Today, the day that I am writing this, is my dad’s birthday. My dad is such an interesting person with a dynamic personality. There are a lot of people who know my dad, and rarely does anyone forget him. Everywhere I go, I meet people who know my dad!
I have so many good memories of Dad at Christmastime, which come to mind at this time of year. My dad “hated” Christmas decorations, or at least he pretended that he did. He never helped us decorate the tree, which we put up every year, but would often sit in his recliner to watch and crack jokes about us worshipping a bush. I suppose that might sound awful and harsh to some, but it was hilarious to us as kids. I actually looked forward to it every year (maybe I have a strange sense of humor like my dad?) and Christmas decorating just wasn’t as fun if Dad wasn’t there to throw his bah-humbug on it.
The whole Christmas season seemed so special to me as a kid. All December long, we would receive cards and gifts from people in the church of which my father was pastor. All of these were placed in a basket for everyone in the family to read, if they wanted. How impactful to me as a child and teenager – who often saw the hard sides of ministry-the long hours and late nights, the heartaches, the weeping over those who turned their back – to see words of affirmation from nearly every faithful member in the church, thanking my dad for his love and care for the flock that he watched.
Then would come Christmas Day, and if you really believed that Dad was bah-humbug on Christmas, you would have your mind enlightened. He would often get up at 3 or 4 in the morning, go downstairs and turn all the Christmas lights on, and then call for everyone to come and get their presents. This was not as funny to my older brothers, especially once they were married and he would actually call them on the phone in the middle of the night to come over (after one year of that, they learned to unplug their phones before they went to bed). My younger brother and I were just kids, so we joined right in the excitement! Think of the quintessential Christmas scene: kids waking up at the crack of dawn and coming in to jump on Mom and Dad’s bed, shouting, “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” Who can say that it is their parent who excitedly wakes everyone up before dawn even comes?
My dad has a way of making me laugh and think about things differently than I did before. I have a lot of preachers in my family, but my dad will always be one of my top favorites! I am always challenged when I sit under one of his sermons or in a Bible study that he is leading. I think that is one of his life goals – to turn our perspective to look at things differently and to use questions to help people think for themselves. My dad is the one person who had the greatest spiritual impact on my life. Recently, I was participating in a group study on a book about Bible study. The book looked at why personal Bible study is so important, principles for how to have a sound Bible study, and practical ways and tips on how to do it. We would read a chapter each week, and then answer questions in a private Facebook group about what we had read and learned. I found myself, week after week, answering questions with, “I always remember my dad saying…” and “My dad taught me…” I think that is when I realized just how much I learned from my dad.
I’ll never forget one Christmas message that my dad preached years ago about “The Flowers on the Lord’s Family Tree.” Have you ever read through the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, and realized that there are only four women who are mentioned? Most genealogies only list the fathers, so why were those four women so special to be mentioned? Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the last one who is mentioned; the other three ladies are Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. All three of these ladies had difficult lives, and a bit of a sordid past. Rahab was a Gentile harlot in Jericho, before her faith saved her life and she ended up marrying Salmon, and being the mother of Boaz. Maybe that was one reason why Boaz was able to look past Ruth’s former life as a Moabite. She was undoubtedly an idol worshipper at some point in her life. Bathsheba isn’t even mentioned by name, but only as “her that had been the wife of Uriah,” pointing to the scandal with King David. And then there is Mary, who became the mother of Jesus through supernatural means, but in the eyes of society who didn’t understand it, was always remembered as having an illegitimate child. Maybe the Lord took the time to mention these four women in Jesus’ family lineage to remind us that we don’t have to live in our past and let that define us. Through the grace of God, He can help us to overcome sin in our own life, family problems, and even an immoral past. He can take any life and turn it into a beautiful exhibition of His goodness. None of these ladies had the sort of pedigree that you would expect to find in the earthly lineage of the King of Kings. Two of them were not even Jews! It doesn’t really matter where you came from; what matters is what you do with the truth that God gives you.
That is what I think of when I remember my dad. His life today is a beautiful exhibition of God’s goodness, and what the Lord can do with someone surrendered to Him! He didn’t start out with the best life. He has experienced tragedy and loss, dealt with bitterness and anger at God, and yet the Lord worked in his life to bring him to the place where he could hear the truth. I think that is why he is so passionate about sharing that truth with so many people today; he remembers what it is like to be in that dark place without hope.
I know this has been a different sort of article for me to write, but if I could sit down across the table from you today, this is what I would tell you: Don’t look at where you’ve been; look at where you are going. By God’s grace, if you have accepted Jesus Christ, you are a child of God and He has a wonderful plan for your life. Find the purpose God has created you to fulfil, and live it out with vigor! You don’t know how impactful your story can be to other people. Your children and future generations will be affected by your life if you choose to be a beautiful exhibition of God’s goodness. It’s not about us – it’s about what God can do through us. I hope you have a very merry Christmas, even if there are people in your family with a bah-humbug.