A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER

The term ( Grey hair and old bones ) comes to mind as I consider writing this; especially around this time of year. I suppose that it’s because of my age and the fact that I now have seen almost seventy Christmases, that, making me an older man. I, like most people will have to admit that I don’t remember anything about the first few Christmases in my life and, to be honest I can’t remember a lot about many of them.

One more thing before we move on toward what this is all about. When we are young Christmas is very exciting to us because of the fact we get gifts that we say are from Santa Claus. I’ve learn over the years this one true fact. That is only true when we are young, I often tell people now that Santa Claus changed as I aged. Now he always tlake more from me than he leaves.

The truth of all this is that very often as parents, sometimes even children, the gift we actually desire is something very special and, very deep within our hearts that actually has nothing to so with money at all. Often it has to do with an act of true and real love, not just words or, one time deeds.

One more point I’d like to make about the act of giving is this. Very often ( a gift received is not a gift given ). We seldom ever think about that fact. I’ll try and give you an example of what I’m saying.

As a pastor of a small Church, at Christmas time we would always have a ( Christmas party and present a Christmas play ). We would have a dinner and pass out gifts after the dinner. The way we would do this is we would draw names and set a price for how much each gift would cost.

One year as we were discussing this; I asked my members how much they would like to put in each gift. We agreed on $15.00 each. Once that price was set I then said; this year we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of passing out gifts to one another, let’s just take up the money we would spend and, find a family that is less blessed than we are and give them the money. Everyoe seemed to agree with that Idea. I mentioned this fact as we agreed on that concept. If each gift will cost and average of $15.00 then if there are four members in your family than that means your family will give $60.00 on the day we take up this money. Everyone understood what I was saying.

I now forget just how many people were in our Church at the time but, I haven’t forgottrn this fact. When we took up the money, it was less than half of what we should have taken up. That means that to someone ( a gift received would not have truly been given ). The people that didn’t give their money were expecting to receive a gift in return! If, within your mindset, you are expecting to get something in return for the gift you say you give then that that means that actualy it’s not a gift from you at all.

With that being said; often the giving of a true gift, not really expecting anything in return can be far more rewarding than the gift giver will ever expect it to be. That is the case in the true story I’m anot to share with you.

My family as I grew up was somewhat of an average family. It was six of us, my mom, dad, me and I had three sisters. My mom actually had five girls but, two of my sisters died almost at birth. We, as a family were somewhat poor but, I suppose that it wasn’t much difference in us than the average farm family around us, I just seen us as not having a lot of money, sometimes even to buy the things we really needed.

With that being said we always would have a fairly good Christmas. Mom and dad would see to it that we got the things we asked for as long as it wasn’t too expensive and, we were taught not only to ask for things we wanted but things we needed as well.

The one big problem that my family faced was that my dad at times would really struggle with drinking alcohol. Often he might go for months without drinking but, when he started he might drink for weeks. If you know anything about farm life then you know things of this sort can place an extra burden on the family and all the things that has to be done. One year I even remember having to get another family to come in and help us plant our cash crop because dad was not around to help us.

Before we go any farther with this story, I’d like to stop and say a few things that ( I believe ). First of all, I don’t like calling a person that has a drinking problem ( an alcoholic ). The Bible calls such people ( a drunkard ). The world has its way of redefining the words we see in the Bible. The world wants to define ( a drunkard ) as a sickness. The world likes to call many things by another name other than to simply call it sin. While telling a man or woman they have a sickness such as ( alcoholism ) instead of calling that person ( a drunkard ) had the ability to somewhat lessen the true conviction that people need to actually be born again by God’s Spirit. When, in reality that is what they actually need.

For example: let’s say ( the world ) actually helps someone that they call an alcoholic. That person actually quits drinking. Does that fact make them any closer to God the Father? Doesn’t it take acknowledging the fact you are a sinner and being born again from real conviction from that sin, to be where God truly desires us to be, no matter what that sin might be?

Another point that I’d like to make is that my dad, like many other men of that time served in World War Two. Again, ( I believe ) that many men and possibly women as well use alcohol to help them forget all they had seen in that war or, for that fact, any war. I do however realize that alcohol can become addictive and, at that, it can be hard to overcome that addiction. I also believe that people in gereral struggle with different levels of ability. Where one man might be able to overcome an addiction, that doesn’t mean every peron will; no matter what they do.

There’s people that are actually are born again but still struggle with the ability to overcome the sin in their lives. It becomes a problem with how people look at certain sin. For instance, not one of my family members at that time struggled with drinking like my dad did. Did that make us any better than he was in God’s eyes? It can actually get to the place that people become ( self righteous ) because they only see the sin of others, not their own. As far as my dad is concerned, it took me years to gain this knowledge! There are many ( born again believers ) that struggle with sin their whole lives. They are never able to overcome their sinful weakness and, they are often belittled by other believers because of their sinful weaknesses. The truth! We all have them, some are just more noticeable than others.

In 1968 my dad had basically overcome his drinking problem. My mom, sisters and I knew him well. In times past he would leave home with very good intentions. Sometimes maybe just going out to get bread or eggs, something of that nature. In our minds we knew when he should be back. If time moved foward, passed that time, we knew he had begin to drink again and would come home drunk. However, this year he hadn’t acted like that at all. We had come to the point that it was almost a forgotten thing in his passed.

On Christmas eve, 1968 my dad left home, telling my mom where he was going. It was about three 0’clock in the afternoon. As time passed we all knew without saying that he was out drinking again. Not one of us that I remember said anything anout it but, we all were hurt by this. We, as children were old enough to know all about Santa Claus and such but, my mom still would place things under the Christmas tree for us. My youngest sister was just about ten at the time. My oldest sister had graduated from high school and actually moved out of the house, she was going to school in another town. She and another lady roomed together to keep from having to drive so far everyday. However, she also was at home for Christmas.

That night around 11;30 pm I was in bed, I heard a pickup come up the driveway and knew it wasn’t my dad’s truck. I quickly got out of be and told my mom I would check on it, to see who it was. As I opened the back door, I recognized the young man, He was a good friend of mine, just a little older. He told me that my dad had gotten drunk at his house and, passed out on the couch. He would see to it that he came home the next morning. I relayed this message to my mom and went back to bed.

The next morning as we all got up, one at a time; Santa Claus had come. While we waited for a while for dad to come home, we decided to go ahead and open the presents we had given to each other. It was about ten O’clock, we were opening gifts when we heard dad’s truck drive up. As Children, we were still in school, we didn’t have much money to even think about buying gifts but, we would always give mom and dad, even each other a little something for Christmas.

When dad came in, he looked bad, I could tell he felt bad that, in more ways than one. We had all just about finished opening our gifts so, my olderst sister simply told dad to sit down and open his gifts. As he opened each gift, he thanked each of us for what we had given him. There was one big box left to open. It was from my oldest sister. She went to college and ,also worked a part time job there to help with her finances. I’d say this box was about an 18 inch cubic. As dad opent it, it was just another box inside it to open again. It got all the way down to a little box in the center of them all. When he opened the last box, it had a hundred dollar bill in that little box.

We often forget how much one hundred dollars was in 1968. In 1968 many people would’t make that much in two weeks working at their jobs. As my dad looked at that one hundred dollar bill; he said. This is more money than I spent this whole Christmas! My oldest sister looked at him when he said that and replied, daddy, all I asked from you is that you never let this happen again! I can’t remember if my dad even responded tothat or, if he even simply nodded. It really doesn’t matter because, if my dad ever had any alcohol to drink after that Christmas, I don’t know it.

If we go back to what I said: ( sometimes a gift received is not a gift given ). Can we argue that my oldest sister didn’t give a gift because she was asking something in return? I say ( no ). My sister had already gave this gift without the knowledge of the events that would transpire around this Christmas. I’ve always looked at my mom and, my oldest sister as prayer warriors. I’m sure that God used this situation as an answer to the prayers that had been prayed.

God’s conviction comes in many forms. Many years after my dad got right with God he shared this story with me. To set this up, we lived on a tobacco farm and had a few tobacco barns. We also went to a Methodist Church right down the road from our house. My dad told me that one day he and a friend of his were behind one of our barns, under to work shed drinking a beer. They were just talking to one another, not paying attention of their surroundings. At that time the pastor of our Church was a man named Preacher Brown. All of a sudden, unexpected to my dad and his friend, pastor Brown just walk under the shed and spoke to them. Dad told me that he and his friend both had a beer in their hands.

By the standards of this world; that might seem like a small thing today. However, at that time the very fact that our pastor caught him drinking truly brought great conviction on him. He told me that he never forgot that day or how he felt.

The Bible teaches us this: ( ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD, FOR THOSE THAT LOVE GOD, THE ONES CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE )( Romans 8:28 ) That scripture was one of my mom’s favorite scriptures, she quoted it very often; even when bad things happened.

As time moved foward, all of my mom and dad’s children married and moved on with their lives. After making many mistakes ( sin ) in my own personal life, I was born again in 1975. One of my sisters, her husband and my family began to visit an Independant Baptist Church. We ended up joining that Church. In 1977, my dad and mom started to visit that Church as well. Shortly after; my dad got right with God.

Although he already had a few grandchildren by that time; none of them were old enough to know anything about his life. I’ve shared this often. I even said this at his fumeral. The man that my mom, my sisters and I knew in 1968 and before was a totally different man to every one of my dad’s grandchildren. They all knew him as a saint of God, a man that could be completely trusted in any situation, a witness for Jesus Christ! He became a spiritual leader in his family and a man of wisdom, one that was an asset to any Church.

Each year as Christmas aproaches, I always remember that Christmas! I’m reminded of just how imperfect we all are, especially me! It would still take a few more years for me to see myself as the sinner I was. We often get so wrapped up, focused on someone eles sin that we cannot even see our own. As the years passed my dad and I actually became a souls-winning team! For years we would go out on visitation and witness to people we knew.

I feel lead to put this part of my family’s life in as well. Although my dad was not a Church going man, my mom was raised in Church and she made sure that my sisters and I attended Sunday School and preaching every Sunday. She faced some terrible things in those years but, she never faltered from her faith in Jesus Christ and his saving grace.

I often wonder, what if she would have said; well, my husband won’t go to Church so I might as well quit too. ( I believe ) that her faithfulness actually led to the salvation of her whole family! Far too often the denounce the very power of God simply by the things we do. Biblically speaking, that’s just an extention of every person that has ever had faith in God’s work from the very beginning.

If we go back the the verse I quoted:

( Roman’s 8:28 )

AND WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD, TO THEM WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.

This verse is a very powerful verse to me and, I’ve seen it play out often in my life. Let’s look at another verse:

( Hebrews 11:6 )

BUT WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM: FOR HE THAT COMETH TO GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS, AND THAT HE IS A REWARDER OF THEM THAT DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM.

It’s two things I often say when I quote this first verse, how much do you love him and, just how willing are you to be used for his purpose and not your own? It takes ( faith ) to truly be willing to see God’s will come to pass. It says in the second verse, ( we must believe ) ( that he is ) and ( he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ).

( Must Believe )! It’s far more to that statement than meets the eye! Consider: Even on this Christmas day that this act took place, there is no way my mom could have seen the Godly things that would transpire in the next few years and, all the way up until her death! However, but believing that God is able to do far above what we might ask. Look at these verses:

( Ephesians 3:14-21 )

FOR THIS CAUSE I BOW MY KNEES UNTO THE FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, ( 15 ) OF WHOM THE WHOLE FAMILY IN HEAVEN AND EARTH IS NAMED, ( 16 ) THAT HE WOULD GRANT YOU ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY, TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH MIGHT BY HIS SPIRIT IN THE INNER MAN; ( 17 ) THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS BY FAITH; THAT YE, BEING ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE, ( 18 ) MAY BE ABLE TO COMPREHAND WITH ALL SAINTS WHAT IS THE BREADTH, AND LENGTH, AND DEPTH, AND HEIGHT; ( 19 ) AND TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST, WHICH PASSETH KNOWLEDGE, THAT YE MIGHT BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD. ( 20 ) NOW UNTO HIM THAT IS ABLE TO DO EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY ABOVE ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK, ACCORDING TO THE POWER THAT WORKETH IN US, ( 21 ) UNTO HIM BE GLORY IN THE CHURCH BY CHRIST JESUS THROUGHOUT ALL AGES, WORLD WITHOUT END. AMEN.

I wrote all those verses that you might see what he is saying. However, I really desire for you to see this one part. ( exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, ACCORDING TO THE POWER THAT WORKETH IN US ).

You must understand this. The power that dwelt within my mom and my sister on Christmas day ( 1968 ) was not yet within me! But, I’m watching and seeing things as they happen. When my oldest sister told my dad ( not to let this happen again ) it was her ( inner man ) that was speaking. What she spoke was words that was on the heart of my mom, by that same inner man.

In just a few short years, not only did God save my dad but, he saved me as well. Between those two dates, I put my mom through some things that she didn’t deserve, nor did my sisters or dad. However, it took those things in my life, just like the things in my dad’s life to bring us to the place of our salvation.

In closing, I’m sure if my mom could read this she would tell me just how many times she failed to be all that God desired for her to be. The problem, we are all sinners and fall way short of all God desires for us to be! I know I have. My youngest daughter said a few things to me a few months ago that made me stop and see myself.

I told her that ( she was right )! the failures that I have made as a born again believer have brought about hurt in a lot of people’s lives, I totally realize that as a man. However, all I can do is confess my imperfections! I also ( by faith )( by believing ) know that my God is able, ( according to the power that worketh within me ) to do far above what I might ask or think!

In my flesh, just as in any born again believer, it must be the Spirit of God that we place our faith in and not in our abilty to do anything. We all are sinners at our best. ( I believe ) God can use each of us to bring about his will when we trust him and seek, even when we are weak; to do his will in our lives.

To someone, even to me, every day is a ( Christmas Day 1968 )! We can’t see all that transpires in any person’s life but, God the Father can! When we actually fall in love with God the Father by his Spirit, when we become willing to be used in all things ( according to his purpose ), not our own, when we walk by faith, ( believe ) he is! And, not only that but, that he is able to do exceeding abundantly above what we think or ask. Then, no matter what we face in our flesh, as time moves foward, ( God’s will ) will bring ( his will ) to pass, not in out time but his!

In ( 2 Chronicles 1:7 ) God appeared unto Solomon and aked him ( what shall I give thee )? Solomon’s answer was very telling if you will read the complete text. ( What do you want to most ) I might asked each reader of this article? Then, what price are you willing to pay for what you desire? God’s desire is to bless his people! He desire for each of us ( to believe he is ) and that ( he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him )!

As we approach this Christmas day; what gift will you give? Will it truly be a ( gift given )? My gift to you on this Christmas is to give you a ( planted seed ). A seed that might begin to spiritually grow within each person and, as time moves foward; each person might see the fruit that comes from that planted spiritual seed that you will replant time and time again!

Merry Christmas and; may God richly bless each of you!

Marshall Clayton

2 Timothy 1:7

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s