I wrote this article two or three years ago for our Church newsletter in Hubbard. I thought it would be appropriate to share with you today. Enjoy. Happy New Year!
I sit writing this article on Tuesday morning, December 27, les than 12 hours after arriving back in Hubbard from a wonderful Christmas spent in Vernon, TX with Kelley’s side of the family. I always have a difficult time leaving my family after the holidays and going back to “real life,” and I haven learned that my wife does as well. As she and I drove down a dark and crowded HWY 287 last night after leaving Vernon we put in my new CD by Bart Millard, “Hymned”, and praised along with Bart and his blue grass rendition of hymns dedicated to his grandmother. We both silently become more and more emotional as we drove. IT had been a very different Christmas for me. It was my first holiday spent away from my own family. IT was my first Christmas spent with my new family.
As we drove on and sang on I tried to identify exactly what was bringing up this geyser of emotion within me that I couldn’t seem to contain. I found myself reflecting on an incredible Christmas spent with Kelley’s side of the family. Hours upon hours spent visiting, laughing, and eating with family. I found myself missing my own family more strongly than I had all weekend. Memories of all twenty-three Christmas’s and thoughts of a very special gift my mom gave me this year pressed upon me. So much happiness to soak in. So much love had been shared and experienced. As “in the Sweet By and By”, played and we sang I thought about my Pap-paw who now is already on that beautiful shore. I thought of Kelley’s family members who are there with Pap-paw and how just under the surface of all the time we had spent wit family were thoughts, conversations, jokes, and tears that made those who aren’t with us just as much a part of the fellowship as ever.
Although the celebration of the birth is Christ is always paramount at Christmas time; also sacred and to be celebrated are the times spent simply sitting, eating, and living in fellowship with loved ones.
The popular picture painted of Heaven as never done much for me. Streets of gold and my own mansion don’t seem too important when you are in the presence of God. I would much prefer a picture of Heaven that is a living room on Christmas morning filled with torn and crumpled wrapping paper and family sitting round and sharing their lives with one another. Although no hymn is sung and no sermon is preached; God is glorified mightily in such moments. This is my picture of Heaven.
Kelley’s dad gave her and her sister a very special Christmas present this year. He made each of them a beautiful bench that already is prominently featured in our apartment. IT was a heartfelt and beautiful gift which I’m sure our children will eventually argue about which one will get to keep the bench when we’re gone. Painted upon the bench are the words, “Gott Sei Dank!” This phrase is German for “Thanks Be to God!”
As the CD ended last night and Kelley and I were finally able to compose ourselves I could think of no better phrase to describe all I felt. Thanks be to God for sending His son. Thanks be to God for family. Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit who descends upon a family gathering and causes it to feed your soul and sustain you more than any Christmas feast ever could.