I’ve celebrated many Christmases in my lifetime and there has been an element of difference about each of them. There were outstanding presents, (given and received), yearly pageants, (each with its own special twist to the theme), but the Christmas purpose has remained the same through all of my Christmases, and that can be summed up with the words of the Carol, Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
I have so many Christmas memories stored in that secret vault in my mind, where only I can enter. I would expect that since I’ve had 79 Christmases, there would be hundreds of special memories that would each clamor to be heard as I sort through them, to tell you about them. Some memories are like that, but others hide away quietly and are easily overlooked. I hope that some day those quiet ones will make their presence known, and claim the attention that they deserve. But, now I’ll mention a few that are right in the front of my Christmas files.
Presents: I’ve had many beautiful gifts and I wouldn’t want to diminish any of them, but there are only two I’ll tell you about.
The year that I was 12, 1948, my parents gave me a phonograph for Christmas, and my best friend, Nancy Pearl knew about the gift and gave me, as I remember, Mario Lanza singing O Holy Night. It was a wonderful gift. I listened to his beautiful tenor voice over and over, and his rendition became the gold standard for me. To this day, it is difficult for me to really enjoy the song sung by a lesser voice than his. My parents gave me a record album of Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols, which I also played over and over. Perhaps that was when I began to memorize all the stanzas of the songs that were sung, –a memory which continues to serve me well.
I don’t remember how old I was the Christmas that Aunt Theona told me that she would like to borrow my doll for a while because she knew a little girl that had a doll like that and she wanted to make some clothes for the doll for a Christmas present. I was very happy to lend my doll to become a model for the other little girl’s present. I never suspected that I was the little girl. That year I also received a wooden toy box, complete with a lid that had hinges and a hasp to hold it closed. Grandpa Baker had made it for me. I still have that toy box, but now it holds items which trigger treasured memories. I was astonished when I opened the wooden chest and found my present from Aunt Theona, –a wardrobe of clothes for my doll. It was one of the best surprises for me!
Pageants: Every year our church put on a Christmas program. All the little kids recited couplets of poetry and sang songs together. I liked to memorize the little poems and Mom coached me to say them, “loud and clear, so Grandma could hear me.” I remember one year standing beside Patty and there were others standing in a row and we each said a line or two building on the theme of the Christmas poem. Patty was nervous. She began to fidget. As it got near to her turn, she reached down to the hem of her dress and her hands began to roll the skirt of her dress upward toward her waist. I became embarrassed for Patty and admonished her, “Patty! Put your dress down!” However, I don’t remember now the lines that I was to speak next.
When we were 12 or 13, my friend, Grace, was given an accordion. She learned to play Silent Night. It was the only song she ever mastered. One year Grace was asked to play a solo for the Christmas program. Of course she had to play Silent Night. A man put a chair for her on the platform and Grace got seated, got the accordion strapped on properly, and began to play. She played it well. She came to the end of the song. We thought she was finished, but she started from the beginning again, and played it through. She didn’t stop when she got to the end. She started all over again! I really don’t remember how many times she played that song before the man who got the chair for her went to the platform and stopped her from playing it again. As far as I know, it was the only time she ever played her accordion in public, but she really played Silent Night well!
Purpose: For me, the highlight of the Corry Christmas season, which puts the birth of Christ right where it belongs, is the beautiful program which the Ministerial Group sponsors at the beginning of every December. The community comes together at this time, either to participate in the music or to relax and enjoy it. Our Community service, from beginning to end, is about the Purpose for Christmas. It’s a showcase for our talented musicians to lead us to the manger and provide an opportunity for us to worship together. It will be a great concert again this year!
Many Christmases have been marked with a theme or a slogan which reminds people of the real reason we celebrate. Examples: Keep Christ in Christmas. A Season with a Precious Reason. It Comes Every Year and Goes on Forever. Wise Men Still Seek Him.
I especially like the slogan: Jesus is the Reason for the Season.
Presents and pageantry are key elements in the celebration of Christmas, but the Crowning Jewel of the season is the Purpose of Christmas.