Eric Norris, a local insurance agent, was Friday’s guest speaker for the 67th annual Neosho Laymen’s League Pre-Christmas Services, held at First Presbyterian Church.

“As I began preparations and thinking about what Christmas means to me, so many thoughts and memories came rushing through my mind,” he said in his opening comments. “As I was categorizing all my memories, they all began to fall into one area and that was traditions. It seems that the holiday season is the most tradition time of the year. With parties, shopping, giving gifts, spending times with friends and family, decorating, cooking, baking, you name it, we all have those sacred traditions that we make sure we accomplish every year around this time.”

Norris told the group of laymen that in his 29 years of life, he didn’t have a ton of life experiences.

“Shauna [his wife] and I don’t have any children yet, so many of things that I cherish as traditions stem from my childhood,” he noted.

He listed some of his traditions growing up such as breakfast with his parents and brother, then rushing down the street to his cousins’ house to watch them open their presents.

Another tradition was the Christmas pageant.

“The tradition of being Joseph every year in the church Christmas pageant because I was one of the only boys my age at church,” Norris said. “I would complain every year and say I wasn’t going to do it, but mom always was successful in changing my mind.”

And then there was the tradition of Christmas bingo at his grandmother’s house, where the winners would get to pick a present from the gift basket.

Norris also told the audience that the tradition of watching “The Christmas Story.”

“I still hold today of watching at least six [showings] of ‘The Christmas Story’ during the 24 hours that it is on every Christmas Eve,” he said. “I can pretty much recite the whole movie, but it is still wonderful.”

He also mentioned that he would watch the movie “Christmas Vacation” with the Griswald family.

“In gathering my thoughts for this morning, it struck me just how much growing older and maturing effects your view of things,” he said. “While many of these traditions that I just mentioned I still do today, some I don’t so often. There isn’t any big rush to get on Christmas day to rush downstairs to see if Santa brought everything that was on my list. Come to think of it, I haven’t made a list in years. Traditions change, where we place importance changes as we change.”

Norris read the following scriptures: Matthew 15: 1-10, Micah 6:16 and Colossians 2:8.  

“These three verses are just as true today in my life as they were in biblical times,” Norris said. “As a child, it was about presents, sure I knew it was Jesus’ birthday, I went to Christmas Eve services, but the real excitement was what is Santa bringing. Nowadays, for me as I continue to grow and mature, Christmas is more and more about being with my family, creating memories and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ my savior, God coming to this earth in the flesh. Sure I will continue my family traditions and others, but I will make sure Jesus is centered in all of my activities, and I hope you will do the same with your loved ones.”

Next year, the Laymen’s League will be held at Calvary Baptist of Neosho.