The Sunday Sermonette: Christmas Eve, December 24, 2023.  

     The mere mention of Christmas evokes memories of times, places, loved ones, and friends, perhaps now long gone. Remember twinkling Christmas tree lights reflecting off Shiny Brite ornaments? A gooey-delicious pecan pie? A loved one’s perfume? Crisp, cold air? Crunchy snow? The high-pitched laughter of children opening presents on Christmas morning? Tears when it came time to return home, to leave those who you loved, hoping you’d see them again next Christmas?

     My Christmas memories revolve around only three people—my mom, my dad, and my sweet Granny from D’Lo. If you’re around me, it won’t take long for me to mention my sweet Granny. She was, to say the least, one-spirited lady. I grew up on her stories of the Great Depression in Simpson County. The hard work of maintaining a farm. The poverty of those days. And the hope for a better future. She could tell stories about those days like none other. As a child, I spent many a summer with her, and I’d giggle myself to sleep thinking of the crazy, oddball characters that she’d created for me; those now mythical characters that inhabit that somewhat magical place – D’Lo.

     I learned many things from Granny; the most long-lasting was a love of life. Life, with its mountain tops and its valleys, its effervescent days and its dark nights. Life that is lived to the fullest, mindful of God, family, and friends. The snap I’ve provided was taken on Christmas Day, 1984. Little did I know this would be Granny’s last Christmas. In the last months of a glorious spring, Granny started losing weight, was nauseous all the time, and her sweet smile was strained due to the pain inside her. Cancer! A stupid disease that eats away at the very thing that gives it life.

     She was eventually hospitalized at Memorial Hospital. For two months, she suffered. Her smile disappeared. The twinkle in her bright blue eyes faded. She prayed for God to call her Home. Each night, when I left the hospital, I told Granny that I loved her. She would look at me, muster a pained smile, and say, “I love you too, Andy.”

     The call came early one morning; it was still dark. My dear mother’s voice wavered as she confirmed what I already knew–Granny was Home, Home forever. At Granny’s funeral, it dawned on me that the last thing she had said to me was, “I love you.”

     The Christmas of 1984 is a bittersweet memory of days gone by. It’s just me now. Mom, Dad, and Granny are all gone, safe in the loving arms of Jesus. But as the sun sets this Christmas Eve, 2023, I’ll sit in the old rocker Granny and I rescued from a dusty attic. The same rocker that Dad had sat in to drink his morning coffee. And the rocker that Mom sat in, reading her old Bible, as her eyesight dimmed, and her memory faded. I’ll try and remember their voices, their laughter, their stories. But most of all, though, I’ll remember their love—their love for me, their love of life, and their love for God and his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the real reason for the season. Life is fleeting, my friends. Tell those you love…that you do. Merry Christmas!    

     Ponder this and go forth.