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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

It occurred to me a few days ago that I had yet to post the traditional Christmas piece this year.  I don't have any particular reason why that shouldn't be done this year, except that in many ways this... well, it's not the usual Christmas for me.

It was two years ago, three days after Christmas, that my mother passed away.  But it's only been in the past few weeks that I've let that sink in, found myself able to let go of lingering matters that were there.  I got through Christmas last year because of some things that aren't there this year.  Absent those, this is at last the holiday season that I'm letting myself be confronted with that loss (and a number of others).

I'm not going to avoid them.  It's time to let them confront me and for me to come out the better for it.  That's happening already.

A few weeks ago I had myself voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital.  I had to do it because my life had become completely unmanageable.  It was severe depression, to a far worse degree than I've ever endured.  It was also because the medication I've been on to treat the bipolar needed some drastic adjustment.  I spent a week there, spending most of my time studying my Bible.  And prayer, lots of prayer.

I had to do it because the depression was taking a toll on my personal life, my work, everything.  Had I not done that, well... I don't like to contemplate what might have happened.  But I did address it and I don't think there's any weakness or shame in admitting it.  And I came out of it much stronger than I had been before.  God brought me through it.  He really did.  I can't claim any part of that victory for myself.  I could write a book about the things I went through in the hospital, especially at night.  God brought me through each night, just as He brought me through this night.  Just as He is still bringing me through it.  I won't dare boast of any of that for my own.

Long story short: I'm not having any Christmas presents this year.  I'm too much thankful for the things God has given me already than to want anything that I don't have.  It took me a long time to really find the contentment that comes with His grace and to relent unto His will, His timing.

Maybe that'll make what come next on this post have more meaning than ever.

It was my best friend Chad who asked this morning if I was doing the traditional Christmas post on this blog.  After some thought about it, I'm going through with it.  Hard to believe I wrote this fifteen years ago this month, in the last issue before the holiday break.

So here it is, again, one of my favorite pieces from the old college days and something of a tradition on The Knight Shift...

Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998

Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories

Chris Knight

     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.
     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 arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…

     Ahh... you know how it goes.
     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.

Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”


Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Chris :)

-old friend

Kyle said...

I think you have to be the only person who could write about being in a mental hospital while wishing Merry Christmas and it all be uplifting. You're definitely someone who stands apart from the rest Chris :p

Merry Christmas to YOU and I bet 2014 is going to be your year :)

Christine said...

Chris, this is my favorite "tradition" of your blog. If you wrote this 15 years ago you were an incredible writer then. I'm glad you've kept using that gift God gave you. Now 2 things: I'd love to see more of what you wrote in college for your paper. And then bring back Tammy Tuesday. She's a doxie and needs the attention ;)

Paul said...

It's hard to see anyone who puts 2nd Corinthians 11:30 into routine practice.

"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."

It's easy to boast of things the world glorifies. It's not easy to admit weakness and point to Christ, who alone overcomes all our weakness.

A thought Chris. God gave you these struggles because he knew you wouldn't hide them. Very few people would let them be shown, even fewer would write about them for all to see. It's the word of God at work and it works as proof that God is real.

And Merry Christmas Chris!

Marietta, Georgia

wgungfu said...

The Atari 2600 is 8-bit, not 4. There were no 4-bit systems.

Chris Knight said...

"The Atari 2600 is 8-bit, not 4. There were no 4-bit systems."

And this is probably why I did so lousy in that C programming class...

(The instructor gave me a D-. A barely passing grade, solely out of pity :-/ )