There is nothing quite like being a young child on Christmas morning. Waking up before dawn in anticipation of a tree full of gifts with your name on them, deciding whether or not to sneak downstairs to sneak a peek at the tree, and then running with joy once your parents announce that the time has arrived to rip and tear (my parents made us wait until 8 am, which was totally unreasonable when I was a kid but makes complete sense to me now that I have small children) and praying that you didn’t get socks as a gift.
Most of my childhood Christmas gifts are long gone, of course. The toys eventually broke, the clothes became too small, and the other gifts were either lost along the way or are buried in a box somewhere. One gift, however, is still with me. It’s small, it’s old, and it’s even a little broken, but there is no way in the world I would ever get rid of it.
When I was in fifth grade my Sunday School teacher, Tom Mullin, gave me a little plane ornament for my Christmas tree. Many fifth grade boys would have been unimpressed with such a gift, but for me it quickly became a prized possession. I adored Tom. He took an interest in me at a time when I really needed it, and I looked forward to Sunday School each week. Tom took this rowdy pack of boys and each week calmed us down enough to teach us the foundations of the Christian faith while at the same time keeping things fun. One week Tom led our class through the sinner’s prayer, and I officially committed my life to Christ. I was crushed when it was time for me to move on the 6th grade.
Needless to say, Tom’s ornament was the first one that I put on my tree the next year, and the year after that. The following year Tom suffered a debilitating stroke. I will never forget the day that he returned to church after that. He needed to use a walker, and it took him a long time to get to his pew, but nothing was going to keep him from worshiping God. The stroke robbed him of his ability to speak, with the exception of one phrase – “Merry Christmas.” Christmas was Tom's favorite time of year.
As my family began to decorate the tree that year, I was crushed when I unwrapped Tom’s ornament and found the tailfin broken. Then it dawned on me how it was sort of fitting. Even though life can batter us around and our bodies will ultimately fail us, we still can celebrate the fact that God sent his Son to die for us so that we can be with Him in heaven someday, where we will be restored to an “unbroken” condition. I once again placed Tom’s ornament front and center on our tree, and I can say without any embarrassment that I could barely see through all the tears as I softly whispered “Merry Christmas, Tom.”
Every year since then Tom’s plane has been the first one on my Christmas tree, a tradition I’ve brought to my own family. It’s become a fun and meaningful reminder to my kids of how Dad came to know Christ, since I tell the “story of the plane” each year.
As you deck the halls this year, what can you incorporate into your traditions that helps tell the story of how you came to know Jesus as your savior? While it is so important to tell our kids the story of the first Christmas during the holiday season, it’s just as important to tell them the story of why the birth of Jesus means so much to us. Perhaps you can find an ornament of your own that helps tell your story, or a special song that you can sing as a family. The possibilities are endless.
Let this be the year that you begin telling your children how the Christmas Story and your story connect.
On Sunday we will continue our Christmas sermon series, titled “Three Wise Women.” Our wise woman for this Sunday is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Christian Adventure Class is hosting a special children’s program in the fellowship hall starting at 9 am. Then on Monday night we will have our Candlelight Service at 6 pm. Our choir will be reprising two numbers for their cantata, and during that service I’ll spend a few moments talking about the story of Anna found in Luke 2:36-38. It is going to be a great couple of days of worship and as always I would encourage you to invite friends to join us celebrate the birth of the King of Kings.