It was an unknown author who wrote these profound words about Jesus Christ: “I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this one solitary life.”
Jesus Christ’s birthday is celebrated by the world in this month of December. He lived in a dusty corner of the Roman Empire more than 2,000 years ago. From the beginning of his birth among the animals was the beginning of his humble life. For there was no room for him in the Inn. He had no money. He was not a sport hero or starred in a blockbuster movie, or was elected to a position of power. And, yet, more than one billion people today proclaim to be his followers.
From my earliest memories, I knew who this man was, for I was taught as a child, “Jesus Loves Me.” My mother read Bible storybooks to me about his compassion for the sick and the suffering and how he healed the blind, lame, and lepers. He even raised the dead. I had a picture of him holding the little children. My heart knew he loved me.
He was a master storyteller who wove moral lessons through the stories he told so that you had to ponder and think upon them. To illustrate the forgiveness of God, Jesus related the tale of the prodigal son, who threw away his inheritance in loose living and worldly things until, broken, shamed, and repentant, he returned home to find his father rejoicing that, “once you were lost, but now are found.”
Jesus urged his followers personally to help those in need – the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, saying that whatever they did“for one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”
He asked them to forgive the faults of others and He laid down the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
He forbade murder and adultery, anger and hatred, and encouraged prayer, fasting, and sacrifice. “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”
What was at the center of all he taught? Love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not only love God but also love your neighbor as yourself. Then he asked us to even love our enemies as he loved his, for on the cross he said, ”Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
My early memories of Christmas were wrapped up in sound, smell, and taste. There just is something about the air that is even different. A child feels an unexplained excitement and anticipation that stays with them into adulthood.
My mother wanted us to remember Christmas not as a gift-giving day but one of celebration of the Life we were honoring. “What gifts can you give Jesus?” was her question to us one Christmas in 1960. I wasn’t much in the mood to answer her question. I was feeling sorry for myself because, truth be told, we were a family living on meager means, and I knew that I wouldn’t get much in the way of presents that year.
My mother told us of a family whose father was very ill. There were three little girls in the family. We took some of our old dolls and made them over with new hair and beautiful doll clothes that my mother and I sewed. I felt the excitement building. We made pies and cookies and put together a food basket. After dark, my sisters and I crept up to the door. We placed our offering on the porch, knocked, and ran. We had pre-picked a bush where we sat shivering with anticipation as we watched to see what would happen. The door opened, and a little girl cried out. “Mommy, there’re presents! Words can’t describe how much better my young 12-year-old heartfelt. My mom said I felt the spirit of Christmas.
When it was my turn to bring the spirit of Christmas to my own children, we had many wonderful experiences, but my favorite was with a homeless man who lived in his truck parked in a vacant field. For months we would drive by and the kids would comment on how sad it was that he had no home. When we gathered together to pick our Christmas service, my young son said, “Mom, the man in the truck!”
We made goodies and wrapped a flannel shirt and packed them in a basket and at the last minute I put in a Bible with the Christmas story marked. I told my oldest son to be ready to jump out and place the box on the ground at the back of the camper. I was worried that we might frighten him, so I wanted to be quick.
On Christmas Eve, when we drove up, all was dark and quiet. I wasn’t sure if he was there, but my son quickly got out and placed the box. As he jumped back in the car, the back of the camper door flew opened and, as I sped away, my daughter yelled out the window, “Merry Christmas, we love you!” The kids sang all the way home. We had the Christmas Spirit – the Spirit of Christ.
Now I am making memories with my grandchildren this year we help at the Salvation Army warehouse.
Whatever attitudes people hold towards Jesus Christ, whether they believe him to be the Son of God or just a great teacher, there is no question that, if his teachings were faithfully followed and lived by everyone, the world would be a better and more peaceful place to live. Christmas gives us a chance to change ourselves and to remember a babe born of Mary.
What gift will you give?
Merry Christmas to all of you from the Allen Family!!!