God has blessed me in so many ways throughout my life. One of the greatest blessings is that I was born into a strong Christian home, led by two life-long committed parents who loved and nurtured me and my younger brother and sister. For 38 years mom and dad demonstrated to us what it meant to be a committed, loving married couple for life and always pointed us to Jesus.
Dad has gone on to Glory (in 1989), and we look forward to being reunited with him some day. Christmas for the Hinkle household, like in most American homes, has always been a special time, and it certainly was growing up in Middle Tennessee. Dad always went the extra mile to make it so for mom and us younguns, whether it was taking us out on my uncle‘s farm to cut our own Christmas tree or cooking a grand Christmas morning breakfast highlighted by biscuits and his homemade gravy.
At a time in our nation’s history when the greater evangelical Church is rightly examining itself amid allegations of worldliness and materialistic infatuation, I think of how Dad taught us about such things in every-day life and, in the end, made Christmas extra special by demonstrating what it meant to really love each other. (It all became a means of pointing us to the sacrifice and love God’s Son poured out on humanity.)
Dad understood the significance of fathering and the responsibility he had to teach his children right from wrong, in part, by living an example. We never wanted for any necessity, but Dad taught us through the years not to be blinded by the glitz and glamour the world offered.
I did not know at the time – and only came to know when Mom told me following Dad’s death, but she used to complain to Dad that he would rarely buy us children any toys between January and Christmas. Just like children so selfishly do, we would beg for a toy every time we went shopping and 99 percent of the time his answer was “no.”
Of course we were too little and immature to understand at the time, but with maturity I’ve come to understand, resulting in a valuable lesson learned and fond memories of Dad, especially at Christmas. Once when Mom complained, he told her, “Now Momma, I want these kids to get everything they want for Christmas. This is the one time of the year I think they should get what they want.” And we did.
Christmas morning at the Hinkle’s was a time of unbelievable excitement and joy. I remember one Christmas when I was 10, I quietly got up so as not to awake Dad, Mom and my three-year-old brother, tip-toeing down the hall to the living room. When I opened the door and saw what was under our Christmas tree, my little heart nearly burst with joy. I shut the door behind me as the clock struck 5 a.m. I turned the light on and began having the time of my life.
Suddenly the door opened. Dad stuck his head in.
“Boy, what in the world are you doing? Do you have any idea what time it is?” I figured he was going to make me go back to bed, but seeing the joy in my eyes, he just shook his head, grinned and said, “Don’t wake up your mother.” With that he closed the door, went back to bed and I resumed examining my treasure trove.
I am convinced Dad was teaching us to be wary of worldliness, but as a father, he loved his children and delighted in seeing them happy, especially at Christmas. I believed Dad used Christmas to also teach us how much God loves us and how He delights in seeing us happy – not in the world, but in Him and His Son, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
Dad’s strict behavior in denying us things that we really did not need for most of the year was done so that Christmas became extra special. And as he taught us, we came to learn it is, but for a more important, eternal reason: That Jesus gave us the most special gift of all – His life for our sin. Let us make that truth a priority to acknowledge as we gather with family and friends. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come; let earth receive her King!”