Voices of Christmas
Among the gifts that come with Christmas are memories — of interactions with family and at church. As Christmas 2017 approaches, the Oklahoma Conference’s associate lay leaders shared some of their personal memories of this special time of year.
Herschel Beard of Madill:“I grew up in a small town, Madill. I learned from parents and grandparents that we had a little bit more than other people. I grew up with the understanding that to whom much is given, much is expected.”
The father of two boys, he said he tried to instill that same philosophy in them.
For one holiday, the Beard family decided to “adopt” a family that lived outside of town and buy gifts for the children. The three children all wanted bicycles.
Beard took his sons shopping and let them pick out the bikes and other gifts. He explained to his sons that the family they were helping was pretty poor.
They left the gifts at the family’s back door.
“My boys kind of woke up to the fact of what helping other people means,” including helping through the year, Beard said. “They’ve been doing things like that ever since.”
Those sons, now ages 34 and 31, sometimes go back to Madill from Oklahoma City to help with food baskets and toys for poor families.
“There’s such a need out there,” said Beard, who is president of Marshall County Abstract Co. and an active member of Madill United Methodist Church.
Don Kim of Oklahoma City:Until he moved to Oklahoma from New York, Christmas was just something Kim saw featured in movies; it held no meaning for him.
“I had no Christian background,” he said.
That changed when Kim met his wife-to-be, became a Christian like her, and celebrated Christ’s birthday at OKC-Korean First United Methodist Church.
“I’ve never missed Christmas services since,” Kim said.
His traditions now include a Christmas Eve service, dinner together, singing contests and fun games as a church family. “It brought me joy in my family,” he said.
Kim said now he knows “what it’s like to be a Christian family.”
Aly Shahan of Moore:The Christmas Eve service took on new meaning for Aly Shahan when her husband held up their 4-month-old child, Peyton, and talked to the congregation about the vulnerability of an infant.
Adam Shahan is associate pastor at Moore-First United Methodist Church.
“How powerful that Christ came to Earth in that vulnerable state!” Aly thought as she watched father and baby.
“Christmas really took on a whole new meaning for me. It opened my faith to a whole new level.”
Adam also sang MercyMe’s “Joseph’s Lullaby” in the service. “It made it that much more powerful,” Aly said.
Janey Wilson of Ada:“The older I get, the more meaningful the Christmas season is to me. Christmas is much more than Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping, stressing over getting the Christmas decorations ready, the house being super clean, cooking for days, and feeling exhausted from it all.
“Christmas is simply about Jesus. Celebrating His birth. We don’t need all that extra stuff. We simply need Jesus.
“I love celebrating his birth with my family, friends, and students of the Wesley at East Central University. I love hearing the Christmas story, singing Christmas carols, and being together with those I love.
“Christmas Eve worship is one of my most favorite things to do all year long. Everyone is dressed in Christmas colors, young and old are happy, and celebrating Jesus with a candlelight service is simply beautiful.”
Janey Wilson is campus minister for the Wesley Foundation at ECU. She also shared what Joel Nalere, an ECU freshman from Uganda, wrote.
Nalare submitted, “First of all, God enabled me to find an awesome campus ministry with very good people who love people and God ... He has manifested mightily in my academics. He has provided for me despite the hardships in the foreign land. He has given me life. His has covered me with his grace and showered me with favor.
“God has added new members, which is a goal of any Christian ministry ... He has inspired loyalty in the hearts of all Wesley members ... He has provided for the ministry.
“Mainly it has given me a family of friends that know, believe, and worship God. It has strengthened my faith and has given me a splendid spiritual experience in a foreign land.”