Because this is Advent, I thought I would write about Christmases long ago in the pre-computer, cell phone, and microwave era. It was a gentler time, a calmer time, a time when Jesus was the reason for the season! It was a time when dreams came true and excitement was all around. There was such a thing as a “downtown.” Storefronts were bright, street lamps were decorated, and people crowded the sidewalks. Wow, where should I begin? Let us turn back time to 1959.
Now, I am just picking a random year, but 1959 was a time of Jesus being at the center of the Christmas Season. That season, of course, began with the four Sundays leading to the Birth of a Savior! What happened revolved around the Church and the celebration called Advent. Advent means the arrival of a very special gift, the gift of a Savior born out of love and forgiveness for us. Of course, what also made all of this special was the family celebrating this gift together.
The family during the 50's, 60's, 70's, and some of the 80's was centered around the Church. It was normal to have a large nativity scene set up in the middle of downtown Williamsport. It was normal to have carolers singing Christmas carols up and down city streets. It was even normal saying, "Merry Christmas” to the people you passed along the way. Then somehow all that changed in the last thirty years. The three gifts of the Magi for the Baby Jesus turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Most parents want the latest smartphones and notebooks for their children to start them out on their electronic journey. Most often this happens when they are four and five years old to boot. I exclaim to parents: how can you top that when your children are eleven or twelve years old? You'll run out of gadgets to get them. I wonder if the new wave families will ever get back to basics? Will they ever relearn the true meaning of Christmas? It is the birth of a Baby that will change your life forever! This baby can wipe the slate clean of sin and give a new beginning!
The older generation gets it. They still remember when Christmas carols were sung from the back of a pickup truck. The downtown glistened with all kinds of mechanical elves in the glass storefronts, and Candy Cane Lane was two whole blocks of lights, not just one. The older generations remember when churches were so full on Christmas Eve, the ushers had to bring out folding chairs for the overflow. Then people were so filled with the thoughts of the Christ-Child that they beamed with joy! The nativity scene was commonplace and in open view. Just the idea of God giving us His Son for our redemption brought sunshine to our lives. Jesus came to earth for everyone who took him into their hearts, giving us all hope! That hope was what the angels spoke of, recorded in the Gospel of Luke. The angels said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10 NIV). Now that is something to be excited about! That is something to jump for joy about!
-Rev. David Hart, member, New Covenant United Church of Christ, for United Churches of Lycoming County.