Good tidings of great joy

Dave Hinman - Contributing columnist

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11

I really love Christmas. To quote Andy Williams, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” to me.

I like the decorating, the shopping, the parades, the colors, the lights, the music, the wrapping, and especially the eating! I’m not one to watch much television, other than Buckeye games and Hannity, but at Christmas I’ll make sure I’m home for Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, and Charlie Brown.

Did you ever see “Claymation Christmas”? I think it’s my favorite. It was made in 1987, was only shown for a couple of years, and features the California Raisins (remember them) doing “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer”.” We recorded it back in the VHS days, have transferred it to DVD, and still watch it every year.

Did I mention that I like to eat at Christmas?

There are a few delicacies I savor during the holidays that only pass my palate once a year. My mother-in-law, a fantastic cook, makes oyster dressing for Christmas Eve. Oysters have a unique flavor, and require an acquired taste for most to appreciate. Most of our family eat the plain-Jane, oyster-less dressing, but they really don’t know what they’re missing.

Did you know some say that oysters are an aphrodisiac? Interesting that I like oysters and my wife doesn’t, but that’s enough about that.

My mother has a holiday tradition of making and decorating the most scrumptious sugar cookies ever. I’d hate to guess how many calories are in each one, and I could easily eat a dozen at one sitting.

With the dough cut in the shape of Santa, his reindeer, Christmas trees, and ornaments, they are colored in bright, festive icing made from a smidgen of milk and mounds of powdered sugar. Thereafter, before the icing sets up, the cookies are embellished with colored sugar, chocolate bits, cinnamon drops, or nonpareils.

Yum, yum.

Mom is in assisted living at Cape May now, and hasn’t been able to make the cookies herself for the last couple of years. Instead, my wonderful daughter-in-law has been baking the cookies, and Mom comes over to supervise our four grandchildren decorating them.

Actually, we all pitch in with the decorating, while sampling the creativity as we go. Last Christmas my son decorated a Santa cookie in red and white, with a teeny little dribble of yellow icing placed just below Santa’s bowl full of jelly. He told us that Santa must have had an accident.

Speaking of Santa, we had an interesting St. Nick experience a few years ago. Let me explain that we have a special needs, adult daughter, Rachael, who has been petrified of Santa her entire life. We have photos of her as a youngster, in festive holiday outfits, plopped down on the plump, bearded man, wailing at the audacity of having to engage this oddly dressed, HO-HO-HOing stranger.

To be honest, he is a bit intimidating, and I don’t really blame her for wanting to remain with Mom and Dad, secure in her parental comfort zone. We finally decided that sitting on Santa’s lap was one tradition Rachael could do without, and we just kept our distance from the jolly old elf.

But once recently, while shopping at the mall, Rachael “asked” (she’s non-verbal, but has her own way of expressing herself) to see Santa. I don’t know what changed, or why she wanted to sit on Santa’s lap, but she bravely waited in line, and patiently watched the little tikes ahead of her tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

When it was finally her turn, she sat down, gave Santa a hug, smiled for the picture, and then quickly got up and blew him a kiss as she walked away. It was a great moment.

Please understand that Rachael is about two-hundred pounds heavier now than when she was a toddler rejecting Santa. So, maybe instead of reconciling with Kris Kringle, this was her way to pay him back.

I did notice a smile on Rachael’s face, and a grimace on Santa’s, when she plopped down.

Many say that Christmas is too commercialized. I agree it’s over the top, but that’s OK. The caveat in all the chaos is simply to slow down enough to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas.

For all the things I enjoy about the holiday, let’s face it, none are lasting. This Christmas will come, and go, with only fading memories left of the celebration. I’ll soon forget who gave me what gifts, and what gifts I gave which people. Those things are fun, but fleeting.

All the stuff about Christmas that we enjoy will be here today, and gone tomorrow, even including some of our friends and loved ones perhaps.

The scripture tells us “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). You see, our assignment here is temporary. Only the Christ of Christmas is enduring.

I think Linus said it best. Sandwiched between his saying “lights please” and “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”, Linus quotes Luke 2:8-14 (see it at This tells of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in so doing frames the picture of the holiday’s meaning.

So, yes, please enjoy everything about the season, but be sure to acknowledge Jesus as the reason for it, amen?

Merry CHRISTmas to all, and to all a good night!

Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church, Wilmington. Contact him at

Dave Hinman

Contributing columnist