But for the most part, I'm taking a break. And this is one Christmas that it hasn't been more needed.
The past few months have been one of the worst of my life. A lot of things have happened behind the scenes that I haven't touched on here. In many ways this is already set to be a Christmas that I'm not looking forward to...
...but in the past month or so there have also been a lot of good things that have begun to happen as well. I like to believe that it's God's way of telling me "I haven't given up on you Chris." 2008 had some wonderful moments and then tapering off wound up not a very good year at all... but 2009 holds so much promise already. I'm just gonna try my best to hold onto that hope, and put my faith ever more in Him, no matter what happens.
Speaking of 2009, there maybe some lulls in action on this blog as I work on some of what those "hopeful things" are. And Lord willing in the fullness of time I'll get to talk about what those are :-)
So if you've been reading this blog for a number of years, you know what's going to happen next. I'm going to repost the Christmas article that I wrote for The Pendulum, the school newspaper of Elon University, ten years ago in 1998. But before that happens, there is another - and far more notable - anniversary this Christmas...
It was forty years ago this Christmas Eve, on December 24th 1968, that the crew of Apollo 8 greeted the people back on Earth with a special message from mankind's first-ever orbit of the Moon. William Anders, and then Jim Lovell and finally Frank Borman read from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. It has come to be regarded as one of the most beautiful and moving television transmissions in history. Forty years later it has lost none of its power. So here it is: Apollo 8's Christmas message...
From our house to yours, Merry Christmas and God bless :-)
Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998
Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories
Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy. Arf arf arf, Ahh... you know how it goes. Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”
Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.
Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…
And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.
It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.
It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!
Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!
There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.
I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.
Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.
There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.
To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.
That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”
“I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.
Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!
The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.
Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.
Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.
I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.
You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.
And then they kneel.
They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?
Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.
One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.
You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter /and all the customs that come with Christmas.
And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.
But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.
And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.
And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.
The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.
Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?
Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.
And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.
And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.
This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.
Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.
Arf arf arf,
Ahh... you know how it goes.
Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”