Precious Christmas Memories
By: Sherri Gragg
Members of the Texas Annual Conferenc share their favorite Christmas memories.
The Rev. Stephen Rhoads, Pollard Memorial UMC, Tyler
One of my most vivid memories of Christmas occurred when I was six. My dad worked as a nurse for a hospital in Houston, and this hospital would offer a large Christmas carnival for employees and families. It was a wonderful event with games, crafts, Santa Claus, and a living nativity. I looked forward to it each year.
This particular year, my Dad introduced me to a co-worker. The lady was a single mother who had come to the hospital to complete her nursing education. She had a four-year-old daughter named Heather. I had a great time with my new friend, Heather, at the carnival. We ate cookies, played games, and made our Christmas wishes known to Santa. We even spent some time talking with Mary and Joseph at the manger.
I remember asking Heather what she asked Santa to bring her. She told me she asked for an Inchworm Ride-on toy. I was excited to hear that because I received the same toy the previous Christmas and I loved it.
The evening ended, and my family headed home. As we drove, my parents asked if I had fun. I told them about the great time I had with Heather. Somewhere along the line, our conversation turned to our Christmas wish lists. I told my parents what I asked Santa to bring me and I also told my dad and mom that Heather asked Santa for an Inchworm Ride-on like the one I had. There was a moment of silence and my mom said, “I hope Santa can bring her that inchworm.”
Later that evening, I overheard my parents talking about Heather and her mom. They were trying to figure out whether they could help them with Christmas gifts. It turned out that most of their money was tied up in tuition for nursing school and paying bills.
Hearing about Heather’s family got my 6-year-old soul thinking, “What could I do?”
I immediately ran to the closet where our Christmas paper and decorations were stored. I grabbed a bow, and ran to the kitchen where I grabbed a dish cloth and soaked it in water before running out to the garage. Within a few minutes, I returned to the living room with a freshly washed inchworm ride-on with a Christmas bow on top. I told my mom and dad that I wanted Heather to have my toy for Christmas.
We have all heard the cliché, “It is better to give than to receive.” I believe that there is a moment in every believer’s life when that saying stops being a cliché and become reality. I still enjoy receiving a good present, but I guess that day was the moment when Christmas truly became a time to give.
The Rev. Andy Nixon, First UMC Houston
“I will never forget my first Christmas at First United Methodist Houston. I walked into the beautiful sanctuary, draped in greenery and lit with candles, to find it filled. Family after family, representing as many as four generations, joined together in worship. Faith leaders sat alongside patients from Texas Medical Center, far away from home receiving treatment for various illnesses. Community leaders filled pews next to the homeless. They all were there for one reason- to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. It wasn’t quite heaven, but it was close.”
Marylyn Green, member of Mission Bend UMC
I grew up in Marlin, Texas where my three siblings and I were raised by my mother and grandmother. For our family, the holidays were not focused on gifts. My family was not able to buy us the toys and other things that we wanted, but they would buy us the necessities that we needed. On Christmas morning, our presents included new clothes, new shoes, etc. As a child you want to wake up on Christmas morning and open packages that have toys and fun things in them, but as I got older I began to appreciate those necessities. Christmas for us was about family, spending time together and sharing with one another.
For me, Christmas is not about the gifts you purchase from a store, it’s about the gift of love and joy that you share with one another. Growing up in the small town of Marlin, everyone was like family because you knew just about everyone in town. Families looked out for one another. Each year, family members would come back home. Houses all over town were filled with one group busy in the kitchen cooking while others sat together sharing memories.
I always loved to hear my aunts and uncles tell stories about when they were growing up. When I married, I found that my husband and I fulfilled the same roles as our aunts, uncles, and parents before us when we would go home for the holidays- we’d either be in the kitchen cooking or telling stories of growing up. I saw how the traditions were continuing through each generation.
Over the years as I see the homeless and those living in shelters during the holidays, I often wonder where their families are because they are alone. I’m reminded of how families in Marlin would take food and clothes to people who had no place to go for the holiday. I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have family to spend time and share memories with during the holidays. When I think of Christmas memories, the gifts of family and friends are the ones I cherish most.