'Christmases..So Long Ago'


It was during Christmastime between l954 and l957. I was between five and eight years of age.

Many would think of Christmas activities at church; but, in my case, most of the Christmas activities surrounded our country school. It was during those years, that Christmas became the most beautiful holiday of the year...a time for a child to see through the eyes of innocence and purity.

It was during those years that my family ran the Emeline General Store. Our little village consisted of our general store, one building next door that was used for a multitude of purposes, one Presbyterian Church, a farm, and a few older homes, and one tavern. But, down the road, a mere quarter mile to the south, stood our wonderful country school where all who went there became family. If one was sick, we all made up get well cards, the place where we all pledged allegiance to the flag, the place where we did things together, learned together, worked together, and most of all became family together even to this day.

I remember how at Christmastime, our teacher, Mrs. Verna Foster, would bring out these special books with plays inside. She would pick out a certain Christmas play and pick out certain children who would study the parts for the Christmas program. Others would practice Christmas carols with

Mrs. Foster leading the way while playing on our old country school piano.

I remember how two local farmers would cut down and haul in the most amazing large Christmas tree that almost touched the ceiling and we children would string popcorn garland and make homemade decorations, add candy canes, or even bring an ornament from home. There were lights on the tree as we were now in the electric age where Christmas lights were available. We all worked together, made Christmas cards for our families, and had such fun together, and waited for that special night once a year when all the lights came on, time to dress up in our finest and head to the school to give glory to our Lord and Savior at His birth, to celebrate, and be one family together.

Talk about images of Christmas...I can remember looking out our upstairs window towards the school and seeing the most beautiful sight of all... the country school lights glistening off the snow, and older cars beginning to line up along the gravel road leading to the school. And, you could see the people inside moving about preparing for the evening's festivities. And, of myself, getting the jitters as I, one year, was one of the lucky ones who had to hurry and learn my lines because another student had gotten sick at the last minute. To help me, as I was very small, I had someone under this table that we sat around kick my leg to tell me it was my turn for the next line. Oops...One kicked to soon and I spoke too early! Was my face red! But, all in all, each Christmas was a time of joy, happiness, and goodwill.

There were cake walks and presents given out as each student drew names each year. And, to a child, seeing all those gifts under such a huge tree was just amazing. What we could never imagine at that age was the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that was given on that first Christmas day. Actual Christmas carols were sung without fear of any backlash by the children proclaiming the Good News of God who laid down His royal robes to come and dwell among men showing the deepest of love for a lost and orphaned world.

In all my recollections of one of the happiest times to remember, that was one of the most Christian and wonderful times of my life.

It was truly Christmas!

As it has now become, we still sing the carols in spite of the objections, go visit with family and friends, even as the world seems to be leaning headlong into an uncertain future. Christmas has now become more of an x-mas then a 'Christ'mas. We hussle and bussle rather then to stop and think about all that Christ came to do for us all. We get so caught up in doing, doing, doing, hurrying to get things done rather then just taking one moment to stop and think about all that Christ came to do for us.

With each new year, we can only mutter, “Here we go again, doing and doing and trying by our own effort to do our duty and try to do what seems right in our hearts and through our own minds.

The major point that we miss about Christmas isn't about what 'we' do or have done. It is what God through Christ has done for us! It isn't about our trying to be good enough to go to Heaven but Heaven actually came down to earth and the ability to be indwelt by God's Holy Spirit within our hearts and having the ability to yield to that Holy Spirit and allow Him to live through our lives. Christ in us makes Christmas truly a wonderful time of the year. Heaven coming to earth to dwell with us. God coming down to actually become a man and, Him dwelling within our hearts working out of us to His good pleasure.

Just think about it. The story of Christmas as spoken in the Bible is just packed with angels, and kings, and prophecies, gifts, and the Glory of God coming down to dwell with us. 'Wonders Glory Bright'...When we catch the meaning of those words, we truly capture the meaning of Christmas.

One of the songs we sang and still sing today was 'Joy To The World'. My favorite words of that song are these: 'He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove...The glories of His righteousness..And wonders of His Love...And wonders of His Love...and wonders and wonders of His Love.'

Through Scripture, we see this 'wonder' through Matthew l:23...'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us'.

Just think about this wonder...God has come to be one with us! God sent His only begotten Son so He could reveal His very character, likeness, and His Love to us and through us to all mankind....through His Church...through His Bride.

Hear these words found in Philippians 2:5-8...'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man.' And, in Colossians 2:9, we read, 'For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;'. Also, in I Timothy 3:l6...And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifested in the flesh...'. Our Lord, our God has come down to become one of us.

So many things have happened in my life since those beautiful days that I lived among the farming community and church community and school community of that small town in Emeline, Iowa, so long ago.

But, looking back, I still can look out that bedroom window in my memory and see that old country school and remember all the lights and the love of those people and the joy and happiness we shared celebrating the joy of the day God came to earth to dwell among us and through our hearts so many years ago.

I think of how He willingly took off His royal robes and put down his crown and came to the dredges of mankind to show Us how much He truly does love Us!

If you look at the Song of Solomon and read those words of such love, that only begins to show us

the depth of God's love for Us. He came among the wretched, the poor, the blind, and the naked and ultimately shed His blood, took upon Himself our sin for He was sinless, without spot or wrinkle, so we might attain eternal life and a home in Heaven with Him.

What's Christmas all about? “Love!”, My Friends...”Love!” The ultimate 'Love of God' for a lost and orphaned world without hope lost in darkness.

In the lyrics of 'Noel'...'they saw a great 'Light' and so it continued both day and night'.

As I always sang those few words, I realized Jesus is the 'Light' of the world who came and lived among us. And, He is still with us in every aspect of our lives today, right this very moment... loving, caring, seeking, who is always available at our beckon call as our faith raises up to His ever present ear...who suffered and understands our every affliction.

From the beauty that I saw of Christmas as a child until my old age, I will continue to 'wonder' at His Grace and Love for us all. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

From: Life-Light Ministries Team Members

* Richard & Phyllis Hovey, Minister and Family....... *Randy and Janice Pringle and Family