First a little anecdote from my old friend Rev. Tom Butts who lets me steal his stuff all the time:



There was a mother who was Christmas shopping with her two young children. After three hours of looking at row after row of toys and hearing them whine for everything they saw on the shelves, she was feeling the overwhelming pressure and aggravation that so many feel during the holiday season. She was relieved when she finally made it to the elevator.



When the elevator doors opened, there was already a crowd in the car. Determined to get out of that department store as soon as possible, she pushed her way into the crowded car, dragging her two kids and her heavy shopping bags with her. When the doors closed, she couldn't take it anymore. She blurted out in an angry voice, "Whoever started this whole Christmas business should be found, strung up and shot!" From the back of the elevator a fervent,  but saddened, voice responded, "Don't worry, we’ve already crucified Him.” The rest of the trip down the elevator was so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop.



OK, here goes. My annual Christmas sermon. Stop reading now if you don’t want “religion crammed down” your “throat.”



I like Santa Claus, but when I think of him, I realize that everything the jolly old elf knows about Christmas, he learned from Jesus. When you see the sparkling lights, a decorated tree, and piles of gifts under that tree, remember that every lovely thing we associate with Christmas began with a Baby’s birth more than 2,000 years ago. And, just as we anticipate the annual coming of Santa with building excitement, even more exciting is the news that Jesus Lord is coming to town. In fact, He’s coming to the entire world.



So, when I see the lights, the tree, and the gifts of Christmas, I am reminded of His imminent arrival. But it won’t necessarily be this coming Dec. 21.



When I see the beautiful light displays around Destin, I think of the One who is the true  “Light of the world.” We can reflect that light by the good works and service we give to others. His Light came into the world in a lowly Bethlehem stable to dispel the darkness, a darkness that remains defeated as long as the radiance of Christmas lights continues to remind us of the One who brings spiritual light to a lost and dying world.



When I see a Christmas tree, I remember another tree long ago. This tree was not so beautiful. It was old and rugged. It was the tree on which Jesus died a sacrificial death.



The people who loved Him and witnessed His death could not comprehend why such a kind and gentle Man had to die in such agony and pain. They were crying tragedy, tragedy, tragedy, but the angels in heaven were shouting victory, victory, victory!



And finally, as we give and receive gifts this Christmas, I’m reminded of the greatest Gift of all.  “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  In this season recalling Jesus’ birth, I’m thankful for the Gift that keeps on giving — eternally.



One day, as He promised, Jesus will return for His children. It may be before Santa Claus comes next year, or it may be after many more Christmases have come and gone.



Some years ago, I wrote a little song for a Christmas play at church. It’s not precisely theological, but I hope it carries the good news message:



You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not doubt
I’m telling you why.
Jesus Lord is coming to town.
He knows each time you’re weeping.
He knows each heart that breaks
He knows if you’re redeemed or not,
So, be saved for Heaven’s sake! Oh!



(Chorus)



All souls who’ll fly to glory
Will claim the victory
They’re gonna have a home above
For all eternity, Oh!



(Chorus)



For Jesus came to save us
That none should suffer loss
The loveliest of Christmas trees
Is Jesus’ Holy Cross. Oh!



(Chorus)



Merry Christmas and God bless you abundantly in the New Year!



Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.