Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Heaven

 I wrote this devotional a few years ago. It's included in Words for Winter.

When I was a boy, one of my favorite things to do at Christmas was go to my grandmother's house. It was a tiny, barely put together farm house next to a train track just at the edge of town. In the house later as an adult, I had a hard time imagining how we all fit at Christmas. It really was tiny. But we all did fit! Aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, the new spouses, and a few strays. The place was packed front to back.

The men mostly sat in the living room with Papaw. He would “chaw” his “tobacky” and they would chaw with each other and glance at the game or Christmas program on the little black and white TV in the corner, warmed by the giant coal furnace that took up half the room! Mamaw and the women held their annual Christmas confab in the kitchen, warmed by the never-off oven and stove.

What a treasure room the kitchen was! We'd never see as much or as wide a variety of food the whole rest of the year. The smells of freshly baked pies and bread, and turkey and ham roasting in the oven were heavenly! Everyone brought something, but Mamaw by far prepared the bulk of it. Everything tasted as delicious as it smelled.

While waiting for the latecomers to arrive and the turkey to get just right brown, we, the kids, played. Indoors and outdoors, no matter the weather. We chased through the tiny house, hootin' and a hollerin' and a carryin' on. At least that's how Mamaw would describe it when she'd tell us, with a mischievous grin, to “hesh up and settle down a bit.”

Of course, we didn't get too rowdy. We didn’t want to make Mamaw really upset for fear we'd miss the special gift. Every year, she always gave us kids the special gift. It was one thing we looked forward to as much as anything else at Christmas.

Until there were too many of us for her budget, Mamaw always gave every grandkid a silver dollar! You'd have thought she'd handed us bars of pure gold the way we held those coins. Once in our hands, you’d practically have to pry them loose with a crowbar. They were magical, special, and ours.

It wouldn’t have made any difference how loud we might have whooped it up, she would have still given us the silver dollars. She loved us unconditionally. In a very real sense, we belonged to her and she would not have forsaken any of us.

Every year as we move steadily closer to the 25th of December, there is a question we hear over and over: “What would you like to get this year?” In fact, in many families, written lists of Christmas wishes are mandatory. Once produced, they are put on the refrigerator door so all can refer to them.

All of us wants something at Christmas, even if we say otherwise. There's something soul affirming in receiving a gift given in love, even if it's not deserved or wasn't expected.

There's no greater gift we can receive than the gift of Jesus Christ and his salvation: “… the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

What's more, once you accept this gift, it's yours forever. The Lord said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). You are His child.

My silver dollars? Sadly, they're gone. Lost after several house moves. But what has never been lost is the love I felt when I received those coins. My grandmother's love was genuine and true. She lives in heaven, but her love lives in my heart even today. Her love is a forever gift worth more than all the silver and gold in the world.

So is the love and mercy of Christ. As long as you walk with Him and grow in grace, you will one day spend Christmas in heaven with my grandmother. And she might just give you a silver dollar!

“‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:11-14).

What are some of the Christmas memories you treasure? Share them in the comments! Read more like this in Words For Winter: A small collections of writings for the season, available for Kindle or in Paperback.

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