This reflection was originally published on December 15, 2008. It is worth another look.
Christmas memories are personal, deep and important to me.
My family’s New York Christmases with their strong, first generational 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, an amalgam of eastern and western tradition, everything always new; Texas Christmases with cowpokes instead of elves, the detail and distinctiveness of each, all lost in the translation of what single Christmas memory is important for me.
Having lived in many places, it is difficult to piece together a particular event that holds special importance. The tradition, and thereby the memory, is not in events or places but beliefs and relationships I hold.
There is one recurring theme in what is powerful for me about Christmas and 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 a belief, 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 for all my inequity. All of this, not by my work or effort, wisdom or intelligence, but by His grace.
Grace is a difficult concept 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, by comparison to Him as a man, I see my own lack of righteousness.
His resurrection is evidence of my eternal bridge, though Christ, to my heavenly Father. This is a relationship, a personal relationship. This is Christmas for me.
Don’t be misled.
I remember my Erector sets, and Texaco trucks, bicycles and hockey skates – they brought happiness then and, in memory, they do now. Likewise Mary and our sons remember and cherish these events too. I like turkey and ham, cakes and pies and family and those other things that happen around the celebrations in our house. [Currently counting carbs and avoiding sugar.]
I enjoy the festivity of the season. I like gifts—both to give and receive them. I am pleased for the retailers and the way that Christmas sales help balance their books, create jobs and economic growth. I enjoy the cold weather and the trees and the lights.
But all of this is dull 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, and 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 it loses its luster with time.
[Endnote: Why does a University president share thoughts such as these? They are the grist of free thought, free moral agency and the seed corn of a free society: They are the recognition of transcendent authority coming from somewhere beyond self, which, it seems, is increasingly the measure of everything. Self. Shamefully. I believe this acknowledgment is the beginning of wisdom that grows from education and the end of ignorance bred in darkness.]
Walter V. Wendler is President of West Texas A&M University. His weekly columns are available at https://walterwendler.com/.