A Familiar Ho Ho Ho

Childhood memories of Christmas Eve are usually festive family dinners and piles of presents under colorful trees. My memories, however, are loud sirens and red fire trucks.

I lived in a small rural community in Ohio called Madison Township. Each Christmas Eve the volunteer fire department pulled Santa in his sleigh behind a fire truck from one side of the township to the other. Santa was escorted by a caravan of all the department’s fire trucks and volunteer firefighters’ personal vehicles with the portable flashing lights on the dashes. (I’m not sure what would have happened if there had been a fire in Madison Township on Christmas Eve.)

My dad and Uncle Kent always participated. I can remember my mom and aunt wishing they wouldn’t some years because it held up our Selby Family Christmas Eve dinner. But for us kids, it was quite a thrill. And in our community, it was a big part of Christmas Eve. Kids from one to ninety-two stood in their doorways straining their ears for the first hint of sirens, signaling Santa was near. Santa stopped in front of every house and talked to every kid. Where a sick child or an older person lived who couldn’t get out in the cold, Santa climbed out of his sleigh and made a surprise house call. And, of course, the stop at our house was always extra fun since we had some special pull with Santa. I could never really put my finger on it, but his “ho ho ho” sounded a bit familiar to me.

As we got older, all of us Selby kids were allowed to ride in the fire trucks in Santa’s caravan. Afterall, we were VIP’s of Santa! My grandma, disabled from several strokes, even rode with us one year, not too many seasons before she died. As more years passed, we moved away from that small community and the “job” was passed to others. But the Christmas Eve memories remain. They are loud and red and wonderful!

Thanks, Dad, for your love of Christmas… and your jolly laugh… which still sounds a lot like a guy in a red suit I recall from many years ago.


The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (NIV)

Grandma Maude Selby and Uncle Kent Selby

Grandma Maude Selby and Uncle Kent Selby

The Dreaded Family Christmas Celebration

Deck the halls and jingle the bells! It’s time for THE DREADED FAMILY CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION. Your Uncle Bill will be highly obnoxious, as usual. Your cousin’s five kids will run wild and unattended. Your Grandpa Joe will tell the story that he has told eighty-five times before. Your mother-in-law will be critical of your every move, including your technique for carving the ham. Your stomach muscles will draw up and twist into the shape of a beautiful Christmas bow.

Here’s a crazy thought… What if YOU could change the experience for everybody? What if YOUR PRESENCE could make the event better? What if YOU could set the temperature for the family gathering rather than just react to it?

Think of it like being a THERMOSTAT instead of a THERMOMETER.

  • A THERMOMETER REACTS to the temperature in the room. It assesses the situation and then records the temperature. If it’s 68 degrees in the room, the thermometer will say 68. Whatever is happening in the room determines what the thermometer will do.
  • A THERMOSTAT SETS the temperature in the room. It assesses the situation and then takes action to change the temperature, if it is not accurate. If it’s 68 degrees in the room and it’s supposed to be 70, the thermostat will cause the heating unit to kick on. The thermostat determines what will happen in the room.

          So try this… When you arrive at your family Christmas celebration, assess the situation. Is the temperature accurate? What’s missing? Love? Joy? Peace? Then, be a thermostat and do what you can to set the temperature to a pleasant level.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!