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Rev. James L. Snyder

Christmas is the one time of the year when it is okay to be traditional. That may be the reason why so many people look forward to the Christmas holidays.

The rest of the year most people are under the pressure to be "non-traditional," whatever that may mean. Today it is not politically correct to be traditional and if you are, you run the risk of being out of favor with the rest of society.

Christmas, however, is a different time altogether for everyone. July may be a good month to be non-traditional, but not December. There is a time to be non-traditional and then there is a time to regain your senses and enjoy the amenities of good, old-fashioned, traditionalism.

No matter how far away the young folks wander, Christmas draws them back to traditionalism like a magnet. (It might have something to do with pumpkin pie.)

One of the wonderful things about this time of the year is the many family traditions enjoyed and endured by families all around the world. In the parsonage, we have honored some great traditions through the years.

Each year, while the gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and our little brood decorated the Christmas tree, I busied myself in the kitchen making my special eggnog.

What was so special, was that each year it was different. I could not remember from one year to the other just how I made it. Usually it turned out all right, except for the year I forgot to put in the eggs.

Another tradition in the parsonage was the Christmas wish list for good ole Santy.

One of the practical reasons for this was to prevent my children from getting me a fluorescent orange necktie with a pink hoola-dancer on it. As a minister, there are precious few places to wear such neckwear.

The children of the parsonage are grown, with children of their own now, and the "wish list" has gone the way of all good things.

It is the one tradition I miss,and I wish it could be revived. If I could revive the "wish list," there is one thing that would lead my list. All I want from dear ole Santy this year is my sanity.

The fact that I have lost my sanity, or at least, misplaced it, is quite curious. The curious thing about it is that I do not remember just when it was that I lost it.

Have you ever looked for something only to discover that you could not find it and could not remember just when you saw it last? If I could only remember when I last used my sanity, it might serve as a clue as to where it is right now.

It is not that it has been a major lost in my life, but there have been a few times when I could have used it.

For one, I could have used my sanity when I got married. Looking back, it seems that at the time, my sanity was somewhere, but not where I could use it readily.

My girlfriend (now the Mistress of the Parsonage) flashed her beautiful eyes at me and whispered, "Let's get married."

Being the gentleman that I am, I found it hard to resist the wishes of a beautiful lady. That wasn't the worst part.

While in that romantic mood she said, as if to strengthen her argument (and she got no argument from me), "After all, two can live cheaper than one."

I also could have used my sanity in several church situations. Once a church committee was interviewing me for the illustrious position of being their pastor. One of the members of the committee remarked, "And you will find, Brother Snyder, that this church really loves its pastor."

Had sanity been by my side then, I might have seen the napkins around each neck and the knife and fork in each hand.

As soon as I said yes and moved in, the people commenced to eat me alive. (What communion wine goes with roasted pastor?)

To be fair about this matter, there have also been times when sanity would just have gotten in the way. Sanity would have caused me to take myself too seriously. That, of course, is a big mistake.

Nobody, especially a minister, should ever take himself or herself too seriously. For example, I know that I am not as good as some of the people in the congregation think I am, and I am not as bad as others say.

Several years back, in another congregation, an el-derly couple attended the church services. He developed Alzheimer's and could not come to church. She, however, was most faithful in attending. As a ministry of the church, we prepared tapes of the Sunday services, and she always took one home for her husband.

One Sunday, as she was leaving the church, she warmly shook my hand and with tears in her eyes whispered to me, "Oh, brother Snyder, you will never know how much your sermons mean to my husband since he lost his mind."

I was so thankful sanity was not by my side then. Other incidents through the years have only underscored my point. I have had many guest ministers in my pulpit throughout the years. The absence of any sense of sanity has kept me in good stead here.

Following a service with a guest speaker, invariably someone will say to the guest as they leave the church, "We sure haven't heard preaching like that for a long time. Please come back soon."

As I think about this, and add up the pros and cons, I am not sure exactly what that means.

With the stress of days like these, there is one verse from the Bible that comforts me in all this: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." (Isaiah 26:3 KJV.)

If Santy does not bring my sanity this year, it will not be a major calamity.

About the Author

Rev. James L. Snyder is an award winning author and popular columnist living in Ocala, FL with his wife Martha.


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