Christmas memories, Stuart Puckett, Wednesday’s speaker during the Laymen’s League Pre-Christmas Services, also talked about the recent tragedy in the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“Christmas time is a season for celebration, reflection, worship and joy, but just as the recent tragedy in the school in Connecticut can demonstrate, it can also be a very difficult, troubling time,” Puckett said. “Words that I can say will not bring healing to those families or those communities. My heart aches for them because of their loss, but it also hurts for a less obvious reason. An entire generation in a small town will never again be able to celebrate the Christmas season without the thought of lost lives, broken families, lost traditions and memories which have been shattered.”
While sitting in church at the United Methodist Church in Neosho the other morning, Puckett said his pastor reminded the congregation that it was now more important than ever to celebrate the season of Christmas.
“Silence at this time is not golden: our hearts, our minds, our families and our communities, our world need to pay tribute during this time in a joyful fashion,” he said.
Puckett read from 1st Peter 3:15-16, which states, “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.”
“This morning, I shall try to explain the ‘hope’ or, better yet, the ‘belief’ which is in me and the reason our home will celebrate Christmas this year,” he said.
Puckett talked about a Christmas from his childhood when his parents traveled from Little Rock to his grandmother’s house in Neosho. He associates the sound of train whistles with that trip.
“It wasn’t a big elaborate affair: my grandfather on my mom’s side had passed before I was born,” he said. “Nannie wasn’t big into decorations. There was always the tree, a wreath, and a bell hanging from the knocker on the front door. As tradition would have it, the family all gathered together for a few days. What I remember from those days surprisingly enough wasn’t the presents, it was the menu, not the food, but the menu. The consistent menu is what is most memorable and much like the whistle, it was the same, it always occurred, you could trust that it would be the same, and it always was.”
He noted that Christmas day started off with homemade cinnamon rolls.
“Nannie and the other ladies of the house would then begin preparing the afternoon lunch,” Puckett said. “Pork tenderloin — pan fried — with gravy, biscuits and fruit salad. I learned later on that we ate pork tenderloin because it coincided with the butchering process, which occurred in early winter. That was it, but that was more than enough. As I noted before it was the consistency of the menu, which was rooted in history, which meant so much to me as a child; and much like the train whistle, that was what Christmas meant to me.”
Page 2 of 2 - Later on when his family moved to Neosho, the traditions of homemade cinnamon rolls and pork tenderloin carried on.
“As time moved forward and our home became Neosho, new traditions gradually worked their way into my routine,” he said. “We began attending church at the United Methodist Church downtown, hanging of the greens was always a favorite evening of mine. We would adorn our classroom at the church by stringing popcorn and cranberries on thread.”
Puckett also talked about when he met his future wife, Suzanne, while attending the University of Missouri. The couple later made their home in St. Louis. After his grandmother passed away, they decided to move to Neosho. Later on, Puckett told about his children and how life-long traditions will continue.
“Christmas in our home will be a season steeped in tradition to remind us of those that passed before us,” he said. “ It will be a season of forgiveness, so that we can embrace the healing and restoring power of forgiveness. Christmas will be a season of resolve and trust in His will. God will lead us down His chosen course with love and faith in our hearts.
Finally, Christmas will be a time of celebration. Christ was born to save us from sin, but it is my belief that along the way, throughout life, He hands us blessings, these blessings occur around us every moment. Recognize them, embrace them and celebrate them. I want my sons to take the time, listen a little closer and maybe they might hear that same whistle.”
Focusing on the main theme of the weeklong Laymen’s League services, “What Christmas Means to Me,” Puckett was led to a Bible verse.
“As I reflected upon this question, I was led to Philippians 4:8: ‘Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things,’” he stated. “This is our Christmas wish for you and your family, during this holiday season. Merry Christmas.”