The music of Christmas and especially the ringing of bells help to bring a rush of images and memories of the Christmas Holiday Season. Mine include a vivid memory of the first Christmas tree I can ever remember. My family history is filled with stories from Stinking Creek in Knox County. There is something special about the place that we each call home. I have also discovered that the moments and memories of that place have a unique way of filling our lives even with the passing of time. I was at my grandparents’ home on Acorn Fork and I was so disappointed that they didn’t have a Christmas Tree. I was named after my dad’s father and being his name sake carried privileges that my other cousins could not claim. One benefit was being able to ask my grandfather for a tree to decorate and he didn’t disappoint me. We loaded up in the truck and drove up the road into the mountain and we picked a tree to decorate. I have so often thought of my tree picking skills and for the record I have never had a live tree since the one me and grandpa pick that Christmas. It did have green pine needles and I liked it so it was cut down, loaded up and back to the house we went. When we brought it in the house I remember well my grandmother saying, “Hobert what kind of tree is that”? My grandfather said “that’s the one that Timmy wanted”…and the rest is history. My grandmother and I created strings of popcorn and I made a paper chain hooked together that we hung on the tree. It was perfect for me, but today I know that tree lacked a lot compared to the Christmas Trees one can purchase today. The good news is that back then isn’t today, and I only wish I could sit next to the coal stove with my grandparents once more.
The account of the First Nowell at the birth of Jesus provides an opportunity for each of us to look back at another time and place in history too. The Angel said that the First Nowell was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay keeping watch over their sheep. The Angel said that particular night was a cold winter’s night that was so deep. If you grew up in a city you expect to see lights from the streets poles, apartments, homes and businesses. I imagine that First Nowell night as one out in the country. Standing on the porch of my grandparent’s home the only light you would outside is the light from the well house or the pump house as some might say. A light there was very important. Its purpose was to help keep things from freezing through a cold winter’s night. If it did freeze then sometimes banging on the pipe might help break up the ice that had frozen in the lines. The First Nowell of Christmas was the light shining in the east that was beyond them far, and it was going to continue to shine both day and night. And it was by that light that wise men came from a country far too, as they sought to seek for a king. The wise men had committed to follow the star wherever it went. The traditional English carol The First Nowell concludes with “let us all with one accord, sing praises to our heavenly Lord. Who hath make heaven and earth of naught and with His blood mankind hath bought.”
Christmas offers to me and you the most unique of opportunities. It is a chance for each of us to to connect with our personal family history. I believe the number one reason people like to go home for Christmas is to remember things that use to be. A chance to recount the stories of ‘our people’ filled with laughter and memories that are cherished and enjoyed each time we share them. Christmas is also an opportunity to look into the future from history. Luke chapter 2, verse 11 says “A Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Family, history and faith are important to me. It could be that all of this means nothing to you. I hope not, and I pray you see the Star this year and begin a new history.