GUEST COLUMN: From bags full of gifts to personal candlelight services

Mark Maynard

As Christmases come and go in life, the emotions change with them but the memories remain vivid.

Last year was my first without my mother and father but we did have a 20-month-old grandson to lift our spirits. He wasn’t into Christmas as much then as the now 2½-year-old plus bundle of life and I’m sure it’s only going to get better from here. Little guys like him make Christmas such a joy.

Mom and Dad both loved the Christmas season, from the caroling to the cooking (party mix, which we call nuts-and-bolts, was the family favorite), to the Christmas Eve candlelight celebrations at church.

My mom was into Christmas with the grandkids in big ways, and I mean big. She bought items all year long (literally) and then stuffed holiday bags (think garbage bag size) for the four grandkids to tear into when our families celebrated together. I know they’ll never forget those memories and I’ll never forget watching them and her beaming with pride at bringing happy giggles into their lives.

Dad was more comfortable singing around the piano or on your front porch. He also sang the Messiah with community choirs, his booming bass voice blending in perfectly with those around him. Sometimes, I think, the singing was what Dad enjoyed most about the season.

What they both taught me and my brother was the joy of giving. No matter what their current work status might happen to be we never had a disappointing Christmas. It was always the most wonderful time of the year.

As the years have moved on, the aspect of giving to others has become greater and greater. Yes, it’s fun to receive – and I like getting that perfect Christmas present as much as anyone – but the giving is so much better. That’s how it should be since the ultimate gift – Jesus Christ – is the reason for the season.

Through ministry work I've learned the importance of giving to those who have far less and are so thankful for so little. Sometimes it's heartbreaking and fills me with guilt that I didn't give more.

My wife and I have never spent much on each other for Christmas. Most of the time, we haven’t really needed anything, and giving to our two kids was more important. They always received more than the needed even if it wasn’t always as much as friends.

My wife’s Christmas could always be made with the Christmas Eve candlelight services. We never miss them. One year, with the church staff all away visiting their families out of town, we didn’t have a candlelight service at the church. It was devastating and I knew it was bothering my wife a lot. So about 9 or 10 that night, after most of the Christmas Eve activities with our families were finished, we slipped into the church sanctuary and held our own candlelight service since I had the keys to the building. We kept the lights off, lit our candles and privately worshipped. It remains the best one we ever had. Thankfully, we didn’t burn the place down and left with full hearts.

Christmas was saved with only a little breaking and entering.

MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at

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