Altar Call Ė Opelika-Auburn News
December 2, 2001
Someone should write a song of welcome to the month of December. It could begin, "Hello December, how we love you!" Most of us do welcome this final month of the calendar year with joy.
Dear old Santa comes to see us in December. No matter your age, there remains a bit of excitement as you ponder what good old Santa will leave you under the tree. I can still remember the thrill of helping Mama put fruitcake and milk on the hearth so Santa could refresh himself after coming down our chimney. And the years have not robbed me of believing that dear Santa enjoyed our refreshments; after all, the plate and the glass were always empty on Christmas morning.
So donít tell me what you have stopped believing. Tell me what you still believe, ideas that keep the fantasies of Christmas alive for you. Who says you have to stop believing in Santa? Not me. I say he adds a gentle, childlike touch to Christmas that should not be dissolved by adult sophistication.
We must love December because we decorate the world as we do in no other month of the year. Lights everywhere. Christmas trees loaded with tiny lights, both outside the house as well as inside. Bright red and green ribbons. Greenery with red berries. Lights everywhere that resemble snowflakes. Strings of lovely lights on store fronts and homes. No amount of decoration seems too much.
Speaking of lights reminds me of the lights at Callaway Gardens. How many now? Ten million? Maybe more this year. But what fun it is to bundle up the kids and ride through the woods at Callaway admiring with awe and wonder the marvelous characters created by millions of tiny lights! And especially do we enjoy taking children and adults to see those lights for the very first time.
And who does not enjoy the bountiful food produced by the Christmas season! Tis the season for toasted pecans, cakes, pies, candies, cookies, and all kinds of goodies. Who is not blessed to find that a good friend has left you a plate of delicious cookies or that gloriously sweet white candy that melts in your mouth! I reckon we call it "divinity" because its taste is divine!
Merchants love December because for many businesses sales this month will exceed all other months. People who never think of buying someone a gift the rest of the year will do it in December. Our stores add extra sales people to accommodate the flood of customers who strengthen the economy with increased shopping.
My Mama was seldom frustrated by the busy traffic, on the streets and in the stores, at Christmastime. She had all her Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. Sears had a lot to do with that because most years she did the bulk of her shopping by mail. I must admit that I have not followed her example in this. Most years on Christmas eve I am out late, struggling through that sea of shoppers trying to find the perfect gift for a family member or friend. I donít fight it anymore; itís just one more bad habit I have embraced.
Am I oblivious to the pain that many experience during the holidays? Not at all. I am keenly aware that this will be an especially difficult season for those who have lost a loved one. My wifeís good friend, Mary Helen, shared with her just last week that she had lost her dear husband, Tom, who died on their 49th anniversary. This first Christmas without Tom will not be easy for Mary Helen and her children.
But, listen, does not our awareness of such sorrow in the hearts of others make it all the more important that at Christmastime we do everything we can to share the pain of others, and find ways to extend our love to them? Is there ever a more important time to share the gift of our love with those whose hearts are broken? Surely not!
You will not be surprised, since I am a preacher, to know that I consider December a marvelous month for the church. We "hang the greens" and decorate our churches with exquisite beauty this month. Our sanctuaries are so lovely that one can tolerate a boring sermon more easily in December than any other time of the year.
And the music! Oh, the music of Christmas! I enjoy it all -- "Jingle Bells" as well as "Silent Night." But nothing brings home the true meaning of Christmas so much as the glorious music of our churches. Be sure to make room on your calendar for one or more Saturday night or Sunday night cantata in a church of your choice. Try to go on the night when there is a reception afterward so you can enjoy refreshments and fellowship with others. It adds to the significance of the holy season.
It is at Christmastime that I dare to try to sing "Sweet lil Jesus Boy," one of my all-time favorites. And then it wonít be Christmas for me unless I hear Joy Samford sing the magnificent song, "O Holy Night." Again this year Joy has agreed to sing it for us at Trinity. If you can come, donít be surprised if you see a tear or two in my eyes. But I will not be ashamed for it is that glorious holy night when Christ was born that sums up for many of us the greatest reason for loving December.
"Hello December, how we love you!" Thatís how this new song could begin. Perhaps you can finish it for me.