from the desk of…Memories, magic and the message
By Victor Doughty ,Lt. Colonel
We all have memories of Christmas past. The first poem I ever memorized and recited in public was a Christmas verse by Christina Rossetti. It is one of the few poems I can still remember by heart:
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I’d bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man
I’d do my part.
What can I give him?
I’ll give him my heart.
What would Christmas be without the children? They seem to reflect what is best and worst about the season; generosity and greed. I remember being consumed with jealousy one Christmas. I was 5 years old. My 6-year-old sister was given a beautiful blue skirt: the kind of skirt you can twirl around in; a skirt that floated on the air and you could imagine that you were a ballerina or, even better, a figure skater gliding across the ice. It was a wonderful skirt. And as my sister whirled around the Christmas tree, I became increasingly jealous. I wanted that skirt! Thank God for mothers who aren’t uptight about gender-specific clothing. My mother borrowed the skirt from my generous sister who watched impatiently as I spun around the living room in all my glory. It’s one of those stories that I’ve tried to forget, but families have long memories.
Parents will go to great lengths to make Christmas a magical experience for their children. Most parents end up buying things for their kids that they always wanted as children but never had. I think that was the case when my father bought a Shetland pony and saddle for $100. It was the perfect gift for a family that had always lived in the city and had rarely seen a horse. But we lived in Kansas at the time, and it looked so simple for Adam, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright on “Bonanza,” so why not?
On Christmas Eve we had “all settled down for a long winter’s nap when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.” Actually, as the four of us children looked out the second story window we saw a familiar figure trying to coax a large animal across the brick sidewalk. Apparently, this particular pony had never seen a brick sidewalk before and had no intention of taking a step forward. The sound of snorts and hooves and my father’s soft, angry voice no doubt reached the ears of our neighbors as well. But in the end, our pony, which we named “Toy,” gave in to my father’s persistence and was led happily into her new stable that, until then, had only been a garage.
Each holiday season, as a corps officer, my father would inevitably deliver his version of what I call “The true meaning of Christmas” sermon. I can still hear my father’s voice as he concluded his version of this message: “Beautiful as are the lights, the familiar carols in the snowy night, these are not the real Christmas. It is not Christ in the manger that makes Christmas but Christ in the heart.”
Years later it was my turn to reflect upon the meaning of this most magical holiday:
Wanting to reach us, to touch us, to hold us.
Trying so hard in his infinite way.
Longing to know how it feels to be human,
God became man on Christmas day.
Wanting to share with us love from the father.
Trying to show us that someone’s still there.
Longing to melt our cold hearts with his spirit,
God became man to prove that he cares.
God wants to reach you, to touch you, to hold you.
He’s trying so hard in his infinite way.
He knows how you feel for he became human.
He wants you to love him on this Christmas day.
The message of Christmas is written with love.
For a world so unworthy came light from above.
And today just as bright as the star in that sky
May the message of Christmas my soul magnify.
Do something that will restore the wonder and awe of the holidays to your life. Don’t let this season pass by without experiencing the memories, the magic and the message of this most wonderful time of the year.