My dad has a favorite poem that he enjoys reading during this holiday season. I thought I’d share it with you:

“I am thinking of you today because it is Christmas and I wish you happiness. And tomorrow, I shall still wish you happiness. I may not be able to tell you about it everyday because I may be far away or we may be very busy. But that makes no difference — my thoughts and my wishes will be with you just the same. Whatever joy or success comes to you will make me glad. Throughout the year, I wish you the spirit of Christmas.”

— Henry van Dyke

The “spirit of Christmas.” What is that exactly? Peace on earth; goodwill toward men. Love. Joy. Giving. Sharing. I could go on and on. I was raised knowing that the greatest Christmas gift ever was given to us from God — the gift of His only son, Jesus. When you get a gift, it’s not really “your” gift until you “receive” it. The same holds true with the true “gift of Christmas” — Jesus. You must make the decision to “receive” this gift.

Christmas is a special time of year. As I’m writing this, I’m in the living room of our daughter’s home in Georgia. The tree is twinkling; the fire is going in the fireplace and everyone is enjoying “rest time” for an hour. I spoke to Ryker, our youngest, after his church service today where he sang and played the organ. I just spoke with Deke, our oldest, who was on his way to peruse a record store in Memphis. Family separated by miles, but not by heart.

I will admit, I love to open gifts with family. Not because of what I get, for you see, my gift is being with family and seeing them enjoy the gifts they are receiving. I get told that I’m hard to buy for because, when the kids ask, “what do you want for Christmas”, my answer is always the same: “to be with my family.” It’s true. Knowing that my family is safe, healthy and happy is truly a wonderful gift.

One of my favorite Christmas movies is “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” There is a part in the movie that says the following: “The Grinch hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same. And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?’ It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! ‘What if Christmas’, he thought ‘didn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?’”

With 2020 being the year of nothing being the same as it’s been before, we have two choices (in my opinion). We can moan and groan and think about what used to be OR we can look at all that we still have: friends, family, hope, love, Jesus. Christmas isn’t a one-day thing; it’s something we should enjoy all year. It’s taking time to slow down and truly count our blessings.

Another of my favorite Christmas movies is “The Preacher’s Wife.” The music is amazing! The church scene at the end is phenomenal and the sermon has this to say: “While we are here on this earth, there are some things we have to work for and through. It could be a job; it could be a church; it could be a community; could be a marriage (personal interjection: could be a pandemic). But the good news is, God gave us two secret weapons to succeed — hope and love. Hope: that’s all a prayer is. And love — loving is giving.”

So, in this holiday season, may I combine my dad’s favorite poem and two of my favorite Christmas movie quotes to say this: “Whatever joy or success comes to you will make me glad. Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Christmas means so much more. 2020 has changed a lot of things for us but we can still have hope and love ... and that is the spirit of Christmas.”

Merry Christmas from the Dillards!

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Dawn Dillard is a proud East Texas gal who loves all things southern especially cooking, music and family. She can be reached via email at