Merry Christmas! Bah, humbug. Regardless of how you feel, it is Christmas. Everyone has received so much because of the reason for the season. The birth of Christ ushered in a whole new outlook on life. Each of us has the opportunity to receive the gift of God’s spirit in our life. He gave to us, so we need to give as well. We should give not only to God, but to our fellow man.

With that in mind, I ask what is more important: gifts that will be broken or cast aside in a short time or something that will last a lifetime? Parents, I know you are going to do your best to give your children at least one thing that they really want. May I suggest that you give them the one thing they really need and will last a lifetime? The most important thing you can give your children is not money, designer clothes or flashy jewelry. The most important thing will cost you much more than any of those, but is already available for you to give. Your children need the gift of a father and mother who love each other and live their life committed to the well being of their family.

I remember well some of the gifts my parents sacrificed in order for me to have a merry Christmas. My first BB gun, an electric football set, a race car set and a football that I kicked and passed so much that it literally wore a hole through the end of it. I still have that football. But the thing my parents gave me that I treasure the most is the peace in our home all year. They gave me a sense of security because I knew that they would be there for me no matter the situation. They gave me the trust that even though life may not be fair, they would be. They gave me the ability to show love because they showed it to each other and to us. These are the gifts that keep on giving.

It has been 30 years since both of my parents died, my father one week before Christmas and my mother two weeks later. But they are still giving me presents. It is amazing how often I can unwrap some life lessons they gave to me. I find myself asking WWDD – what would Daddy do? Or WWMD – what would Mamma do? I will never outgrow the need for the example they gave me.

My wife and I have tried to give our children and grandchildren, and soon great grandchild, some of the same gifts that will last a lifetime. I plan on loving their mother, grandmother, great grandmother for the rest of our life. I plan on loving them for the rest of my life. 

This time of the year can be the best of times or the worst of times. We can be separated from our families by circumstances or we can overcome circumstances and be together even if miles are between us.

We can give the gift of acceptance and love or the gift of rejection and hurt. We can give the gift of peace and joy or we can give the gift of turmoil and sorrow. We can choose to give of ourselves more than of our bank account. I mentioned that this will cost a lot. It will cost us the ability to always have our way. It will cost us the ability to always have the last word. It will cost us the ability to always win. It will cost us the possibility of loss. It will cost us perhaps the loss of our personal dreams. 

Yes it will cost us, but the reward is more than worth it. I miss my parents this season, but I carry them in my mind and heart. To see that mirrored in the life of my children and grandchildren is worth any price I may have paid. So forget the bah, humbug. Merry Christmas.

Billy P. Long of Benton Harbor has resided in the area since 1972. He is pastor of the Apostolic Tabernacle in Benton Township.