suggestion. It wasn’t up for debate. As good as dinner was and as exciting as the gifts were, church was the highlight of the evening. And we were all going. Period.
That’s what I remember. That is perhaps my favorite memory. And that’s what I want to pass down to my children, now grown. The traditional songs, the crowded sanctuary, the candlelight glow, the familiar story. I don’t remember what we had for dinner, I can’t remember all of the presents, I certainly don’t remember the sermon. But I do remember being together, in the dimly lit sanctuary, staring into that candle and singing:
Silent Night, Holy Night
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Join us for Christmas Eve worship. Make lasting memories. O come let us adore Him.