For me the Christmas season has special meaning on two different levels: the spiritual and the familial. Every year celebrates two corresponding realities: the love of my Savior and the love of my wife. My final Christmas separated from my Savior took place in 1961. And, my final Christmas separated from the woman who became my wife took place in 1965.
In some ways my relationship to Christmas could have been expected. Each Christmas came only eleven days before my birthday. When it came to childhood presents, the double “blessing” occurred only after waiting another 354 days — a long wait. I experienced Christmas, New Year, and birthday nearly all at once. Christmas signaled the commencement of that season of doubled blessings that would fade away before a fortnight (two weeks) had passed. In addition, those special celebrations took place in the winter when snow often covered the ground and the cold air provided a refreshing snap to everything. Being born in Colorado and raised in Wyoming, I loved the mountains and the outdoors.
Though I experienced the love of my family (father, mother, a brother, and two sisters), I knew something vital was missing from my life — from all our lives (speaking of my family). I sought that missing dimension in nature, the outdoors. There were glorious nights beneath the brilliant ceiling of stars in the Rocky Mountains when I felt extremely small and insignificant in view of the great universe in which I was less than a speck of dust. Life was clearly ephemeral — death of friends and grandparents gave evidence of my mortality.
A Change of Life, Not Just Seasons
Shortly after Christmas 1961 my life and the lives of everyone in our family changed (mid- to late-January 1962). A man with a Bible brought us a message of deliverance from our sins through Jesus Christ. We really had paid little attention to Christ even at Christmas. A Christian uncle and aunt usually shared the message with us — one Christmas they gave me a Bible. The Bible gathered dust as I basically ignored it for years. Oh my, I was unaware of what a mighty powerhouse of life, freedom, joy, and peace those precious pages contained.
Jesus, as the Creator (John 1:1–5), created the natural world I loved so much. I was essentially ignoring the message of natural revelation just like Paul warned in Romans 1:18–32. But, above all, I had been ignoring the gospel message of my Savior “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
After placing my faith in Christ, no Christmas (or Easter) was ever the same. My Savior is the focus of each Christmas. It is His birth we celebrate, annually focusing on the fact that He came from Heaven to become a human being and to become the Savior whose life has permanently changed the life of everyone who has believed in Him (read Philippians 2:1–11).
That is why I never speak of Christmas merely as a Holiday. No, without Christ Christmas is meaningless. In fact, without Christ life itself can be pretty hollow — especially for a secular humanist like I used to be. Christ brings hope and eternal life. My prayer year round, but especially at Christmas, is that family and friends who have not yet come to know the Christ of the Bible will come to know Him. Then they will experience new life and not just a New Year.
Now that brings me to the Christmas of 1965 and the woman who would become my wife. At Christmastime that year, she invited me to her apartment to talk. We decided that there was no relationship leading to a future together — or, as she would tell you, I made that declaration, not she. But, by Valentine’s Day 1966 I had asked her to marry me and we were married in July that same year. That means we have now spent 57 Christmases together as husband and wife. She is my Christmas love, my Christmas joy, my Christmas lady.
That’s why I can get teary-eyed watching a Hallmark Christmas romance blossom. The greatest joy of all, however, is that we both love Christmas because of Christ and our love for Him. We each happily take second place in this relationship and Christ has blessed us and gifted us far beyond our wildest imagination. We have four wonderful children, married to four wonderful spouses, fourteen handsome and beautiful grandchildren, grandchildren’s spouses, and two absolutely amazing great-grandchildren. Our 57 years have been filled in many ways — it would take a book (or two) just to tell the stories of our ministries, our travels, our experiences, and our joys.