“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
–John 3:16 (NLT)
Did you ever go to summer camp when you were a kid? There were two major camps in my life, and I wanted to share a couple of my favorite camp stories with you. These two experiences may not seem to share any common bonds, but together they taught me a lot about Christmas and what it really means.
I spent one week at Camp Courage, a summer camp for kids with many different physical handicaps. Our days at Camp Courage were filled with swimming, crafts, horseback riding and other activities. But there was one event I remember especially well.
In the middle of the week, it rained for two days straight. It was cold and wet outside, and we spent most of our time in our cabins. We were all getting pretty bored. After all, reading books and watching movies can only entertain for a short time before they get old. By dinnertime on the second evening, our spirits were pretty low. There was nothing but more rain in the weather forecast that night, and we were pretty tired of rain by then.
We had just finished our dinner when a bunch of male counselors and staff workers started singing “Jingle Bells”. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s all this spontaneous caroling in the middle of summer?” I got my answer a minute later. It seemed that Santa Claus had come to town, and he had declared a Christmas in July celebration should take place at Camp Courage. The jolly old elf would visit each of our cabins just before bedtime. And best of all, he was bringing presents!
And much to our excitement, that’s just what happened. Sometime around 8 or 9 that evening, there was a knock on our cabin door, and a moment later Santa was there in person. He talked to each of us and showed us his big round belly, and of course he laughed long and loudly. Before he left, we each got a different toy. Santa had turned a cheerless and cloudy summer night into a Christmas party.
Although that experience was a lot of fun, I didn’t really start learning about the true meaning of Christmas until the next summer. My parents paid my way into a different summer camp, called Camp Northstar. On my first evening there, I found out this was a Christian camp. There would still be lots of fun activities during the day, but we would spend mornings and evenings singing songs and hearing stories about God, and worshipping Jesus Christ. At the time, I wasn’t a follower of Jesus. I had been expecting a total emphasis on fun like there had been at Camp Courage, and I didn’t know what to expect now that all this worship was involved.
But as the week passed, I really started to enjoy all the stories of Jesus’ love, the lives he touched and the miracles he performed. A few days after my arrival at camp, I made what would be a life-changing decision. Although I was a little nervous, I stood up and went to the front of the room after the campfire story one night. Most of the campers were talking and getting ready to hit the hay in their cabins, so not many people noticed when I prayed with some of the camp leaders, and asked Jesus Christ to enter my life.
Looking back on these experiences during this festive season, I’ve done some reflecting about the true meaning of Christmas. This holiday isn’t about presents, although they’re a lot of fun. Santa delivers great toys, but most of them don’t survive very long or have a lasting impact. Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Jesus literally gave his life for us out of love, and he took all of our sins upon himself.
I hope and pray that this Christmas, you and your family will spend some quiet time reading or listening to the Christmas story, studying His life (the book of John is a great place to start), and reflect on what Jesus Christ means to you. Take some time to turn down the tree lights, put the presents aside, and focus on the reason for the season.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ yet, Christmas is a great time to start your relationship with him. After you’ve read about his life, humbly ask him to take away your sins and enter your heart.
Whether you know Jesus or not, I hope the experiences of your life will teach you about the meaning of Christmas, as they did for me. Enjoy all of the parties and presents during this and every Christmas, but remember to give Jesus Christ some of your time as well. None of us would have had a chance at eternity in heaven if Jesus had not come into the world to give his life for you.
I hope that thanks to your reflections, this will be the merriest Christmas you’ve ever had!Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 6:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 313-209-8800. Our PIN is 8699032. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.