Everyone has those great Christmas traditions. Maybe it’s watching the same movie as a family, baking certain types of cookies, going to a certain place and enjoying the holiday together, driving around looking at Christmas lights. Mine? I jump in an actual time machine and take a trip back several years ago! Before you contact our Sr. Pastor and suggest my position be “reconsidered”. Let me explain.

15 years ago, Christmas to me still meant gifts, family, traditions, (insert your own secular Christmas meaning here). Sure Christmas involves those things, but to me, at the time, it WAS those things. I celebrated the day just as most of our friends, family and the world do. It was just another holiday I was glad to get off of work and have an excuse to eat large amounts of food. What I didn’t anticipate was the event I was about to experience that changed Christmas forever – for me at least.

My wife and I… okay, my wife… decided it was time to start going to church. We were married for a couple of years, had a baby and she decided it was time for a life change. As I reluctantly began attending, I found myself involved in the worship team as a drummer / singer. Long story short, I got saved, dedicated my life to serving Jesus and the journey began. One night in particular has been engrained in my heart forever. What started as a small church Christmas Eve program, ended as a dynamic twist in the way I would see the holiday for the rest of my life. 

The small, humble sanctuary filled up, the lights were dim, candles flickered and the band took the small platform we called a stage. We led the congregation in the singing of worshipful Christmas songs, prayed and listened to a sermon about Christmas. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing flashy, no professional lighting, no skits, no flying angels, no costumes… just the simplicity of Christmas. So what was so powerful about it?

I sat on a stool that night, scared out of my mind and sang my one of my first solos to “Mary Did You Know?”. I remember as I sang, the words seemed to resonate more than ever before. As the song went on, my heart physically felt as is it were being filled with something, or rather, BY something. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was my first encounter of feeling the Holy Spirit wash over me as I began to REALLY understand what Christmas meant.

I don’t mean this in the sense of Linus sharing the great story we all know with the tag line “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown” but for ME, personally. That night, that moment, will forever be branded on my heart as the night “I got it”. It clicked! It all made sense! I can’t explain WHAT made sense or the details of my emotions, but it was a night that would become a landmark in my journey as a Christ-follower. I already understood it was about Jesus but this night it became about Jesus and me… the sinner, the flawed, the misguided, the helpless… the forgiven.

Not a single Christmas song, movie, memory or church service has ever held such a precious place in my life more than that night. So, where does the “time machine” come in? Every single year, just before Christmas, I actually drive to that little church, go inside and sit alone in the sanctuary. I let my mind travel back to that service and let it replay in my head. I imagine the people, the setting, the sounds. I see myself singing that solo and recall the emotions that ran through me. I admit, I never leave there with dry eyes. 

Nothing refreshes my soul this time of year more than this journey I take every December. Even as a Christian, it’s easy to SAY Jesus but forget to experience Him at Christmas. I want to always be reminded of the night I officially became a shepherd, seeking the Savior and how it felt to find Him. I encourage you to think about where your own “time machine” will take you back to and jump in. Remember how the first Christmas became YOURS too!

Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”     Earl Henning, Youth Pastor, Asst. Teaching Pastor