This reflection was originally published on December 15, 2008. It is refreshed and 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 traditions, 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 in my beliefs and relationships. They come into focus for me and others at this time of year. When we recognize the value of what we provide for the student and the state, we should take pride in our labor. I do, and as we reflect on the season, I hope you will.
You may Celebrate Kwanzaa, beginning on December 26 through January 1, 2023, the meeting of the years. You may reflect on Hanukah activities from December 18 through December 26. Davali, the festival of lights celebrated October 22 through October 26, just a few months ago, may be held up in your home. Or Ramadan, which is coming up later in the spring, from April 1 through May 1. If you are Japanese, you may be looking forward to celebrating the emperor’s birthday on February 23. You may not celebrate anything other than having a few days off to rest and relax, possibly overeat and spend more money than you really wanted to.
For my family and me, there is one recurring theme in what is powerful about Christmas, and His name is Jesus Christ.
At Christmas, I celebrate the anniversary of His virgin birth 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 iniquity. All of this, not by my work or effort, wisdom or intelligence, but by His grace.
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, through Christ, to my heavenly Father. This is a relationship, a personal relationship. This is Christmas for me.
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 how 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 compared 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.
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.
Walter V. Wendler is President of West Texas A&M University. His weekly columns are available at https://walterwendler.com/