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Do you remember the first Christmas you were actually aware that it was Christmas?  I do. I was four years old, and my ornery ten-year-old brother told me a secret, “THERE IS NO SANTA!”  I didn’t believe him then, and I still don’t believe him. I am a firm believer in Santa Claus.

I asked my brother, now ninety years old, that same question this morning.  “What do you remember about Christmas when you were little?”

“I remember Christmas at Crescent School,” he replied telling about the celebration at his rural school located near Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, where I was born.

The celebration was not just for kids, but for the whole community.  Everyone in the surrounding area showed up to enjoy the children’s songs and recitations.  Talk about proud parents!  

Of course there were gifts for everyone.  My brother doesn’t seem to know who paid for all of that, but he does remember that he received a Fire Truck.

For years after, when he was far away from Crescent School, every time he smelled coal smoke, he was transported back to that place where, each morning, his teacher filled the coal scuttle and emptied it into the little potbellied stove to warm the classroom. 

One of my most memorable Christmases was my first Christmas in Belgium.  I had never missed a Christmas with my family. It was a hurtful time for me, but I determined to make the best of it.  I knew that my Mom would send a big package, and I waited anxiously for it, but it didn’t come, and still, it didn’t come.  Time was growing short, and Christmas was upon us. If Mama’s package did not arrive, other presents would not matter. Like a child, I was devastated.

I couldn’t be satisfied with waiting, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I went into the center of Brussels to “Le Bureau de Douane”—the customs office. I don’t know what I thought I could do, but I was going to do something.  

I stood in line impatiently awaiting my turn.  When I approached the guichet, I said to the agent.  “My mother sent me a Christmas package from the U.S. It should be here by now.  I want to know what happened to it.” Of course, that was a preposterous request.

Clearly annoyed with my demand, the agent drew a large ledger from under the counter.  I honestly thought he would throw me out, but to my surprise, asking my mother’s name, he began to run his finger down page after page.  I was surprised to see that all entries were handwritten.  

After some moments, to my astonishment, he said, “Here it is—Maggie Clark!  

I almost danced a little jig, but I still didn’t have the package.

Calling a fellow employee, and giving him a slip of paper, he said, “Here, take this woman and find this package.”  

I was transported to an enormous barn-like building, where the temperature was at least 40 degrees below zero.  Packages from around the world were stacked high in every direction. My heart plummeted. How was it possible to find one specific package in this over-whelming melee of packages?  However, I was wrong. This was not a disorganized mess. After motoring up and down several aisles, the agent stopped at a particular bin and withdrew a large carton. “This must be it,” he declared, and it was.  There was my name, and in the return address, was my Mama’s name: Maggie Clark, 417 West 1st St., Mesa, AZ. 85201.

After paying the custom’s charges, I took my box home, unpacked it and put the colorful gifts under the tree.  I was amazed at the kindness and patience of those government officials, and at the goodness of God, because He understood my need of the moment.

I can’t think about Christmas without thinking about Mary, the mother of our Lord.  She had no idea that one day, her son’s birthday would be called Christmas, and be celebrated around the world. I am convinced, however, that there was no way she could ever forget that first Christmas, call it what you will.  She would never forget the angels’ song, the visit of the shepherds and the magi, the marvelous gifts, and most of all, Angel Gabriel’s confirmation that the child she bore would be called the Son of God, and Jesus would be his name.

I have said it before, “I love Christmas.” I love the hustle and bustle, the decorations, the colored lights, the parties, the gifts, and Santa’s “Ho, ho, ho’s, but that can’t be all of Christmas.

John 3:16, the scripture that will never wear out or become common place:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Christmas is the celebration of the historical event of Jesus’ entry into our world as God’s ultimate sacrifice for our sin, whereby we might receive His gift of eternal life.

In all of our remembering, let’s not forget that Jesus is what Christmas is all about!