Women Writing the West President’s Message for Christmas 2021

We all have special memories of Christmases past. Whether celebrated in traditional fashion unwrapping presents in front of tinsel-strewn, twinkling-lit trees covered with hand-crafted ornaments, enjoying platters of food, and pies upon pies. Or celebrating on a cruise ship, a tropical island beach, at a ski resort. Maybe your favorite Christmas memories were just a few days off work, snuggling with your special someone, sipping cocoa, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. 

My fondest Christmas memories were of Christmas 1981. I was eleven years old. My brothers, Brian and Brent, were twelve and six. A few months before Christmas, my family moved to Enid, Oklahoma, from my birth state of New Mexico. I thought everyone lived as we did—five humans sharing a box of Mac-n-Cheese, a can of green beans, and bread slices covered in soft margarine. I didn’t know what poverty meant. We were always clean and fed, with a rented roof above our heads; I was happy, carefree.

Christmas was a special time at our house. Santa always came on Christmas Eve no matter how terrible my brothers had been during the year. Mom somehow managed to buy us the things we wanted even if we hadn’t told her what that was. Back then, there was no Wal-Mart, at least not in Enid, and Amazon was light years away from existence. Still, Mom pulled off Christmas in her usual, extravagant fashion. 

On Christmas Eve, my brothers and I opened gifts of clothes, shoes, and toys. Christmas morning found us gawking over our crochet Christmas stockings stuffed and spilling over with peppermint candy canes, chocolate shaped Saint Nicolas bars, little books of LifeSavers, and at least one additional toy. My stocking that year held a blonde Barbie doll in a beautiful satin white gown, and diamond-like earrings in her ears. She matched the doll I’d gotten the night before, her groom, Ken, who wore a black tuxedo with long tails. But what made this Christmas the most memorable for me was not the candy or gifts, or even the feast Mom prepared of honey-glazed ham covered in pineapple chunks, mashed potatoes, a mixed salad, and chocolate pudding pie for dessert. What made that year different and priceless for me, was the realization—the unwavering, unequivocal, know-it-in-your-heart comprehension of what Christmas was truly about. 

Growing up in a Christian home, we read Luke 2:1-19, the Christmas story, every Christmas Eve. All my life I’d heard about the birth of the Messiah, the Christ-child. I sang Silent Night year after year and over and over proclaiming the good news of the Savior’s birth. Still, something was different that year. Something inside me had changed. For the first time ever, I knew, really knew Christmas didn’t have anything to do with Santa—it was about God’s perfect gift for all mankind. Jesus. 

The knowledge was like a flashbulb—a bright shock, flashing in the darkness, forcing one to squint against piercing illumination. I finally got it. I understood the immense sacrifice of God sending His only begotten son to die in my stead, and Jesus’s willingness to do so. Why after all those years did it finally sink in? I don’t know, but every year since, I’ve been less and less interested in gifts and more and more interested in, and amazed by, The Gift. 

I hope you take some time to recall some of your fondest Christmases past while creating wonderful new memories with your loved ones this year.

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