It may seem a bit odd that a person would claim to remember his or her first Christmas. Weren’t we all too young to have any memories? But I remember mine well because I was 18 years old.
My girl friend and I were at different colleges and I had driven to her school to spend a weekend in early December. As I sat in the lounge of her dorm, waiting for her to come downstairs, I watched as about a dozen students decorated a Christmas tree. Something about the happiness they shared around that tree touched me very deeply and moved me to tears.
I had never thought about the meaning of Christmas nor even bothered to wonder why people seemed to think the birth of baby Jesus 2000 years ago was of any importance to us today. I did not believe there was a God and, so far as I can recall, had never noticed that people claimed this Jesus grew up to be crucified and then raised from the dead. Manger scenes were just part of the Christmas air and had no meaning for me at all.
But that tree, on that night, decorated with such happiness and comradery . . . suddenly seemed like an intrusion from another world, a world of beauty and joy and love. I neither understood it nor even remembered it later.
Until two years later, that is. Two Christmases after that found me a very different person. I had been met and claimed by God. I knew that Jesus’ birth meant God was giving himself to humankind in a startling way, that his death meant forgiveness and cleansing of my heart, and that his resurrection was the source of a whole new inner life of which I had never imagined or seen . . . except in the joy shared around the Christmas tree.
So now I think of that brief moment — ‘way back in 1960!!! — as my first Christmas. And I thank God for it. . .