Mark L. Hopkins: Finding your Christmas spirit

Mark L. Hopkins More Content Now

The Christmas season is here again. How’s your Christmas spirit? More to the point, what is it that kindles your Christmas spirit?

Ruth and I went looking for our Christmas spirit at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee last week. Both of us agreed that we needed something to get us revved up and thinking “right”. We knew the new Christmas shows would get us headed in the right direction. Of course, any excuse to go to Dollywood this time of year is good enough for us. We do enjoy that place with all of its performing young people, its beautiful lights, and Christmas music playing on every corner.

It is enough to motivate me to take the outside lights from the boxes stored in the closet since last Christmas and start lighting the place up for passers-by to enjoy as the big day grows closer. Together, Ruth and I put up the Christmas tree but she decorates it. I long since learned that my sense of color and balance doesn’t match up with that of the family artist. And, one thing I can always count on is that the radio will be playing Christmas music. How I love it.

Music is a major factor in any Christmas season. Whether it is “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “White Christmas”, or “Rudolph” it begins to dominate your psyche. The music that really closes the deal include “Hark the Harold Angels sing,” “Away in a Manger”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and, of course, the classic “Hallelujah Chorus.”

To me, the spirit of Christmas culminates each year with Christmas cantatas telling again that wonderful story of a babe lying in a manger with shepherds and wise men kneeling at his feet, of families gathering to renew the bond that was kindled in all of those Christmases past.

In all of those Christmases in my memory there was a succession of visiting Great Aunts—Aunt Nora, Aunt Goldie, Aunt Pearl, Aunt Philomena, and Aunt Lela. (Don’t you just love those names from the 19th Century?) All of these dear ladies are gone now but their faces are still as crystal clear to me as they were a generation ago. Each would arrive at my grandmother’s house with their culinary specialties, trays full of divinity, fudge, brownies, and my favorite of favorites, chocolate chip cookies. Is it any wonder that I can still smell the wonderful kitchen fragrance that filled the house each year at Christmas time? Is it any wonder I still spend several hours a week at the “Y” doing battle with the bulges created by the remnants of all those wonderful memories?

My children are mid-lifers now, but if I close my eyes for just a minute, I can still see them rushing to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning so excited that their feet barely seemed to touch the floor. Amy would go from present to present tearing paper in all directions. Sara, always the little lady, would take each bow off and carefully remove and fold the wrapping paper. Steve, the youngest, usually crawled up on his Mother’s lap and woke up slowly to all the excitement before heading for his presents.

All of these memories get us ready for the big day, the day we welcome friends and family to our homes as the Holy family did when the shepherds arrived to “see this miraculous thing.” Then we open the presents just as the Holy family did 2000 years ago with the visit of the Magi and, most important, we focus on the blessed Christ child who is, lest we forget, the reason for the season.

So we wish for you a growing Christmas spirit that will be with you all year round, and a wonderful Christmas season, growing, sustaining, and sharing the Christmas spirit with your family and friends.

Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.