With Christmas only a couple days away, it brings back a lot of memories for some people. For others, it’s a time during the year where we reflect on the great gift God gave us with the birth of Jesus.
For everyone, there’s a different story about Christmas. Not everyone grew up with the same celebrations and for some, the story of Christmas is ever changing. Some have great family memories. Others have surprise presents.
We asked several people of our church to share their Christmas story. What was their favorite memory? What do they look forward to every year? What does Jesus’ birth mean to them?
Here are our stories:
What I love most about Christmas is that for one quiet morning, I feel as if God and my family have my full attention. The distractions of work and the world seem to fade away and I am fully present in the moment. I am truly content and blessed and at peace.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is a bittersweet one. It was just before Christmas in 1993. My grandpa, John Cabrera the First, had been diagnosed with colon cancer. The previous few weeks, we had spent as many evenings as we could in his hospital room, enjoying his company and praying that he would recover fully.
Sadly, his condition worsened and by mid-December, we wondered if he would make it to Christmas. He was growing weaker, was not eating well, and could not talk very much. As a high school kid, I had never watched the suffering of a loved one like this, and I found it hard to concentrate in school and other areas of life.
On Christmas Day, we received the best gift we could have asked for. We walked into his hospital room, and to our delight and surprise he was sitting up, talking, and smiling. I remember hugging him and talking with him, as he joked in his usual way. I will never forget how happy and hopeful I felt to spend that time with him on Christmas Day.
As a kid, all I knew was I had my grandpa back for one more day. I did not know that the following February, just a few days after my 14th birthday, he would pass away. I was just thankful for the time we did have with him, and that was a Christmas gift I will never forget.
“A sock Christmas”
Money was tight, all the men in our household were out of work in 1986. My nephew was just born and Christmas time was approaching. My mom wanted to keep with tradition and provide for our family a special Christmas with lots of presents under the tree. Since money was an issue, a sock Christmas was what our family ended up having.
Men’s, women’s, kid’s etc. socks in colors etc.
You see, we played games to pass time and try to win the socks. As we watched our piles grow for being the biggest grinch in the family, the last one to wash a dish to the person who last changed a diaper. Our family realized that Christmas presents are just things, but family time and laughing was better than any amount spent at Christmas.
Christmas for me means that it’s better to give than to receive. That it’s better to be a blessing to others than being blessed. However, when I do receive a gift or blessing, to take it with a grateful heart. Christmas also means to me that Jesus is more important than any gift out there. In addition, Christmas reminds me to have a servant and humble heart in reaching out to others because that is what Jesus did for me when he came 2000 years ago.
This year, at the Study(LA) Christmas Party, we did “immaterial gifts,” which is basically giving a blessing to a random person in the group. I blessed this MMA guy next me by wishing that, for my own self-preservation, he and I never have to fight each other and also that he learns to play guitar. The woman that blessed me said, “I hope you come to see that you already are the good person you aspire to be.” I thought that was really sweet.
I will always fondly remember my excitement for Christmas evening when all my relatives would gather at my parent’s house for a potluck dinner. My dad would always cook and cut a big rib roast. There was always so much good food and great times with my cousins.
I have many special memories of Christmases gone by. Being almost 50, I have plenty to choose from. As a child, Christmas was the traditional sit-down ham dinner with extended family. You know, the kind you see on TV– with Mom, Dad, kids and other family members around the table. In college, it was fresh-baked real Italian lasagna, complete with about ten other fabulous dishes, all homemade, my nose witnessing the preparations even days before. My boyfriend and I would sit at the table, with his parents and extended family, and hear a variety of stories that most certainly would lead to laughter.
I think if I were to find one common thread that made Christmas most special, it would be the flavor the older adults added to the gathering. You know, Grandpa, Grandma, or so and so’s Na Na and Pops. The older crowd always fascinated me. I imagine it was their witness– that they made it through life. Yes, maybe not conquered it, but in the least succeeded in surviving it, and not only that, but dared to tell us, the youngsters, all about it. They amazed me.
Somehow deep in my soul, I experienced a deep peace and reassurance in life, with it’s unpredictability and unreliability, and humiliations and “insanities” and mistakes. Their presence said, “Life is clearly do-able”. I’m looking at them in the face, seeing them smile, realizing that one day I will be their age. And just by being present, even without a word, I also will have opportunity to tell the youngsters that life is do-able and blessed and most of all– a Gift.
For the past 30 some years I put on a Santa suit to visit kids in the hospital. I have been to hospital Christmas parties, and can be found on Christmas day in a hospital taking photos with patients and staff, I usually have some elves from Trinity come along.
Then on Dec 26 I deliver the photos to the staff a patients as a free gift. At the Christmas parties I recite the following:
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty
He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself
He was only thirty three
His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth
When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life
The Red Suit gives me an opportunity to present Jesus.