Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 22, 2002


Be sure to include “giving thanks” on your Christmas list


            “Christmas is depressing,” someone said.

            “It’s like living in a pressure cooker,” another said.

             “Our Christmas debts will be a burden for six months,” a friend remarked sadly.

            “More people commit suicide in December than any other month.” We hear this chilling comment every year.

            One woman said, “I don’t enjoy the Christmas holidays. The men spend all their time either hunting or watching football games.”  There is a lot of truth in that.

            “Everybody eats too much, and we all get fatter. The diet industry must make a killing every January!” Who can argue with that?

            “For me Christmas is the grandest time of the year, bar none!” That is the spirit of many people.

            Whatever your perspective, Christmas is here again and we have to deal with it. It is a free country, so pay your money and take your choice. Embrace gloom and doom if you must.

            For my money, it is best to look upon Christmas as a time for giving thanks. Oh, I know, you thought that was why we observe Thanksgiving Day.

            Well, look at it this way. As we head into bleak midwinter, consider that we have two great occasions for giving thanks. Since most of us are blessed beyond our deserving, it will not hurt us to double up on giving thanks.

            As I share my list with you, I invite you to make your own. If some of my ideas are worth imitating, that will be another Christmas gift for me. Here, then, are a few of the things for which I am giving thanks this Christmas:

·        Opelika. What a great place to live! We enjoyed 13 wonderful years there, not one of which would we trade for the ice and snow of Chicago or the balmy breezes of Hawaii. Opelika is blessed with civic leaders who have a good record of accomplishment -- progress that continues to improve the quality of life for all its citizens.

·        Our church family at Trinity Methodist. We were loved, and we never expect to forget the kindness with which we were embraced by our sisters and brothers there. What an honor to have been their pastor for 13 years! The job was too big for me, but none of them ever told me that. I suspect some of them thought it. However, they may have realized what I did finally – that the good Lord gives us tasks that are too big for us so we will learn to depend on him instead of our own cleverness. That was surely his plan for me.

·        The Kiwanis Club of Opelika. I had been a Kiwanian in four other towns, so I joined the Opelika Club shortly after my arrival. I admired the club’s commitment to children and youth. Some of the finest men and women in Lee County have made this one of the best civic groups anywhere. I give thanks for all that I received from my Kiwanis association.

·        A free pulpit. During half a century of preaching the gospel, no one ever challenged my right to proclaim the truth as I understood it. That includes several bishops and district superintendents. No police chief or city official ever tried to threaten me or intimidate me to water down the gospel.

Freedom in the pulpit is no small blessing in America. Consider, for example, what goes on in China. Last year a Christian leader made known his desire to meet with leaders of the underground church in one province in China. Five pastors on their way to this meeting were followed and arrested. Two are still in prison. Their crime: preaching the gospel of Christ to a secret gathering of believers. Despite the secularism and materialism that plague our country, those of us who preach continue to enjoy a remarkable freedom in America. For that I give thanks.

·        My family. Though we lost our first son, David, to insidious leukemia, God blessed my wife and me with four other sons. Each one is a joy to our hearts. Each one is married to an incredible woman; it takes an incredible person to stay married to an Albritton! Our sons and their wives have given us 12 precious grandchildren and I have pictures to prove how handsome they are. Now we have four great grandchildren, the latest being Annabelle Marie, born to Matthew and Jodi Albritton, in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on December 11. My wife is one of the most remarkable people I have ever known. Since I met her in the first grade, she has grown into a strong, beautiful, articulate Christian woman. I have to pinch myself to believe she has put up with me for over half a century.

·        Hope. Few things are more precious than hope. I have hope for our nation, that our leaders will not lead us into another senseless war. I have hope that darkness and evil will not prevail in their constant war with light and love. I have hope that generosity will overcome selfishness, so that those who can will share what they have with the hungry and helpless of this world.


            For all these things, and many more, I give thanks. This Christmas, may more people than ever before experience “peace on earth” until that glad day when peace shall belong to all people everywhere.

             I give thanks especially for the people in every culture who share this dream and live to make it a reality. Until then, the work must go on. Billions of people still do not understand why Christians can say, with great thanksgiving, Merry Christmas! Until all people understand, that unfinished task remains our first priority.

            Merry Christmas!