Fall and winter are some of my favorite times of the year. I love to feel the cool crispness in the air and see the leaves on the hardwood trees change colors, fall to the ground and form a soft layer to cover the earth.
The daylight hours are shorter and rain and snow are welcome weather patterns this time of year to relieve the drought, help extinguish the wildfires, and replenish the lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, reservoirs and water table. Festive national holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s typically include food, drink and celebration, and usually a gathering of family members or close friends and a shared meal.
Many families observe traditional customs and rituals during these end of year holidays such as exchanging of gifts (most gifts are given once while other gifts such as love, trusts, and taxes keep on giving), hanging stockings on the fireplace mantle and filling them with fruits, nuts, candy or a gift card, toy or stuffed animal, lighting of candles, singing of Christmas carols, hanging mistletoe overhead, attending religious services, singing of Christmas carols, traveling to see relatives, hanging Christmas lights, sending Christmas cards, and watching Christmas movies. Other holiday activities include going skiing, going hunting, going shopping, attending a musical, movie, theatrical or sports event, telling stories, baking a ham or turkey accompanied by assorted vegetables and desserts, baking cookies, pies and cakes and various kinds of breads, drinking eggnog or a glass of apple cider, coffee, tea, soda, wine or champagne, lighting a fire in the fireplace (either wood or gas), and serving our neighbors, community members and fellow man by serving meals to the homeless and those in shelters or in need, and participating in gathering and distributing toys or other gifts for a toy drive or gifts for those in need through an angel tree or giving tree.
The examples shared above no doubt bring warm memories of past holidays and eager anticipation of Christmas fast approaching again this weekend. And while many or perhaps most of us can look forward to receiving one or more gifts under the Christmas tree and/or a stocking hung on a mantle and filled with goodies from family and/or friends, we can all share at least one gift in common if we so choose – the gift of salvation and eternal life, by repenting of our sins, confessing our faith in Jesus, accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, receiving the Holy Spirit, being buried with Him in baptism and resurrected to newness of life, and doing our best to follow the teachings and example of Jesus from the Bible as a new creation.
Those who choose this free gift from God begin a journey and a process of sanctification that lasts the rest of one’s life, whereby such disciples or followers of Jesus can grow in grace and mature spiritually. Agape love is truly a gift that keeps on giving and changes and transforms one’s character and nature from the inside out into the image of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus, who died and rose again and ascended on high, and is seated at the right hand of God. What are you thankful for this Christmas?
Take a few minutes to stop and smell the roses (or the mistletoe or poinsettia), count your many blessings, and tell and show someone else that you love them. Love is a gift that keeps on giving, and unlike trusts and taxes, it pays eternal rewards and dividends.
Dr. Bruce Cook lives in Lakebay, WA