Memories of Childhood Christmas

A Reading for Christmas


The reading recalls all the delights of Christmas when the author was a child—the enchanting tree, the scrumptious food, the exciting presents—and closes with a challenge to make Christ, not self, the center of this wonderful celebration.

What does Christmas make you think of? Do you smell chestnuts roasting by an open fire? Do you hear sleigh bells in the lane? Do you feel Jack Frost nipping at your nose, or see holly and mistletoe and faces all aglow? Yes, for most of us, the word "Christmas" commands a wealth of happy memories. It recalls those moments in our lives when we were most carefree and lighthearted and the world was still full of enchanting surprises.

I remember how happy I felt on dark December evenings when I lay beside the Christmas tree. There I had a snug and secure refuge from the cold outside. And above me rose an inexhaustible stimulus to imagination. The infinite nooks and crannies of the tree were an uncharted wilderness. The tree itself was a magical mountain ascending through the heavens to a remote star. All the ornaments—the miniature figures of wise men and angels and snowmen and animals, the wreaths and snowflakes, the glinting bells and glittering bulbs—were living characters in a thousand new worlds, suggesting a thousand adventures. The lights were especially fascinating. When I peered up at them through half-shut eyes, the colors melted and danced festively like a kaleidoscope.

The whole holiday season seemed as if it were made for me. Adults overlooked my transgressions and offered me mounds of cookies and filled my pockets with candies. My parents and sisters were always ready to play a game or read a book aloud or sing songs at the piano. When they went to the store, they took me along and watched closely which toys I played with. I watched them closely too. In their furtive whispers, and in their talk after I went to bed, I strained to hear some clue about what my presents were and where they were secreted away, but their security measures were airtight. In all my years of trying to find hidden presents, I never succeeded. The thoroughness of my searches would have put a team of detectives to shame. I still wonder where they stashed them.

When Christmas Eve finally came, the big moment was when they all gave me my last present. Sometimes it had lain for weeks under the tree and I had carried out every legal experiment, and a few not strictly legal, to find out what it was. Sometimes I saw nothing of it until it was brought out from hiding. Then it was always my heart's delight.

I was aware that Christmas had a spiritual significance. But for me the Christ child stood above the holiday like a fairy godfather ready to fulfill all my wishes. I did not quite grasp that the holiday was pointless unless I spent it in worshipping Him. Only after I grew up did I understand that Jesus is not only the reason for the season, but also that He should be the honored guest at every meal, the distinguished visitor at every gathering, and the theme of every celebration. More than that, He should be the One who receives the best presents. Although I cannot give Him all that He deserves, I must give Him as much as I can. And I can give Him the one thing He really wants. What is that? It is my love.


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