December 24, 2015 by Scott Howard
It was 18 days ago, sitting in a coffee shop that I wrote this. Conversations surround me as I type.
The Sunday regulars are here, talking about the Christmas parties they’ve already been to or ones coming up. Talk about diets and blowing them are going on my the obese and the skinny. Some folks stop in and grab a drink before heading off to worship at their church, others on their way to the mall and shopping centers.
For some, Christmas is about the gifts, giving or getting. For others it is about an extra day or two off from work. For many, there is about the birth of Jesus, the namesake of Christianity.
Christmas was observed every one of my 50 years, and depending on who I was with, it took on a different look.
Before I go into my Christmas Story, I invite you to share yours too. You can leave a comment on this site, or on Facebook, where this will be shared or Twitter too. I will be busy with family but, I’ll read and respond when I can.
Christmas for me these days is a combination of solemn reflection and thankfulness and a bit of crazy fun. The crazy fun began several years ago when my wife decided to have a theme to our family Christmas party with a variation on a snowflake theme. Each year it’s a little different and this year it involves Nutcracker videos. The fun will be this afternoon as family gathers, and then this evening after nearly everyone has left, Kathy and I will walk to a church at the end of the block and join the regulars for their Christmas Eve service.
Growing up I considered myself a Christian and was raised by Christian parents. But after high school the only time I visited church was on Christmas for a few years. That changed the summer I was 22, when my girlfriend shared with me her Christian faith. I was either re-awakened, or some might say born-again that day. I really don’t know and don’t care what you call it except as a young adult, I took the scary step to ask God for forgiveness and to come into my heart and change me.
He did. This transformation is continuous. Sometimes I listen and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I follow, other times I run the other way. Being a Christian is like running a zig-zag race. God uses it all to shape me.
And he uses the world around us too. In my lifetime we have gone from Christmas Carols mentioning Jesus being sung loud and proud in public school Christmas programs, to the shunning and prohibition of mentioning anything about our Christian faith in some of those same buildings.
But Christianity isn’t what I thought it was as a kid. For me it is faith in God that is not limited to Christmas, Easter, or any other date on a church calendar. It is faith in action, every day, not just special days.
My Christmas story is simple. Christmas time is the days we remember that Jesus was really born, just as is recorded in the Gospels. It set the stage for a new agreement with God, instead of offering burnt animal offerings that the Jews were supposed to do, Jesus ushered in a new version that we celebrate at Easter time. Some 30+ years later, when Jesus was crucified and the repentance and forgiveness transaction was changed for those who accept this free gift of grace.
Being a Christian is a daily act, some days involve being very purposeful, most days simply by living an honest and loving lifestyle. Purposeful days are when you decide to do something specific such as feed the homeless, volunteer your time, or even offer a listening ear or encouraging word.
What guides me versus those who also do acts of kindness and love but claim no relationship with Jesus? I cannot answer for them, but for me, I know the Holy Spirit that lives within me will speak to my heart and it’s up to me as a human being to decide to follow His voice or my own in each thing I do.
That’s my Christmas Story, a daily journey made possible by the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago. What’s yours?