Tom Thomas: What Christmas means to me

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I love Christmas time. As a child, I used to love to wake up and run to the tree to see what Santa had brought.

After the gifts were opened, we would all gather at the table for a great Christmas meal. We would eat, share, talk and laugh.

We had many great times at the table. We could spend hours there talking and laughing. As I became a dad, I loved to wake up our boys and watch them run to the tree to see what Santa had brought them. I loved to see their faces light up with excitement as they got the gift they were really wanting.

Christmas has always been fun and joyful for me. When we would go to my wife's family on Christmas, they would do the same. We would have a great time of getting together, gathering around the table and eating and laughing.

That all changed for me in 1988. This was the year that my oldest brother, Tim, was killed in an automobile accident earlier that year. This Christmas started out like any ordinary Christmas, with the excitement and anticipation. In a couple hours, it would all change for me.

We were all grown up and had our own families, yet we still tried to get together at Christmas time. We gathered around the table to enjoy that special Christmas meal that had been prepared. This time, when we all gathered and took each other's hand, dad asked me to pray to thank God for our blessings and thank Him for the food.

That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks. Someone was missing. My brother, Tim, was not present, nor would he ever be at the Christmas table again.

I learned a lot that Christmas. I learned that not everyone enjoys the holiday. Some have a spouse, child or loved one missing. Holidays like Christmas are a strong reminder that everything has changed and will never be the same.

My Christmases have changed. I have since lost another brother and my dad. I look at this time of year much differently now. Some still look at Christmas as the baby Jesus in the manger of a stable somewhere on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Some look at Christmas as Santa and his reindeer. I see it differently now.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, there was another table set. The Disciples were gathered with Jesus to celebrate what is called the Passover. Jesus, now an adult, sat at this table along with His disciples. As Matthew 26:27 states, "Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'"

While I am amazed that He would take a cup that represented His sacrificed blood and give thanks for what was about to happen to Him, it is what He says next that changed the meaning of Christmas for me.

"'I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.'"

Do you see the promise? There is going to be another table set and no one is going to be missing. Those of us who claim Christ as our Savior will all be together sitting at the same table.

That's what Christmas means to me. The baby in the manger came to earth out of love. Thirty-three years later, that baby died out of love so everyone could sit at the table again in His Father's kingdom.

I still enjoy Christmas time. I still have fun and the joy is real. I now have grandchildren to watch as their eyes light up and they tear into presents.

But my heart longs to sit at a table where everyone will be present.

Merry Christmas.

Tom Thomas is a minister at the First Christian Church in Cassville.