I was thankful just to be around that Christmas season
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
We are now full-blown into the Christmas season. However, it is hard for me to leave the Thanksgiving season. God has impressed me heavily this year about having a grateful heart in all circumstances. Indeed, the giving of thanks seems to be the proper lead-in to celebrating Christmas.
Christmas 1975 was our first as husband and wife. Marcia and I had been married barely six months. Being college students on a limited income, our first home was a basement-level apartment in Nashville. We had planned on living there only a few months, but circumstances had intervened to hold us through the end of the year. Being newlyweds, we had politely asked family and friends not to drop in and visit without phoning first. But then we didn’t get a telephone. We saved money and insured our privacy!
The celebration of Christmas that year would have to be a meager affair. I remember our tree quite well because of the fives involved. Five days before Christmas we purchased a five-foot Scottish pine for five dollars from Winn-Dixie food store. Someone gave us a tree stand they didn’t use anymore. Our decorations were mostly homemade, but we didn’t mind. We did spring for a small star of red fabric from Harvey’s Department Store to go atop our five-footer. In the decades that followed, our kids would argue so much over whose turn it was to put the star on the tree that I finally lined it out on an index card by name and by year (1990 Josh, 1991 Susanna, 1992 Elizabeth, 1993 Mom and Dad, etc.).
I still don’t know how we did it, but Marcia and I each managed to buy the other a decent gift that first year. I ordered her a decorative oil lamp with a hand-painted globe that I had seen her admiring in a magazine. It didn’t arrive in time for Christmas, so I had to wrap up a picture of it for her. Knowing my love for trains, she gave me a small z-scale electric train set, one that would easily fit into a desk drawer. I set it up on our dining table; my friends love to play with it as much as I did. Visits with both our families, who lived nearby, and cups of eggnog and boiled custard (the specialty of a local dairy) topped off our first Christmas Day together. It was nothing elaborate, but it still brings back warm memories.
Perhaps the tight money and the lack of fancy decorations did not bother us because the Lord had already given us our gift that year. Actually He had given us two gifts. The first was the gift He has given to anyone who will accept it, eternal life through His Son, whose birthday we were celebrating. Jesus had entered this world by way of a stable, a manger, and a virgin in Israel. He had reconciled us to Himself and forgiven our sins. That gift, Marcia and I had each enjoyed since childhood.
The second gift was my physical life. About two months earlier I had had life-saving surgery after languishing near death for weeks. At last I was on the way to a long, slow but sure recovery. We had already experienced a Thanksgiving in November that earlier in the fall I had doubted we would see together. Now God was giving us a Christmas together that illness had sought to deny us. And what a pleasure it was that December finally to be strong enough to go back to church on a limited basis. Perhaps we felt a lack that season compared to others. But we knew we had a great deal to be thankful for.
Marcia and I decorated our new seven-foot Christmas tree last week. That same small red star from Harvey’s sits atop it. The index card with all our names sits on one of the branches. And we are grateful to God.
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).