John Fuller: Merry Christmas from all of us here at Focus on the Family, and welcome to our program. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and whether you’re traveling today, or opening gifts with family and friends, or watchin’ the big game or maybe you’re just working and you need some company, we’re so glad you’ve joined us.
Jim Daly: John, we have a special show for a special day. You said it-- Christmas. We’re gonna continue what we started last time, which is a series of reflections on this time of year from some of our most popular guests here on the program.
John: Yeah, we’ve enjoyed hearing from them, some great stories last time, and I think Cynthia Tobias and Shaunti Feldhahn’s recollections probably stood out the most in my mind, but every one of ‘em was good.
Jim: Well, and you can certainly hear that program online or get the CD. You can order that, maybe download it, or stream it, whatever you need to do. It was really good. I thought Cynthia’s stories were fun. We’re about to hear part two, starting with Dr. Kevin Leman’s memory of Christmas as a child on today’s Focus on the Family.
Kevin Leman: Well, I love Christmas. I’m like a little kid. Christmas is my favorite season of the year, and I was a handful as a kid. I was the youngest of three kids. One of my early childhood memories is, my grandmother had come over from the old country, from Norway. And she brought these Norwegian Christmas tree ornaments that I thought were just downright ugly. Now, I’m here to tell you that they’d probably today, in an antique shop, would probably bring in excess of $100 apiece.
Well, I had a BB gun, a little pistol that you just simply cocked back, and I remember sitting there on the stairs, just before Christmas and picking off nine of them. I was a very good shot. And then I blamed it on the cat. I not only was a destructive little sucker, I was a lyin’ little sucker …one of my memories of Christmas.
Bethany Palmer: We’re Scott and Bethany Palmer, the Money Couple, and we just love Christmas. It is such a fun time for a family. I love the tradition that you have put instilled into our kids.
Scott Palmer: As a kid, we weren’t allowed to come downstairs, until we heard the Christmas music, so my three brothers and I would be sitting on the stairs. And the minute we heard that Christmas music, we would just come flying down to start our Christmas morning with the family.
And so, that’s one of the things that’s probably our favorite Christmas tradition, is to make sure that the kids are sitting upstairs, waiting for us. And we’ll make breakfast. We’ll be laughing and talking.
Scott: Just to … (Laughing) just to build that anticipation, it’s just a … such a great time. And the minute that music goes off, I’m always saying, “Please don’t run; please don’t run,” but they don’t listen and it just starts our Christmas morning off with such a fun note.
Bethany: It’s awesome.
David Clarke: Christmastime at the Clarke household, we have three little girls. We’ve got Emily, Leann, and Nancy and they’re great little girls.
Jim: Well, that’s the proud father of those three little girls, Dr. David Clarke, who’s been on the broadcast. But Christmas morning a few years back didn’t turn into the lesson about giving that he had hoped it would be. Let’s hear from him.
David: And we’re trying to teach them about the meaning of Christmas, not easy to do, because they’re just consumers. So, we made the mistake and this is the mistake you don’t want to make, we had both sets of grandparents in for Christmas--bad idea. Literally, they back up a U-Haul truck, large U-Haul truck. (Ee, ee, ee) filled with gifts. I got a tie and a pair of underwear.
I mean, it was over. Obviously, it’s all over. It was all for the girls. The girls know this all … there must have been 50 gifts per child . We thought “You went too far! We can’t return ‘em now!” So Christmas morning comes, and they’re opening all of their gifts. It took them probably an hour to open their gifts. It took me two minutes, but it’s not about me.
So they open all their gifts and this was classic human nature, and it showed we had more work to do with the help of Focus on the Family. Anyway, that’s another story, but they come up to me in this little ragged group and they say, “Daddy, this has … this has gone on too far. We … you’ve taught us well and we’ve opened all these gifts and this is just ridiculous. This is … it’s too much for us. We’re a little stressed, and we’ve come to the decision that we would like to go to Goodwill and donate half of our gifts.
That’s not true. Is that what they said? Of course they didn’t say that! They said … I’ll never forget, Nancy was the spokeswoman. And she said …and they made her do it because she was the smallest. She said, “Daddy, where’s the rest?” I said, “What do you mean, ‘where’s the rest?’ You opened 50 gifts each. No, no, we think there’s more hidden upstairs.” Well, that was a bad moment! (Laughing), but had a teaching moment where we were able to say, “Honey, this is not about the gifts. You’ve gone too far.”
And so, we got them involved in programs, where they were began to give to other people, but that was just one of the Christmas stories that was … we didn’t laugh at the time. I was horrified, but it’s funny now, looking back, because that’s just human nature. Christmas is supposed to be giving, and as they got older, they get this now; they started giving.
You know how you take ‘em to the store and they’re … it’s your money, but they get a gift for mom, and they get a gift for the sister and for the brother. Well, they started to get into that after that Christmas, and everything sort of changed. Now they get it. It’s more fun to give than to get all this stuff. But, that was not the greatest start in the world, but we overcame that, and they really began to have giving hearts.
Jim: Man, could I relate with that. I mean, my boys, Jean and I have had that conversation just about every Christmas, John, where we’re saying, “Will the kids ever get over that selfish attitude?” And they’re starting to do that. I think it comes with a bit of age and maturity. I’m sure your kids, too.
John: Yeah, oh, I tell you, absolutely, yeah.
Jim: Kids have to learn how to now think about themselves so highly (Laughter) and that’s one of the good things that happens at Christmas time. They can start thinking about others.
Emerson Eggerichs: I’m Emerson Eggerichs, and I must have been around 8 or 9, and I awakened obviously on that Christmas morning. Of course, you can never get a child up for school, but (Laughing) you don’t have any problem on Christmas morning. I think I must have wakened at 5 a.m.
And I came running into the living room where the Christmas tree was, because you know, I wanted to see what was there. And there was a robot. I mean, silver; it had a head, arms. And I’m thinking, I’ve got this robot, a mechanical robot. I mean, I am just absolutely thrilled out of my mind.
And my mom has awakened by this time, and she’s come out. And she says, “Unwrap it.” And I’m thinkin’, unwrap it? I don’t want to um … I don’t … it’s a robot. I’m not unwrapping a …” And then it dawns on me that it’s not a robot. In fact, it’s a snow sled. It’s a sled that she stood on end and the handles are the arms that she extended. And she made this look like a robot.
And my face sank. I just was depressed. I … she … and my mom could see this. Suddenly, I’m not happy at all. And the reason that story is so memorable for me is, that you know, I learned a very painful lesson at that point in time. You don’t always (Chuckling) get what you want.
And I think of us as parents. You know, if we’re giving our children always what they want, you know, that reminds me of Proverbs 25:16 that says, “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you do not have it in excess and vomit it.” (Laughing) That’s picturesque and not particularly pleasant to preach. But, too much of a good thing is too much, and it can spoil. It can ruin.
And, I had to learn, you know what? You don’t always get what you want. And it’s important, even as we think of this Christmas season, that if we’re trying to give our children everything they want, why? Maybe they need to learn what I learned, that you don’t always get what you want. And you know, at the end of the day, that really taught me a profound lesson. And I’m grateful today, and I remember (Chuckling) it still to this day, because I needed to learn it, and I learned it on Christmas morning.
Angie Smith: I can still remember when we moved to Japan, and I was in the 2nd grade, and we moved shortly before Christmas, and everything felt like it was so far away from home, and I was just devastated that I wasn’t gonna get to have Christmas with my friends back in the States.
Jim: This is mommy blogger, Angie Smith, as she experienced Christmas outside the United States.
Angie: A couple days before, Dad came, and he had gone to Kentucky Fried Chicken and they had some kind of packaging going on then, that was shaped like a Christmas tree. And so, he took the top of the bucket shaped like a Christmas tree and put it on his head and put a light bulb in his mouth, and he started laughing and put his hands up over his head and pretended to be a Christmas tree. And we still have pictures of it. And it was just a great reminder that family is what makes it such a special time, and all of a sudden, being so far away from everything I knew, there was this little piece of home that was there.
Leroy Wagner: I remember so many years ago, when I was a boy growing up in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas.
Jim: Here’s Leroy Wagner, talking about his childhood memory of being concerned if Christmas would happen for him or not.
Leroy: We had a snow that … an ice storm on Christmas Eve. And I remember wondering, of course, and worrying if Santa Claus would be able to make it. And I went to sleep thinking about that. And of course, the next morning, when we woke up, and I was about 9 years old, there were presents there by the wood stove and mom already had lunch making and Christmas pies.
And I received the greatest gift that I think I’ve ever received, and that was a Crossman pellet rifle that I’d been wanting. And so, that just stands out. I didn’t know the back story was, my mom and dad had put all the presents in the old 1948 Desoto car that we had and the ice had so frozen and trapped the presents in the trunk that they worked over two hours that night with torches and with chipping the ice away to get the presents out. So, later I learned about how that they were able to make Christmas-- as many parents do--make Christmas happen for their children.
John: What a picture that is, of using torches to get the frozen presents out of the trunk. This is a special Christmas edition of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and help your family make new memories, hopefully positive ones, in the coming year. Stop by our website for the free audio download called Making Family Memories Collection. You’ll find that at Focusonthefamily/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and continue celebrating with this memory from authors and marriage experts, Bill and Pam Farrel, talking about their very first Christmas as a married couple.
Bill Farrel: Well, we are reminded of one of our favorite Christmas memories, actually every Christmas, because we have these hand-crocheted ornaments that we put on our tree every year. And they came from the Reno, Nevada airport. It was the last day of our honeymoon. We got married in December and like many young newlyweds, we were flat broke.
Pam Farrel: No money.
Bill: And we were flying from Reno to her mom’s hometown, where we were going to have a reception and knew we were gonna get some money there. So, you know, we kinda had this hope. Well, we get there to Reno, and there’s this huge snowstorm. Our flight is delayed all day long.
Pam: And we have less than $5 to eat two meals on.
Bill: And there’s a bunch of grumpy people in airport, because they’re spending Christmas holiday in this airport, rather than with loved ones. And there was a … there was a grandma there who was hand-crocheting these ornaments and handing them out to kids in the airport. And we were playing games with a kid and singing Christmas carols in the airport.
Pam: So we went on a caroling tour of all the wings of the airport to help give the parents a little bit of a break. But, what we realized there is, you know what? Life is an attitude. We … you can have Christmas wherever you are, under any circumstance, because it’s all about enjoying the relationships and making the most of the moment.
Bill: And so, every year, we’re reminded that a little bit of singing and deliberate joy can change the atmosphere anywhere you’re at.
Tony Evans: The Evan’s Christmases are wild.
John: Here’s Pastor Tony Evans, with a memory I think you’ll be able to relate to.
Tony: It starts Christmas Eve, when everybody comes over to sleep at our house. I’m talking about children, grandchildren, and I mean it … now, we have 11 grandchildren, we have issues. But, we stay up late, and we watch a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve night. Then we make the kids go to bed.
We get up Christmas morning. My wife gets up real early and fixes breakfast. After the breakfast, we then have our Christmas devotional. Then, after devotions, we pray; the kids pray. Then it’s just chaos, because kids are now opening presents and throwing gifts everywhere, enjoying each other and fightin’ a little bit over who got what.
And then we eat dinner together. Then, some of the kids will go out to a movie. The other kids will go to the mall, or the next day, will go to the mall. Some stay over two and three days after Christmas. So, we turn Christmas into a family event, centered around, of course, the birth of our Savior and our common love for Jesus Christ. And that’s a typical Evans’ Christmas at our house.
Shaunti Feldhahn: My absolute favorite Christmas memory is the day that Jeff asked me to marry him.
John: Author, Marriage researcher, and frequent guest on Focus on the Family, Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti: Actually, I had invited Jeff to my parents for Christmas, and I did not know that somehow, he had secretly managed to have a conversation with them about whether he could ask for my hand in marriage. And I still, to this day, have no idea how my mom managed to keep the secret, without grinning the whole time.
And so they, after all the Christmas presents were exchanged, they got this little look on their face, and they started chuckling and giggling, and they said, “We’re going out for a walk.” And I said, “You’re going for a walk? It’s winter! It’s freezing outside.” “Yeah, but we just feel like we need to go for a walk.” Now, my parents are walkers, and they always would go out for walks, and so, I just said, “Okay, you’re bein’ kinda weird goin’ out for a walk, when it’s this cold outside, but whatever.”
And I had no idea that Jeff had worked it out with them. And so, he sits down in front of the fire and he said, “I have something to talk to you about.” And I’m like (Gasp). And he pulled out a box with a ring in it and asked me to marry him. And I, of course, started crying, and it’s of course, my best Christmas memory ever. And he was incredibly nervous, and to this day, we kind of joke about that, but yeah, that is absolutely my favorite Christmas memory. It changed the rest of my life.
Kathy Lipp: When my kids were little, we went to the mountains to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s extended family.
Jim: This is Kathi Lipp, someone who always has great insights for us.
Kathi: What we didn’t realize was gonna happen is, we got snowed in, so we had our little Christmas celebration, and then the four of us—my husband, my kids and I—were stuck in this cabin. We didn’t have a car to get out. We couldn’t … we couldn’t get down the big hill with all the snow.
And so, our actual Christmas Day celebration was spent in this little cabin. We walked into town in a bunch of snow to get a pizza, and we went to the dollar store, and we each bought everybody a gift that was a dollar. And one of the things I found there was this little nativity set, and it was hinged. It wasn’t bigger than a baseball, but it had Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in it. And I got it for a dollar.
And we spent that evening talking about God’s love for us and how God had sent His Son to the world, to this really crazy, mixed up world , because He loved each of us so much. And with our Bible and little nativity set, we had a Christmas celebration.
And I’ll always remember …I love everything about Christmas. I love the decorating. I love the family time. I love the food and the presents. I love all of it, but what that one day taught me is how much we could celebrate, with just a nativity, or Bible, and with each other. And so, whenever I start to get stressed out about Christmas, I remember that time together and remember how sweet it was to just for a moment focus on what God had done for us in that Christmas celebration.
Dr. Gary Chapman: I’m Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages. I think my Christmas memory, the deepest Christmas memory I have was during the Second World War, when my father was in the Navy, stationed on a ship off the coast of Japan.
And he would always write letters to my mother, and she would always read them to my sister and I, but on that particular Christmas, she read his Christmas letter to us, in which he reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas. And it wasn’t Santa Claus; it was Christ, the Christ-child, who came to live and to die, so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life with God.
There was something about hearing my mother read that letter, knowing it was written by my father, and we were apart on Christmas. But the depth of that message just really … I soaked it in as a child. And I’ve never forgotten it. It’s a visual memory that I still have. My mom and dad are both in heaven, now. My sister’s also in heaven. But the memory of my sister and I hearing my mother read that letter from my father is probably the deepest Christmas memory I have.
Dr. Walt Larimore: So I remember the first year I was in practice as a family physician.
Jim: This is former staff member, Dr. Walt Larimore.
Dr. Larimore: That Christmas, I was caring for a man in the hospital, who was severely ill. This was before we knew of the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. Turns out that’s exactly what he had. But, he was dying of a pneumonia and a cancer, and nothing we did could help him.
He came from a lifestyle, from a spiritual perspective that was the exact opposite of mine. And yet, because of the “severeness” of his illness, he knew he was facing eternity. I remember walking over to the hospital in the snow in western North Carolina, and I’d been praying about this particular patient.
I went in to see him, and his breathing was raspy, and it was coarse. I sat down beside his bed and reached over to hold his hand. And he looked at me and he said, “Doc,” he said, “You know I come from a different background than you.” I said, “I know that.” He said, “But I know that you know a God that I don’t know.” And I smiled, and I said, and I know that.”
And then, I remember him looking me in the eyes and saying, “Doc, I’d like to know Him.” And very briefly, in that divine appointment, I explained to him how I’d come to Christ as an adult and how that relationship had changed my life. And that all he needed to, if he wanted to have that relationship, was to ask God to come into his life.”
And he bowed his head, and he closed his eyes, and he said, “I do.” I squeezed his hand and gave him a hug. I didn’t give him any reassurance or Bible verses, because I knew I’d be back in to see him later that day.
And I went down to the X-ray room to look at his X-rays, when I heard over the PA system, Code Blue, Code Blue, Code Blue. I ran down to the ICE, where he was and the code team was providing him CPR, but they did not save his life, and he passed away.
And on that Christmas, my first patient with AIDS became a brother in Christ. It just took a moment, but it was a moment that changed his eternity. It was a Merry Christmas for him, and it was the most memorable Christmas ever for me.
Ron Deal: Conner was our Christmas decorator. He was really good at it.
Jim: This is Ron Deal, step-family expert, whose son died in 2009.
Ron: And it’s kinda hard to do Christmas again. And every year, he got out the nativity scene and put it up in the house somewhere and was meticulous in how he would place the characters, and the donkey, and wow.
The first Christmas without him, we didn’t know what to do. We just didn’t even know how to get that stuff out of the box. Honestly, with that much sorrow in your heart, you really can’t. And so, we found alternative ways of doing Christmas, not just that year, but really every year since. It’s just not the same without him.
And yet, it’s special, because it’s the hope that we have to see him again, because the Christ-child came. And so, in the midst of our faith is our sadness. And I think that’s an important message for those who are listening today and have a sorrow in their life. The holidays are days that really bring up our sorrow. We can’t help but recognize what’s missing, whatever that is in your life.
And the world around you is trying to be happy, extra happy, super happy, you know, elf happy, you know, even to the point where, when you’re sad, you realize how alone you are. You can’t really join them in that place. But sadness doesn’t negate our joy and our joy doesn’t--and I think this is really important for Christian people to hear–our joy does not negate our sadness.
They walk in dynamic tension with each other. Now, my faith and joy informs my sadness. It lets my sadness know there will come a day, when I don’t have to count anymore. I count; I’ve counted the days since Conner’s death. Every day, I counted. I know exactly how many days it’s been. But I do that, not because I’m living in the grief. I do that because someday I know I get to stop counting. And that’s the day that my son gets to introduce me to Jesus, and I’m longing for that day. Someday, I’ll join him there. And that’ll be, I guess, the ultimate Christmas.
John: Well, a heartfelt recollection from Ron Deal, and a good reminder on today’s Focus on the Family, Jim, about how important it is for us to treasure holidays with family, because you never know what kind of heartache and sorrow there might be around the corner.
Jim: It’s true, John, and I know many of you are experiencing your first Christmas, perhaps without a loved one. And no doubt, it’s difficult. Your heart is still grieving and there may be some traditions that just aren’t gonna happen this year, because your loved one is gone. But, as Ron Deal just reminded us, if you’re counting the days since a loved one has passed, at some point, you can stop counting, when you get to see them again.
And to be honest, that’s exactly why Jesus came, so we’d have an eternity with Him. He has paid that price for us to be reunited with the Father. So, if you’re lonely, or discouraged today, I hope you call us and ask to speak with a caring counselor. We’ll be back in the office tomorrow, or anytime in the next few days. We wanted to give our families here at Focus time to honor the Lord, as well.
Let me also remind all of us, there is hope. His name is Jesus. He’s the reason that we celebrate Christmas. Don’t lose that hope. Let us help you, if you’re at a point of need. You need to remember God’s plan for your life and how He’s brought nearly every one of the speakers you’ve heard today, through some pretty tough stuff. They’ve lived it, and they’ve shared it with us. Contact us for more information.
John: And you can start today at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or as Jim noted, give us a tomorrow. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. At the website you’ll see some free audio downloads, the Making Family Memories Collection, with Ted Cunningham, Kathi Lipp and others. They’ve got some great ideas, fun ideas, for making new memories with your family throughout the year. Again the free audio and other resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Be sure to join us tomorrow when Jonathan McKee offers insights into your teenager’s social media world.
Jonathan McKee: It’s so tough for young people today because there’s this measurement that they’re like a celebrity from 10 or 20 years ago that had to be careful every time they walked out of the house because every comment they made was judged, what they were wearing was judged, that’s all our kids today.
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Jim DalyView Bio
Jim Daly is an author and broadcaster, president of Focus on the Family and host of the daily broadcast, heard by more than 6.3 million listeners a week and honored as 2012 Program of the Year by the National Religious Broadcasters.
Under his leadership, the ministry has reinvigorated its traditional focus on helping couples build strong marriages and raise healthy, resilient kids. Daly and his wife, Jean, have two sons and are currently parenting two children transitioning from foster care. They live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
John FullerView Bio
John Fuller is vice president of the Audio division and co-host of the daily "Focus on the Family" radio program. He speaks and writes about family, faith, media and business. John and his wife, Dena, reside in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have six children.