December is here! With the cold weather, the slick roads and the eggnog lattes comes a very special season—the Christmas season. Today we got our Christmas tree. We braved the cold and crazed shoppers and got a small, Douglas fir that sits in the corner of our living room. Lauren works her magic as she does every year and makes that tree look like something out of a winter wonderland. I don’t know what it is, but for me, the Christmas season can never truly start until a few things happen. I’m sure every individual has those things that represent Christmas to them. Certain things that make the season special. Certain things that must be present, if Christmas is going to feel like Christmas. For me, most of these things are linked to certain memories or feelings that came with Christmas when I was a child.

The first is the aforementioned tree. As much as I can tend to gripe about the setup or maintenance or cleanup, Christmas would not not be the same without the tree. As a kid, decorating the tree was always a highlight of the season. The family tradition was to decorate the entire house the day after Thanksgiving. We would put on the Christmas music, eat leftover turkey and mashed potatoes, and deck the halls with lights and garland. I remember setting up the tree was something my parents did when I was very young. I can remember watching my parents setting up the tree when I was very young. I remember staring at the bright lights and ornaments in wonder and imagining the presents that would soon lay underneath them. Once I was older, it became the siblings’ job to pull out all the decorations and get the tree all lit up. Some of my most cherished memories are my siblings and I laughing and joking as we worked our magic around the house. Christmas can never truly start until the tree is trimmed and glowing.

As I think about what it is that makes the Christmas season special for me, so much of it revolves around music. Whether it be the heavy anthems of the Trans Siberian Orchestra or the soft smooth voice of Nat King Cole or the chipper crooning of Bing, Christmas music never ceases to bring feelings that only come around when the Christmas notes are played. Although there are many albums and artists that I could mention, there is one particular Christmas album that stands out in my head and has a very special place in my heart. This album is “Christmas is Jesus” by Bryan Duncan. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an 80’s junky. The music, the movies, the hair—I love it all. Bryan Duncan was a prominent Christian artist in the 80’s, and he has some other awesome hits that basically define my childhood. I do not think there is a Christmas album that defines Christmas for me so much as “Christmas Is Jesus.” As far back as I can remember, that album has been played during Christmas and it still to this day brings back all the feelings and thoughts every time I hear the clear, rich tones of Duncan’s voice. The track “Away In A Manger” still drives me to tears whenever I hear it. I highly recommend you pick it up or listen to it on Spotify and hear for yourself.

Finally, Christmas could not be complete without family. This might be an obvious one, but I think we can sometimes get into a lull and forget the incredible blessing it is to have those we love around during this time. While family is around we can be united in one common purpose, the joy that comes from celebrating our savior’s birth. If there is one thing all Christians can and should unite over, it is Christ. All the joy we experience during the Christmas season is due to the work that Christ accomplished on the cross. It is because of Him that we can enjoy good food, good company, and loving relationships. Without Christ, it truly is meaningless. The joy we have when with family is just a small taste of the joy we will have when we are all united as one in eternity. That is what Christmas is all about. So this year, let the joy ring out. Celebrate, give gifts, sing, laugh and feast all to the glory of God. It is right and good that we should do this. We Christians, of all people, have something to celebrate. So bring your family around, put on some Bryan Duncan and take joy in the fact that Christ is with us. Let Christmas begin!