…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)


The Most Powerful Time of the Year

By Rex Goode


Adoration of the Shepherds- Gerard van Honthorst

Adoration of the Shepherds
– Gerard van Honthorst

My childhood was an odd mixture of abuse, neglect, strife, and traditional family values. We weren’t a traditional family. When I was three, my mother married my stepfather. We were certainly not the only blended family around, but it was not so common as it is now.

My stepfather was not a warm man, at least not towards me. His children were even less warm towards me. I suffered much abuse in that family. I was the outsider. That was a natural outgrowth of the sexism of the time.

Since men were the head of the house, in a blended family, the children of the father held a higher social station than the children of the mother. I was also outnumbered and outsized by them.

The tension between us was mostly invisible to Mom and Dad. They thought they had created a nice family out of the ashes of two unhappy divorces. The things that happened to me when their backs were turned were nothing short of abusive.

Many times I thought I would be murdered by my stepbrother, if he could have found a way to do it and make it look like an accident. So, he settled for terrorizing me instead. My stepsister helped him.

Things were not always bad. I think that my stepbrother wanted to be a big brother to me, but he fell in with bad crowds. Despite what people say about the good old days of the nuclear family, there was a lot of brutality in even normal families. Having a big brother was hazardous to a lot of boy’s healths. Bullying began at home. I knew this from my friends at school that had big brothers.

As hard as things were, there were certain times of the year when things were wonderful. Christmas was the chiefest of those times. It had an amazing effect on my family. The house was peaceful, even cheery. People were nice to each other. It was like a whole different family.

The architect of this was my mother. She went all out for Christmas, and I’m not just talking about gifts under the tree. She made fudge, divinity, hard candy, cookies, pies, and a hearty dinner. The house was decorated inside and out. There was talk of Santa Claus and even more importantly, Jesus.

Memories of childhood are interesting things. You can either remember it as a whole or in themes. If I think of my childhood, one way it was filled with abuse, neglect, and strife. I lived in terror that I wouldn’t survive it. It I think about other aspects, I had a very good childhood. If I think about Christmas, it was wondrous.

In the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, said, “There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew.  “Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Indeed, Christmas was a powerful peacemaker in my home. Everything you see in Christmas movies about its blessed tendency to create peace was true in my home. I believe that Christmas is powerful because the babe born in Bethlehem is powerful.

Today, Christmas remains for me like the atonement itself. It has the power to change the very nature of human beings and bring out the best in them. It has ever been so in my family. May your Christmas bring you peace and joy and may it last all year.

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