The Den: A Christmas Tale

Editor’s Note — Enjoy this special Christmas post by my mentor and friend Terry D. Newberry. Be blessed! ~Jennifer Davis Rash

By Terry D. Newberry

Ok, Ok, Ok…
Before you start, hear me out.

I know I go overboard at Christmas. It is well documented. Newspaper stories have been written. TV specials have aired. Heck, the White House even called one time and asked if I was trying to upstage them. It is a character flaw. Even my kids fuss at me about it.

It all started a long time ago.

When I was a kid, like many of you, we didn’t get much at Christmas, and usually what we received was used; donations from some well-meaning charity. But that was cool, I appreciated the thought.

I had no idea what I was missing until That Day.

That Day. That fateful day.

I was 14. It was Christmastime and I was hanging out with one of my brothers from the foster home I where I was living. We went to his girlfriend’s house. Her name was Beth.

She invited us in and took us to the den, and WHAM! It hit me like I’d been kicked in the head by a reindeer or smacked by the Abominable. The den in her home was amazing.

There was a fire blazing in the hearth, bathing the room in a warm yellow flicker. It provided a soundtrack to the experience as the logs sizzled and popped, sending showers of sparks up the flue. The mantle was festooned with evergreen garland decorated with small ornaments and holly berries, all intertwined with tiny twinkling lights.

I’m here to tell you, the room was decorated to the nines. Lights, tinsel, garland, the whole works. Santa Clauses and reindeer and snowflakes and angels and you-name-it. I’m pretty sure there was even a Grinch.

Every surface was decorated. Every wall had Christmas art. Every table had Christmas figurines. There were Christmas rugs on the floor.
And down at the far end of the room, in the place of honor, right by the front window so the whole world could see, was the tree. Exactly where it should be.

It was probably a 6-footer, but to me it looked 50 feet tall. It filled my eyes and my mind and my heart. The fragrance filled my nose with a scent that to this day I associate with Christmas; bright and piney and crisp and fresh.

The tree was perfectly decorated and surrounded by more gifts than I ever imagined could be found in one place. They filled the space under the tree and around the tree. They were stacked on the furniture. They were stacked on the floor. And around the walls of the room. They were stacked on the mantle. They were piled next to the couch and the chairs and the ottoman. They were everywhere.

There were large gifts and small gifts, square ones, round ones and rectangular ones. There were boxes and bags and ribbons and bows and wrapping in bright Christmas colors. It was a child’s Christmas paradise.

Right then and there I made a decision. It wasn’t even a conscious choice — it just happened. I decided that one day, I was going to have a Christmas like that. A tree like that. Decorations like that. And gifts like that. Gifts everywhere, all over the place. Not used gifts – new stuff. New stuff for everyone I knew.

And so it began.

True to my promise, every Christmas I go just a little crazy. I think about what the perfect gifts might be, and wrap them in brightly colored paper with matching ribbon and sometimes add a little decoration, like a drum or a bell. And have a blast doing it. There is a workstation set up in our home with dozens of paper choices, a ton of ribbons and bows, gift bags and tissue… it’s like we hijacked a Hallmark truck around here.

I put on some Christmas music and wrap while listening to everyone from Bing to Casting Crowns. I imagine the look on the faces of my friends and family when they open their gift. I hope to give them, for one brief moment, the joy that I felt that day at Beth’s house. Because once they feel that, Christmas comes alive.

Now before my Baptist friends get all up in arms and start calling me to tell me about the real meaning of Christmas, I get it. I know that presents and gifts and bows are not what it is about. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I understand.

And because of that, I try to celebrate my faith every day. When Christmas comes around it allows us all to share the joy that is in our hearts. As Charles Dickens put it so well. “I have always thought of Christmas as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely….”

That’s how I feel. My faith births a joy that began that Christmas in Bethlehem so long ago, and which is cherished and celebrated in my stubborn heart every day of the year. But then Christmas Day comes around and that joy spills over and becomes a splendid madness with giving at its center.

So, I hope that you, gentle reader, you, my dear kids, (and the White House) will forgive me for my indulgences during the season. I promise I am going to be more responsible and not give so many gifts.

Starting next year.

Wisdom of an Innkeeper

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Artwork by Vicki Love (used with permission)

The First Christmas (another perspective)

The weary couple at the close of day
hoped this crowded Inn was their place to stay.
Compelled by the expectant couple’s plight,
the innkeeper found them a room that night.

He ushered them into his hectic hall
When he heard God’s voice so still and small,
“Don’t birth my son in the ruckus place
Of noise and drink and want disgrace.
Is this a place to begin a life
that will change the world of dark to light?”

So the keeper of the inn did say,
“There is no room for you to stay.”
He turned the worn out couple away.

Then stepping outside his lodging place,
He whispered to the groom in haste
“There is a place where you can stay —
out back in my livestock stable hay.
Though not as warm as sleeping here,
it is distant from this dwelling of leer.”

“This is no place to birth a king
whose life will make the angels sing
Of love and joy and grace to all —
Don’t start His life in this reckless mall.”

Stark words he spoke, were not his own.
Where had his compassion gone?
This kind innkeeper had been used
to protect God’s son by his refuse.

The groom in livid anger said,
“I’ll take my bride to this unkempt bed
to birth a child alone this day.
But you, dear sir, will be known for all days
as he who turned the King away.

In great dismay by what he heard
The innkeeper left without word.

That night a savior child was born
in the silence of a manger lorn
With sheep and mules and cattle there
to gaze upon the baby fair

The groom looked at his bride and child
in this quiet place of peace and mild.
He understood the inn keeper’s will.
That put them in a place so still
so they could hear the angels’ thrill
and see the star above the hill.

If they were in the noisy inn
the angels’ song could have never been
heard above the party crowd,
the star obscured by a smoky cloud.

Now they both knew the reason why
the innkeeper had passed them by
This tiny king in their arms this night
Will never be found in the noise and blight
And bustle of a world that reeks
of a self excess — where egos peak.

Instead He is found in a silent night
Where angels sing and stars are bright.

As you seek your Christmas this year
Look not in the hustle and bustle so near.
Consider the innkeeper’s faithful ear

To God’s whispered voice,
which always speaks,
but seldom shouts or competes
with all the glitter, glitz and haste.
Find this Christmas in a common place.

By Michael Alan Tate, Leadership & Life Journal (originally published in 2004, reprinted 2018, used with permission)

Peace amid the sparkling lights

DSC_0251May you truly experience peace, hope and love from the One who is Peace, Hope and Love on this Christmas Day and every day … “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

—Jennifer Davis Rash