In the eyes of a young boy, approaching where Main Street intersected with Broad Street was magical. In 1972 it was the only red light in Summersville, WV. There were two golden Christmas angels mounted on the electric poles opposite of the other. They were huge to me – especially the trumpets that they held, directly facing the other as if they were about to blast a sound to usher down a legion of angels and open the heavens. Walking down Main Street was like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” – I can see the old courthouse with the canon in front and all the decorations that seemed to swirl like candy canes, matching the barbers pole swirly thing.
I remember mom turning our front porch poles into candy canes by wrapping foil and red paper around and around. I remember the old Christmas lights with their clips, and the glass tree-topper that was kept safely in the box that once held an electric iron. I remember when I got the electric football game, the rip-cord racing car, the rock’m sock’m robots, hot wheels cars and double loop race track. I remember hearing Santa Clause outside in the garage one late Christmas Eve shouting Ho-Ho-Ho. We ran out into the garage and saw this massive pile of toys (found out later that it was our neighbor who faked jolly st. nik).
I remember visiting grandparents on Christmas, and running into lots of family members. Lots of laughter, food, and smiling faces. I remember walking into grandma Hall’s living room past the fireplace – there it is: grandma’s Christmas tree in front of a big picture window, so pretty and sparkly. I remember visiting grandma White. We’d walk in and she’d say, “What you fers up to?” I loved her smile. I remember the routine of it all – I loved it.
I remember getting a box of assorted flavored LifeSavers from a neighbor. I remember lots and lots of snow. So much that it seemed like driving through a fairy-land tunnel on our one-lane road. The trees were so weighted down they hung over the road creating a secret passage to a happy-land where time stood still. I remember when there was nothing wrong with the world . . . and there it is.
I had no idea that cancer was slowly killing my dad, that cancer was slowly growing in my mom, that Watergate and Vietnam were eating away at the hope of a country, that oil prices were sky-rocketing, and that a recession was about to hit. I had no knowledge of the devastating effect of polio on so many children – though I had a friend who wore those metal sticks on his legs. I had no knowledge of the university and college turmoil in Ohio and California. I had no knowledge of the racism that was still spreading its ugliness in our culture. I did not know that my grandparents missed their own mom and dad at Christmas and secretly sorrowed the loss. I did not know that there was so much wrong and so much to cry about. I did not know that pain and suffering were part of Christmas. I did not know that moms and dads wept together on Christmas Day as they held their dying child in their arms at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Christmas’s of my childhood hint at an irresistible desire: We long to live in a time and place where there is nothing, absolutely nothing but Joy and Peace. Not because we’re too ignorant of the sad reality, but because there is full wide-eyed knowledge that all that causes pain and tears is truly gone. We long to live with no fear of impending sorrow. We long to never be alone again. We long to live in a land where it feels secure and safe as a little boy feels when he wakes up on Christmas morning to the smell of fresh cinnamon toast, hot-chocolate, and the love of a mom and dad, cuddle up to the fire-place . . . and just sit. All is quiet. All is calm. All is bright. All is well.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us) . . . the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matt. 2:23, 4:16).
I’m going to this place – it’s where Jesus is. Come with me . . .