Fourth in a series on COVID-19 and studying in spring 2021
Originally published on December 15, 2008, and a few times since then—it may have value as we look forward to the spring of 2021, a spring like no other
Regardless of the challenge of circumstances, I would encourage each to search for what is important. We all stand on a ground of shifting sand. At times it seems impossible to find solid footing. What is important to me may not seem so to you. Individual differences are just that, but the common ground of our day-to-day experiences, our willingness to persevere, to look ahead, and to aspire to a bright future, these things we should hold high, for ourselves and each other. This may be the great lesson of 2020 in this season of hope amid heartbreak.
Christmas memories are personal, deep, and meaningful.
My family’s New York Christmases had the strong, first-generation influence of Western Europe. Cajun Christmases, with their peculiarities of place and culture, half French and half Canadian and only in Louisiana, are unique and forever in my consciousness. West coast Christmases in California were an amalgam of eastern and western tradition, with everything always new. And, Texas Christmases with cowpokes instead of elves. Each of these holds unique detail and distinctiveness, all moderated in translating the single Christmas memory that holds particular importance. The tradition, and thereby the memory, is not in events or places but in the beliefs and relationships I hold. For me, what is powerful about Christmas has one recurring theme. His name is Jesus Christ.
At Christmas, I celebrate the anniversary of the virgin birth of Him, as one member of the triune God—God made man—who came to the earth to be a substitute for me in the death and separation brought about by my sin. This is my personal belief. Through His perfection, He makes my way straight to the creator of the universe. Through the power of His shed blood, I am forgiven of my inequity. All of this, not by my work or effort, wisdom, or intelligence but by His grace. Grace is difficult for me to grasp.
All things of value are worked for, I am told. That of which I speak—grace—has ultimate and eternal value, and it is a gift that cannot be bought or earned. By His virgin birth, I have affirmation of His place at the throne of God; by His crucifixion, I am shown the awfulness of my own behavior; and by comparison to Him as a man, I see my own lack of righteousness. Like filthy rags.
His resurrection is evidence of my eternal bridge to my heavenly Father. This is a personal relationship. This is Christmas for me. Please don’t be misled. I remember my Erector sets, Texaco trucks, bicycles, and hockey skates—they brought happiness then, and, in memory, they still do now. Likewise, Mary and our sons remember and cherish these events, too. I like turkey and ham, cakes and pies, family and all the other things that happen around the celebrations in our house.
I enjoy the festivity of the season. I like gifts–both to give and receive. I am pleased for the retailers and how Christmas sales help balance their books, creating jobs and economic growth. I enjoy the cold weather, the trees, and the lights. However, all of this is dull, dim, in comparison to the one shining memory that guides me every day of my life, and that is simply this: I serve a risen Savior, born of a virgin to redeem me in my weakness and cleanse me of my sin. It is so very sharp and clear to me. So crystalline.
If I allow myself to be childlike, every day is Christmas. Childlike for The Child. The prophet Isaiah predicted it in Chapter 7, Verse 14: Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
None of this loses its luster with time or complexity of circumstance.
Even COVID’s cloud.
Walter V. Wendler is President of West Texas A&M University. His weekly columns are available at https://walterwendler.com/