This Advent season, five Regional Executives of American Baptist regions will provide reflections focusing on “What Christmas Means to Me.” Each reflection will be posted prior to the Sundays in Advent, along with Christmas Sunday. For the first Sunday of Advent, Rev. Paul H. Gibson, executive minister of the Great Rivers Region of American Baptist Churches, reflects on “What Christmas Means to Me.”
Family: This has always been very important to me at this time of year. Even if it is only for a few days, it is worth so much. We get together and sing, eat, play games, tell stories, watch Christmas movies and just enjoy being around each other.
Film, and music: Our family loves to watch Christmas movies and TV shows together. When I was growing up it was the Andy Griffith Christmas special where the old store owner played the Grinch and Andy, Barney and the gang did what they could to make things better. With our kids it was a movie like Elf…it just made you feel good watching it. Then there are the classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas”, so, so, good. We love to sing, and we enjoy the great music of the season. Then there are the Hallmark movies, many, many of them.
Food: I just love all of the goodies that go with Christmas. We had one lady in one of our churches that made the best plate of Christmas goodies and gave them to us every year. Not being a pastor this year I will miss out on that, but I’m sure I will survive.
Faith: We believe in the hope that the love of Jesus gives us, even when things don’t seem to be going well. A couple of years ago I was sitting with my mom and dad as dad was going through his last few days of life. He hadn’t said a word for three days, and could barely communicate yes and no to us. But on this day as he was staring intently at my mom, he said a full sentence. Mom and I were sad because we were not ready for it and missed what he said. So, he took a breath and repeated it….this is what he said to mom…”I love you more now, than ever.” Wow, we were overwhelmed. Those were his last words. A few days later he went to be with Jesus. After hearing those words my mom said, “What a great gift for a man to give to his wife at a time like this.” Faith takes us through the most difficult times and points to something even greater. Christmas tells me that God is in charge, that Jesus is still with us, and that no matter what happens, we can make it. God looked at us a few years back and said, “I love you more now, than ever,” and then he gave us Jesus. Enjoy Jesus, and share Him with everyone around you this Christmas and this next year.
Rev. Paul Gibson
Great Rivers Region of American Baptist Churches