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COMMENTARY BY WILLIAM CARTER: What Christmas means to me

Growing up in rural, southern Georgia during the ‘60s and ‘70s the way I did, you couldn’t walk too many steps in any direction without running into Jesus. He was on funeral home fans and calendars and looking at you from behind Mama’s eyes when she gave you that “Mama-look” if she was disappointed in you and just about everybody had a picture of Him in their house either holding a lamb or praying on the Mount or just standing there all aglow and peaceful, wearing a clean, white robe and looking exactly like what we all figured Jesus was supposed to look like. 

I would get a little scared sometimes when I walked the sidewalk alone in front of the Baptist Church, because I was pretty sure He was quietly watching me and reading my mind from behind the stained-glass windows and tuning into my hoodlum ways, and I’d try to think of nothing but the Lottie Moon Missionary Fund or maybe sing the words to “Jesus Loves Me” over and over again in my head until I passed Miss Anne Dodson’s house and out of His line of sight and out of range of His powerful psychic abilities. I remember wondering once as I walked past what He did in there on days when it wasn’t Sunday and if He sat in the velvet-covered deacon chairs or if He ate the left-over Oreos from Vacation Bible School snack time or if He played the piano and, if He did, could He play it as well as Miss Carol Anderson.

Hanging on the wall of my Granddaddy’s barbershop was a picture of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns on His head and He overlooked all of the smoking and gossiping and minor gambling and rumored – but not known for a fact – liquor-drinking and Argosy and True Crime magazine-reading that went on, and there was a man named Doc who spent a lot of time there and he’d been in the Navy and he had tattoos on his arms and one was a tattoo of Jesus on the cross and he let me touch that faded ink one time and I asked him if it hurt and he told me yes but that it was worth it.

Jesus was everywhere.

His presence tripled or quadrupled in the two or three weeks before Christmas every year because just about any place you went during that time “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was being told and it was even printed in the local newspaper and there were manger scenes everywhere and somebody would get up on stage in front of everybody else during the Christmas assembly in the auditorium at school after all twelve grades together sang a ragged rendition of “Deck the Halls” and a verse or two of “Silent Night” and read that story from the Bible. We’d all hear it again when our Sunday school teacher told it on the Sunday before Christmas while holding up pictures that went along with her narration that showed Mary and Joseph and their donkey on their way to Bethlehem and later on in the story she’d hold up another picture and that one was of baby Jesus shining on a pile of hay in the manger and being looked at and adored by all the animals and all the people and there was always an angel with giant wings in the picture hovering above everybody else and kind of – but not really – smiling with its arms stretched out to its sides as if to say “Look!” and presenting the Child to the world.      

My favorite picture, though, was always the one of the Three Wise Men – driven by faith and dressed in finery – paused on a sand dune atop their camels and looking up at and pointing towards that one bright star among millions they believed would guide them through a long, long journey across the desert where they would end up as witnesses to an event that would forever change the world.

I never told anybody, but every Christmas Eve I go outside for awhile after dark and look up at the sky and pick a star and wonder if it’s the same one while knowing all along that it’s not but that it doesn’t matter as long as I believe.

I always wonder, too, if Jesus can still read my mind and if He ever learned to play the piano as well as Miss Carol Anderson does.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Merry Christmas from me and Love-Weasel and Tall-Boy and Miss Vickie and Big-D and Bear-Dog and Jack-Jack and Betty-Bob and Pearl.



William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at            



Posted on: 12/18/2012


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