Six sometimes sentimental, sometimes silly scenes from Christmases in my life, in chronological order.

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One Christmas, the chicken pox visited

It might have been 1966, making me nine years old. It was the first day of Christmas vacation and I came down with chicken pox. And so did my younger brother, Dave, who was eight. And so did our youngest brother, Mark, who was four.

Mark and I had the usual pox. Dave was cursed with a bad dose; he was covered in blisters. The blisters were very itchy. Painful.

We had a lousy Christmas vacation but, from the viewpoint of a parent, Mom surely had it the worst, already having to suffer a houseful of five kids for the week, most thankful that we were once again healthy just in time for school to restart in the new year.

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One Christmas, I received exactly what I wanted


It’s not that my mom and Santa didn’t do a good job of Christmas shopping for me, but this one year I was so convinced that I would love Skittle Bowl—believing that it was, ahem, right up my alley—that I would have walked to the North Pole and grabbed it fresh from the elves’ assembly line if I had to.

I was spared the trek because Santa threw a strike. Waiting under the tree on Christmas morning was a Skittle Bowl, and it was for me!

I am pleased to report that my notion, that I would love the game, had not been in the gutter. I played that thing with the kind of devotion that believers should with their worship habits.

I was perhaps fifteen when I got Skittle Bowl. I lived at home until I was twenty-two. I am sad to report that I have no idea where it went. If I had it, today, I would play it. I’ve checked online. It’s not in production. Prices for old ones are out of my bowling league.


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One Christmas, Santa left his mark


I’ll get right to it. There were sleigh tracks on our roof.

Clear as can be.

On Christmas morning.

I kid you not.

It was somewhere in the early ‘70s, perhaps the nifty Year of Skittle Bowl. We had fresh snow in Montague. One of my siblings was outside and came running into the house, “There are sleigh tracks on the roof!” We all ran outside. There they were, two clean tracks, about eight feet apart, diagonal on the roof, next to the chimney.

It was dazzlingly amazing. Every kid, no matter his age, should experience such a magical thing.

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One Christmas, I croaked

I was serving a second church because their pastor had left for another congregation. Not only did I have to lead worship eight miles south in Harbor Beach at 5:00, I had to get back to Port Hope for the 7:00 children’s service, and then lead our candlelight worship at 11:00.

And I was sick.

And I could barely make a croak with my voice.

And on the way home from the service in Harbor Beach, a deer came flying onto the highway, then flying onto the hood and windshield of my car, and then flying off and onto the road’s shoulder.

I had to call 911 to report the dead deer. I must have sounded to the operator like a pervert making an obscene phone call. Thankfully, she took me seriously, told me it was okay to leave the scene, my car still ran, I could see through the cracked windshield, and I made it home without further incident.

I had only a tiny role in the children’s service, but the more I talked the less voice I had. By 11:00, I was barely speaking.

When we arrived at the time for the sermon and I began my raspy whisper of a preaching delivery, I received a lovely gift. Straining to hear me, the multitude of worshipers leaned in to listen. While I always found my members to be attentive to my sermons, this night they were especially starry and bright.

Grasping their gift, I emotionally wrapped them in swaddling clothes and cradled them in my arms, finding a particular persuasion of speech steeped in a sentiment worthy of the event.

The next morning’s Christmas Day worship found my voice no better. Even so, that Christmas Eve and Day, when I could not have had a harder time giving voice to the words I had composed, I had never given better voice to the Good News about Jesus Christ.

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One Christmas, we finally got the entire family together


After I pulled my family from Montague to attend seminary, no longer could we gather with our extended families for Christmas. We were confined to the six of us. Then, after the kids grew up and moved far away—to the other side of Michigan, Indiana, and Georgia—gatherings became almost impossible. So impossible, in fact, that one year, with no family at all on the visiting schedule, Julie and I didn’t even put up a tree.

I know: Bah, humbug.

In 2009, however, everyone was able to make it to Port Hope. And, because we would have all four kids and their families home, we invited their mom and her husband. Were we ever thankful for a large parsonage: There was room in the inn for all!

Erin, who lives in Georgia, had just given birth to her first child six weeks earlier, so it was the first we got to hold Helena. The only other grandchild was Oliver, who was two. The other newbie was Add’s now-wife, Tara. They had only been dating for a month, so we knew Tara had what was needed to take on Add, by taking on the entire family.

Both distance and schedules have kept us from another family Christmas. I admit, I now experience what many do, sadness clouding the joy of Christmas carols sung in church and all of the festiveness surrounding the birth of our Lord.

Maybe, next year.

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One Christmas, we were greeted with white


While pastor in Port Hope, most years we had white Christmases. Shoot, we had a lot of white Thanksgivings. And white Easters.

One year, it appeared we would be having a green Christmas. There was not a flake of white to be found upon the browning grass.

That year, as we had our children’s service in the early evening we were thankful for good weather and roads as we entered and left church to bare ground.

Three hours later, we returned to church for 11:00 p.m. worship. The ground was still bare. The only flake to be found was the as-usual goofy pastor.

After filling everyone’s spiritual stocking with my Christmas sermon, and the Lord’s Supper, and numerous favorite carols which concluded with Silent Night under the gleam and glimmer of handheld candles, we departed the church.

It was just after midnight.

And it was snowing.

Great, big, fluffy flakes, it was snowing.

And the ground was already covered.

White, white—everywhere white.

And even the oldest among us was a kid again.



4 thoughts on “One Christmas . . .

  1. As Julie and I finish readying to hit the slippery path for church, a happy Sunday to you! I bet you easily could write a half-dozen wonderful stories of your Christmases past. (dare, dare) xoxo


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