Celebrating the past, present, future

By Becky Spell Vann - Contributing columnist

What past Christmas gifts and New Year celebrations are treasured memories you will cherish forever? Monumental memories that made a difference in your life – others’ lives and have been carefully preserved in your mind and tenderly tucked in your heart! Holiday gatherings with family gathered at the Thanksgiving table, rockin’ around the Christmas tree, in church for communion on Christmas Eve, at church watch services and parties to bring in a New Year that can bring us closer to the Lord and loved ones while making precious memories. So, what special times stir your heart as 2017 comes to a close and countdown to 2018 begins?

Ending one year and beginning a new one entices each of us to ponder our past, relish the present, and look to the future with faith. Writing the last good news – love story for 2017, while visiting my son and his wife in Texas, fills my heart with unspeakable joy! As I reflect on sixty-four precious years of celebrating holidays with family and friends, I realize details of several celebrations in those special seasons are faded memories. Taking time to preserve precious memories brings blessings when time takes its toll. Journals, photo albums, and phones filled with treasured times are worth more than silver or gold, especially when God gives us time here to grow old!

With twinkling trees still standing and city sidewalks dressed in holiday style, I cling to Christmas for as long as I can. Wondering how many people truly enjoyed or terribly dreaded the most wonderful time of the year, I pause to reflect on gifts given and taken through the years. Pondering God’s perspective on Christmas and New Year celebrations, I realize He gave the greatest Gift that keeps on giving for eternity. Reading in Hebrews early this morning, my heart stirred to write this story. In Hebrews 1:8 – to the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever.”

We read over and over in Hebrews that Jesus is God in the flesh and is to be worshiped as God. We should praise Him as Creator, recognize Him as Ruler, and glorify Him as God’s only Son. When we hear Jesus, we hear God. When we observe Jesus, we observe God. My mind settled on the Savior who came as man to understand my trials and temptations and died on the cross to save me from my sins. What a gift! So, if we ever want to know what God is like or how He might act or where He might go…all we have to do is watch Jesus. Knowing Jesus intimately invites great gifts and glorious celebrations that honor God and give peace, joy, and love beyond anything we can comprehend.

One of God’s great gifts is sending angels to watch over His children. Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”

We may not see them and most of their activity, but God has given His angels assignments of ‘ministering’ to us. We may never know how often an angel kept us from being hurt or guided us to safety. A dear friend – who recently passed away – and I shared many uplifting conversations about ‘angels among us’! She believed in angels and their presence in our lives. I do too! What about you? Surely, you are thinking of a time when you could not explain a situation but felt the brush of angels’ wings. What a great gift! Sitting by the side of a loved one who slowly passes from here to Heaven, gives confirmation of the sweet spirit of angels hovering close by. Seeing a loved one stare at corners of the room and share sightings of angelic hosts helps us understand the beauty of His everlasting gift.

In Hebrews 1: 1-4, God tells about speaking in the past through prophets and in last days speaking to us by His Son. He says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” If all the angels worship Him, so should we. The blessing of knowing Jesus personally and enjoying His gifts make every day a celebration to cherish.

The memories of receiving and giving special gifts satisfy like a fountain of love flowing deep and wide. When Tim and I celebrated our second Christmas together, wrapped gifts for an elderly gentleman who lived alone in a little cabin with only a wood stove to keep him warm, and drove down the dirt path to deliver them on Christmas Eve, we had no idea the amazing gift we would receive. We planned to drop his gifts off and be on our merry way. God had other plans for the two of us so in love and longing to share the spirit of Christmas with a lonely, left out man. We sat around his stove and watched his eyes light up with joy as he opened gifts he never expected to receive. Spit from his chewing tobacco dripped down his beard as he apologized for his meager abode. We were in awe of his survival stories and prayed together under a star lit sky. We hugged him tight and watched him laughing and waving like a jolly old Santa until we drove out of sight. Tim and I both agreed the gift we received brought us closer to Christ and one another on that cold, Christmas Eve.

The second Christmas James and I shared as man and wife gave gifts we never imagined. Two days before Christmas, we bought a new car with plans to take trips and enjoy growing old together. On Christmas Day, we shared time with our family before making a holiday delivery with divine blessings. James pulled the car – we had driven only once – in front of the apartment where a dear lady with two children, whose husband had Alzheimer’s, and her sister’s ten children living with them, were waiting for gifts. The lady came to Tim’s Gift for help; we had become close prayer partners through her visits. Her humble spirit and strong faith encouraged me to look beyond people’s situations and see their needs. Before James could put our car in park, children came running to the street, squealing ‘Merry Christmas!’ James put his hand on mine and told me to stay in the car. He said, “Baby, you feel worse than I do. You stay warm while I hand out the gifts!”

It was as if the seat belt held me captive to experience God’s gift that would keep on giving joy, hope, and love long after James would be gone. I watched a miracle through the side view mirror without understanding the gift James was receiving that cold, December day. He smiled from ear to ear while giving gifts of good cheer to twelve little children. Seeing him lift the bicycles and help two little girls hop on for their first ride, hand red stockings filled with gifts and goodies to every girl and boy, and place a box of food in the mother’s arms sent tears of joy streaming down my face. The lady hugged James and gave us our last gift we would experience here when she said, “Thank you for making our Christmas happy!” Driving home, James kissed my hand and shared from his heart – what lives in mine every day of the year, “Now, that’s what Christmas is all about!”

James talked all the way home about how happy he was. After leftovers, we settled in our big chair and enjoyed the last hours of our last Christmas together. God’s gift of Heaven came unexpectedly when James was called Home to live happily forever and ever. Brokenhearted and bewildered, God’s promised gifts of healing and binding wounds bring joy to my world and happiness to my heart…in His perfect timing.

As a New Year begins here, I can only imagine what’s happening in Heaven! The gift of eternity with God and loved ones gone before is one we must be prepared for… if we plan to go there and live happily forevermore!

James’ words stir gifts of peace and hope in my heart, “Now, this is what Heaven’s all about!”


By Becky Spell Vann

Contributing columnist

Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.

Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.