The holidays can be holy days of genuine Joy

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist

My kids tell me that I’m younger now than I was when they were growing up. I think “childish” may be what they have in mind; I prefer to think in terms of “younger.”

It seems to me that the transformation started sometime after my wife and I discovered that the “empty nest” stage of life is not at all a bad stage. And I’m pretty sure my slide back toward childhood really ramped up with the births of my granddaughters. In any case, just the word “PawPaw” coming from one of those little mouths fills me with more delight than anything I remember in my first childhood.

I’m writing this week’s column sitting under the glow of the Christmas lights in my shed/greenhouse/man-cave. I put the lights up the first Christmas after my first granddaughter was born. Brylan likes the “farmer-house.”

I’ve just left those lights up. I burn them during the Advent/Christmas seasons, or whenever a granddaughter is here. One of the first words I ever heard the second little beauty utter was “Lights!” as she pointed upward and then fell asleep in my arms as we lounged in a bag chair one evening in the shed.

I haven’t put my tree up yet. Not the one in the shed. I will soon, but I’m holding out for a little but real one, or at least some pine boughs. I want the smell, you see.

I remember as a kid getting up early, dragging my pillow across our wooden living room floor, plugging in the Christmas tree lights, and crawling in under the tree just to look up through the branches and drink in its beauty. It was thirty feet tall, wasn’t it? And it smelled wonderful.

I still love the lights—and the smell—that means Christmas. I can’t help it: I like the kind of real tree made by God in the mountains better than the plastic kind made by Buddhists in China.

My wife and I put up a tree of the latter variety a few days ago. It’ll do nicely. It’s filled with ornaments that my wife has collected, each of which means something and has a history. Whenever we have a Christmas tree in the house, its lights are the first thing I plug in each morning. But it just doesn’t smell right, and I don’t want my granddaughters to miss the real Christmas smell even if we only get it in the “farmer-house”/shed.

I love the holidays. And I expect to love them even more the younger I get. I can understand the criticism that a lot of the fanfare our society builds up during the holidays is largely artificial and contrived. It’s tempting to get cynical about it and to become dull and dour and be glad when it’s over so we can get back to “real” life.

But it seems to me that the holidays can actually be “holy” days that remind us of what is most real and precious. It’s good to be reminded that real life is about more than punching clocks and counting beans. Seen through the childlike eyes of faith, every twinkle of every light is a little burst of joy that points us to the God who is Joy and the Giver of the Light that shines even in the darkness.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at