The western sky was dark and menacing as the winter storm intensified across the Welsh Hills. Heavy snow was falling, accompanied by high winds and bitter cold. As an 8-year-old, I had never witnessed a blizzard. I stood enthralled as I looked out the window of our family’s living room.

The country road in the front of our home had not been cleared and the snow was drifting high. The whiteout was beautiful to behold. This was what the crooners on Christmas albums called a “Winter Wonderland!”

As the afternoon turned into evening, I was concerned that my father had been stranded along the side of the road or was involved in an accident. Before the advent of the cell phone, we were all dependent on landlines for communication. In winter storms in a bygone era, phone lines fell due to the adverse weather conditions. I anxiously awaited a sign of his wellbeing.

Darkness fell well before supper as that winter day quickly dissipated into night. It would be a few minutes after dark that I saw the headlights of my father’s car navigate the snow-covered road and turn into our driveway.

As with all rear-wheel drive automobiles of the 1960s, the tires spun as he approached the garage. I raced through the house to the garage to open the door and let my father drive in.

My father parked the car in the shelter of the garage. Departing the snow-covered Ford, he opened his arms to embrace me. It was comforting to have him safely home and settle into the evening. On rare occasions we burned a fire in the fireplace and this night was such an occasion. We would sit down to eat supper as a family and then enjoy the warmth of the fire on a snowy night in Ohio.

To make this experience even more significant is that it was Christmas Eve.

This magical moment will forever be impressed in my memory. Even though decades pass for each of us, there are those gingerbread moments where sentimental feelings and expressions of joy remain through time. We were gathered together in a cozy home, safe and secure, excited about Christmas. Our lives could not have been happier.

After enjoying time together, my mother ushered us into bed. As the oldest of three children, we were all believers in Santa Claus. It would be difficult to sleep with the eager anticipation of the big day before us.

Before dozing off for a few hours of sleep, I heard my grandparents’ voices. They had arrived to drop off their gifts. To our surprise, they would spend the night and be with us on Christmas Day.

The joy of waking hours before sunrise and racing to the Christmas tree is something every child remembers. Every family has their traditions and celebrations that often last from generation to generation. To have my grandparents there that Christmas morning was extra special. That would be the only time in my childhood it occurred. The smell of cherry pipe tobacco filled the air. What a special day that lives forever in my memory.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, every family is making their special preparations.

It is important for us to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Celebration and feasting should focus on this most important day of the year. Indeed, “Good tidings of great joy” should be trumpeted across our land, as well as proclamations of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).

May we enjoy this sacred season of anticipation, reflection and appreciation. May we behold, by faith, the unspeakable gift of salvation offered to us through the incarnation of Jesus. May we love and appreciate the people God has placed in our lives and savor the time we have together.

Have a great week and remember, God loves YOU!

Reach Jon at jtshonebarger@gmail.com.

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