Christmas Eve….I guess this is my most favorite night of the year. Always has been. Everything just looks brighter on Christmas Eve…the lights on the tree, on my new lighted nativity snowglobe my boss gave me for Christmas…everything is twinkling and merry.

Some people though, Christmas this year is sad and they’re missing precious people. Gosh, I can name a bunch of friends and family who will have somebody missing from their table this year….my mother, for one, lost her husband on January 6 of this year. My kids, who are 14 and 12, remember the first Christmas he was married to my mother and he called Santa Claus himself and Tyler and Tara, then 4 and 3 talked to him. Well, Tara was too scared to. Charles, who was something of an obsessive compulsive personality, would follow us all around after opening presents with a trash bag to collect the discarded wrapping paper.

The Gossett’s, whom we spent many a Christmas Eve with, are missing Bill. I can remember their Christmas tree like it’s only been a few days since I saw it. They always had a real tree and those big, old timey lights and a nativity scene underneath the tree. It can’t be Christmas Eve without remembering them. Driving home from their house, I can remember always looking up in the sky for Santa.

The Kilgore’s are missing Merle this year…..I think of Merle at Christmas because one Christmas, he made my parents breathe a lot easier, knowing there would be some income the year to come. Thank you, Merle.

My Louisiana family are missing their beloved mother, Pat who was my mother’s sister. We used to make trips to Louisiana between Christmas and New Years and that’s where we’d bring in the new year. One new year that stands out is when we crossed into 1980. That was also the New Year’s Eve I slipped on a sleeping bag and nearly busted my noggin. I still have a bump over my left eyebrow as a reminder. Louisiana folks know how to bring in the new year, much more so than we do in Tennessee. Always, tons of fireworks and they are fond of bonfires down in Cajun Country. One year, firetrucks came, sirens clanging, lights flashing because they thought my aunt’s house was on fire.

Carl Smith is missing Goldie this Christmas; Arvemia Wilburn is missing Leslie; lots of us missed getting Jimmy Martin’s annual Christmas card showing many of the raccoons he killed during the year on various hunting expeditions; The Archer’s, who are in my Sunday School class, are missing their son, Jason, who would’ve been 20 last week and lost a valiant battle with cancer this summer; Bob Johnson is missing Sarah, who just transitioned a week ago tomorrow.

We went to Christmas Eve services earlier this evening. Our wonderful pastor, Glenn Weekley, made his first return to the pulpit following a kidney transplant (his second one, this time the donor was his daughter). Gosh, it was good to see him. He looked a wee bit tired and you could tell that his emotions were high. My 7 year old, Trevor, sang “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” with the congregation at the top of his lungs and with a sincere heart, making his brother and sister giggle with embarassment, but, for me and his dad, it was a precious sight. Wish I’d have had the video camera. At the end of the service, following communion, we all sang “Silent Night”, with lit candles. A few thousand people singing this beautiful carol, it was just breathtaking.

I’ve made our annual sausage balls, queso dip, haystack candy….the boys, including the biggest one, are gathered by the tv watching the Blue Collar Comedy Tour…A few months ago, we didn’t think we’d have much Christmas due to less income, but, tonight, there are presents wrapped and under the tree…we’re watching the Santa tracker on Norad and he’s bringing some neat surprises; Terry has a Grammy nomination, and I start a new full time job the first week of January….all is calm, at least in my home.

Happy Birthday Jesus.