A gold stingray bicycle is etched into my mind. Over six decades celebrating Christmas, but the first Christmas morning I remember was when I walked into the living room and saw the bicycle I had dreamed about.
For the next seven years, I must have put thousands of miles on that bike. It was a source of joy during my childhood. There are memories of other Christmas mornings and other gifts, but that morning was special because I was old enough to remember. It was a powerful memory for a six-year-old.
As I grew older I came to understand more of the significance of Christmas – that it really wasn’t about the gifts I received in boxes or gifts sitting beside a tree on Christmas morning. It was about the gift that God sent us – His Son, Jesus.
Baptist Campus Ministries at UAB will host our annual Christmas party for international students this week. We will have food, games, teach some Christmas carols (that’s always a hoot!), have a gingerbread house-building contest (which the engineering students usually win). We will also tell the story of Christmas and the birth of Jesus – God’s gift to us. I expect it to be a night filled with laughter and a lot of fun. Some of the students will be from other religious backgrounds. Others will have no religious background. Still others will believe in God but don’t really know much about Jesus. Come to think of it, they will be a lot like some of the people mentioned in the Christmas stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Most of the students will be graduate students in their mid-twenties, but it will be their first Christmas. I pray the Christmas story forever changes their perception of God and begins a journey toward salvation. I pray it becomes the source of joy for their lives, no matter how many thousands of miles they have travelled from home. I hope the memory of their first Christmas is forever etched in their minds – and that it won’t be the last time they celebrate Christmas.
State Missionary Bill Morrison serves as the lead Baptist campus minister with Metro Birmingham Baptist Campus Ministries with primary responsibility at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.