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By Jesse Utz 

Merry Christmas Coulee Country

Jess Shut Up


Last Sunday night was Faith Community Church’s Annual Christmas Dinner and it got me to thinking about holiday traditions.

Maybe it was the Archers and their 30-plus years of service to God and church. Maybe it was watching the Hansens’, Moores’ and Lyngholms’ kids, grandkids and elders come up on stage and perform the unforgettable 12 Days of Christmas. Or maybe it was seeing all the little kids running around like their parents did years ago in a church that used to sit on the very spot the new church now sits.

It could have been the smell of chocolate chip cookies that filled my house this weekend, or the group of family that gathered for me on my day, but I was really feeling nostalgic and traditional this holiday season. My mind walked down memory lane and I could not help but feel the reason for the season all over again. I thought of Grandma Nessly’s gingerbread cookies and my first Bible that I received from her on Christmas many years earlier. I thought of Grandma Utz and her passion for decorating the whole house for Christmas.

I thought of sitting down with the “Wish Book” and marking what gifts I wanted each year from the toy section of the Sears catalog. I thought of trimming the tree as a family, going to movies together, and many other traditions.

As I thought back and looked to the future at the same time, the feeling of love, happiness and joy filled me, and it hit me: The reason for the season, of course, is Christ and those three attributes accompany him wherever he is let in, but those should be the three most important things to pass on as well. Love your neighbor as you would want to be loved, pass on happiness to strangers and friends alike, and be filled with joy in all situations. Yes, there is some stress attached to getting ready for the holiday time and some busyness that can sometimes make our heads spin until we can’t feel anything but the burdens of things needing to get done.

When that pressure comes on you, first, breathe. Then think back to why you are doing the things you are doing. Not the gift giving and the making everyone happy, not the sales and wrapping of gifts. Cooking, store trips and countless parties can make anyone collapse in a frosty snowbank and just chill a second. Think back. Think back to a time long ago, when shepherds stood in a field and saw a multitude of angels. When animals in a stable stood in awe of a child being born. To a moment when Mary kissed a newborn babe, the first lips on God’s cheek. When a father saw his son. When wise men followed a star for countless miles. That day when there was no room at the inn and a pregnant virgin came to town to deliver the King of Kings, the very same king who would die for all of us on a cross with criminals beside him.

Traditions should sometimes not be about, what we did last year, but more about, what we are going to do this year for our friends and family, and for strangers. You never know how and when Christ will show himself to you — in the face of a newborn child, in the eyes of a homeless person at McDonalds or in the hug of a pastor of a church. Seek him out; he is waiting for you.

Merry Christmas, Coulee Country, and Happy Birthday to the King.

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