I have fond memories of Christmas as a child. The anticipation and countdown to Christmas was something my peers and I really looked forward to. Thinking back on those days, I have come to realize how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been ministering their grace to us even though we knew little about Christmas itself.
There are three things that stand out about my early Christmas memories:
Firstly, it was every child’s dream to have Christmas clothes. What made Christmas clothes special was that this was the only time that most of us received new clothes, as opposed to “hand-me-downs” from older brothers and relatives. “Hand-me-downs” are old clothes passed on from older siblings to younger siblings or relatives. Therefore, once a year, at Christmas, we had the luxury of wearing new clothes.
Little did I know that Christmas was a birthday celebration of a Man who was born so that all humans can have new clothes, himself. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal. 3:27)
My parents went through huge sacrifices to make sure we had those new Christmas clothes. They were ministering the grace of God to us without even knowing it. Praise God for his unfathomable grace!
The second thing that stands out about those early Christmas years was the washing (bathing) the day before Christmas and on Christmas morning. You see, water was a scarce resource those days. My mother and sisters had to travel a few kilometres to go fetch water, and it was never enough for cooking and washing as well. We actually did not mind not washing – like most young boys! The old dirty clothes didn’t inspire any of us to see the need to wash. If you washed, the dirty clothes made you stinky and dirty as soon as you put them on anyway. Our attitude was “why bother?”
When I came to the Christian faith I discovered there is a washing of sorts that new believers are expected to do, namely, baptism. Baptism is a kind of washing that symbolizes the washing away of our sins, and the putting on of Jesus’ righteousness. What a coincidence, I thought!
“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:16)
Thirdly, it was the bread! You see, most of the people were poor. We only ate bread once or twice a year, on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day or Good Friday. Pap was our staple food. A few days before Christmas each family would place their order for bread at the local grocery store. The order for each family ranged from 5 loaves up to 20 loaves. The Christmas breakfast in every home was tea or coffee and lots of bread. We made up for the whole year of not eating bread. Bread made Christmas special.
Once again, when I came to the Christian faith I discovered that the Jesus we celebrate at Christmas was born in Bethlehem, which means a house or place of bread! Christmas is a celebration of that event. Not only that, Jesus himself said “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35 NIV). He is the true bread that all humans need. He is the bread of Christmas.
Looking back, I realize that those early Christmas days were full of meaning. Whichever way you celebrate Christmas, I urge you to find the grace of God in your celebrations. May he help you see it, and may you help the children know the meaning of Christmas. Don’t miss the beauty of Christmas.