The Eternal Christmas
By Dr. J. Frank Norris
Note – The audio recording of Norris preaching this sermon can be heard on YouTube.
Our Text: “And They Presented Unto Him Gifts” – It is a Time of Giving.
The best solution for your own doubts, even to the depths of your own despair is to find out how you can give something. The scripture says it is “more blessed to give than to receive”. The bitterest waters that I have ever tasted are the waters of the Dead Sea – always receiving but never giving out. First of all we should give ourselves. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” – as a temple of the Holy Ghost, therefore we should keep it and not defile it. It is the house in which we live and the house where the Holy Spirit comes to dwell. Next, we should give our souls that which shall never die. As Socrates said when asked, “Where shall we bury you?” He replied, “Bury me? Why you have to take hold of me first. The soul that is within me you cannot bury. The grave is not its home.” Death is not its end for it has no end. We should then give all that we possess.
“The first gave themselves,” said the Apostle Paul. What should we give to? Time will not permit me to call the roll. We should give our love to those we love and who love us. We should give to those who do not love us. Those in other lands who do not love us, we should love, for Christ died for them. The man who is in darkness and unbelief; we should remember that Christ loved us before we loved him, therefore, we should love the unlovely. Jesus loves us not because we are good, because we are not good. If you want to have real joy, find out how you can do something for somebody by which you know you’ll never get any reward in this life. That’s unselfish love.
Of those we love, certainly we should give to our mothers. I’m not talking about material things; give to her who gave all for us. Young people, the day will come when you’ll give the whole world if you can just rollback the hands of time, to plant even a kiss upon her brow – but you can’t now. It will all come to you. One of the proud memories of my life was when I was away from home, I always wrote my mother one long letter every week then a card or a short word everyday. I was conducting a funeral one day and a lady was telling me about all the children, in-laws and out-laws – they were all outlaws, what they did to their own mother, how they neglected her the whole community knew it. There were about 15 or 20 relations sitting there, and I just said this was one time that I’m going to preach to the living and say nothing about the dead. And I did. Afterward Miss Jane said, “I thought you’d never get through.” I said, “I didn’t get through.” Any crowd of children that would neglect an old helpless mother there’s no word in any language that could describe their base ingratitude. One of them came around and repented because he was caught.
There were several million mothers who remembered how Harry Truman was considerate of his old mother. I said to one of the biggest Republicans in America, “My friend, you better look out. I’m not going to say anything about it but when election day comes, there’s going to be a lot of women who remember how kind he was to his mother. He was criticized because he didn’t stay in Washington – he went over and got a little tiny room next door to his mother’s.” Oh he said, “She stood by me when I needed her, I will not forsake her now when she needs me.” That election night, after Dewey threw in the sponge and sent his congratulatory message, which was expected and promised, we sent him this message: “To Senator Harry Truman, Kansas City, Missouri: “The prize of your great mother followed you through your most unprecedented and single-handed campaign throughout America. And today, her prayers were answered when her boy was elected President of the United States.”
The first day he got back from Key West after two days of vacation, Senator Truman sent a little letter from the White House, Washington D.C., November 2, 1948: “Dear Dr. Norris, I was touched by the message you sent me and I want to thank you for the thoughts you express. You were more than kind to wire me and I certainly appreciate it. Signed Sincerely, Harry Truman.” No secretary about it. A lot of people don’t like him. It doesn’t seem to bother him very much. I’m glad that we have a man in the White House who knows what the word “Mother” means.
Oh, the tired little mother, she gets nervous. The marvel to me is that a lot of them don’t go to the insane asylum the way their husbands neglect them and their children harass them. Don’t ever find fault with her. I don’t care what she does. And mothers, don’t find fault with your children. I was walking down the street the other day and I heard a mother shout “Come on!” (I thought she was talking to a dog.) “Come on! You stand back then and look in every window.” The little fella put his finger up to his lips; he looked all around. She was mad because by then everybody saw it. She grabbed him and I thought he’d be a one-armed boy the rest of his life. Then I looked at her and she went down through the crowded sidewalk. I said, “Poor mother.”
I shall never forget the first Christmas I was away from home. My only brother drove me to the station and just before we got to the lane where I should turn and not see back the little farm house, I turned and looked back. I saw Mother standing on the porch with the apron brushing away her tears. I saw dear old Dad leaning on the post of the gate with his head down. I turned and I waved one long farewell. I knew I was gone.
I was like Jacob away from home at Bethel. The time came for me to return. I got in a night ahead for the Christmas Holidays. I thought I would surprise my mother. Nobody met me and I walked about a mile – it was very muddy. And when I stepped on the front porch my dad said, “Who comes there?” Mother said, That’s Frank.” There’s something about a mother that can understand even the footfall. God has given mothers that peculiar intuition that men are not endowed with. They got up and lit a fire, we sat there and it was home again. After I sat there a little while, I said, “Mother, I’m tired of that boarding house hash, do you have anything left?” She said there is always something left. I went into the kitchen, which was also our dining room, sat down and brought out a big baked ham. Then a great big loaf of homemade bread. And mother stood there and brought out everything from half-moon pies and potato custard to cream covered pies. I said, “Just give me time. I just want some time.” I went to bed that night and the angels camped knew around about that hall.
I’ll never forget the first Christmas tree I ever saw in Columbia, Alabama. I was seven years old and I heard the boys and girls talking about the Christmas tree and going to see Santa Claus. And I said I want to go. As the time approached, I thought I’d go. Mother said no. I said, “Why, Mother?” “Well, you musn’t go.” She was sick in bed; unfortunately my dad was drinking and was on the bed in the adjoining room. “No, I don’t want you to go because you will be disappointed. You’ll have no Santa Claus, there will be nothing on the tree for you.” I said, “That’s all right, Mother. I’ll have a good time just seeing it.” Well, she pled with me not to go and I pled with her to go and finally she said all right. It was a very beautiful cold night and I didn’t have any overcoat. I ran to keep warm. When I got to the courthouse, there must have been at least 1500 people. Everybody was so happy to see the great big Christmas tree lit up. Old Santa Claus came up and I looked at him – first one I’d ever seen. I was having the best time in the world. I enjoyed it. Santa said, “Now, when your names are called, you answer ‘here’ but don’t anybody unwrap your package.” I knew I wasn’t going to answer Here.” He called the roll. I sat between the two sons of the only banker in that town, Sam and Wiley Spencer. One of them was about my age, the other was older. After a while Santa Claus said, “Sam Spencer.” “Here”. Brought him a great big box. I looked at it. “Wiley Spencer.” “Here.” They brought him a great big box. I knew I wasn’t going to get anything. I just sat there and looked down. I heard one of the kids behind me saying, “He ain’t gonna get nothing, his dad’s a drunkard. He ain’t going to get nothin’.” I couldn’t help it. I bit my lip and I swallowed my tears and there was something born in my soul. I said, “That’s all right, there’ll come another day.”
And after a while a voice called, “Frank Norris.” I knew it didn’t mean me and I didn’t answer. I was scared so bad I couldn’t. A boy said, “Here he is” and they brought me a little package. I broke the string and looked at it: Presented to my first born son, Mother. It was a little 30 cent Bible. And when I got my little package, you know what they did? They had already made fun of my clothes. Then they said, “Well, look what we got, is that all you gonna get?”
But “that all” was the biggest “all” that any man on Earth could ever receive. That “all” – the Eternal Word of God that told me where I came from, told me of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem; Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God. “That all” tells me what is going to happen to this old world and how the devil is going to be chained and Christ is going to come and establish His Kingdom on the Earth. “That all” tells me how that we must be born again and receive Eternal Life.
Time marches on. Thirty years from that very time in the Spring of that year, I was in that place. I was on my way to Atlanta where there was a great church. I had turned down a call to it several times but I felt that I should go. Just before I went, D.W. Owens, a great Methodist Layman, got it in his heart to do something for me (and I don’t know why). He said, “Frank, go down to the best tailor in the city.” I needed a new suit mighty bad, so I went down and got the finest suit of clothes ever made. He gave me a $225 overcoat – it was tailored. He bought me the finest hat and shoes that were in the store. He got me two fine neckties and I had those on when I went to this place.
Standing in front of this very little courthouse, my first cousin said, “Frank, do you remember Sam and Wiley?” I said, Yes.” “Well, there comes Wiley now.” I saw a man who was bent and whose clothes were ragged with a face covered in a month’s growth of beard. And he said, “Wiley, you remember Frank.” He looked at me. Of course he had forgotten that Christmas Eve night. Yes.” I took hold of his hand, trembling, “Wiley,
how are you?” Well he says, “Not doing so well.”
It all flashed in my mind how that when I ran home that night, when went in and mother was on the bed and she asked me, Did you have a good time?” And I brushed away my tears and said, “I won’t let her see me crying.” I cried every step of the way home because of what they had said and I burst into a flood of tears. She said, “What’s the matter?” and I said, “Nothing.” “What are you crying about?” I said, “Don’t, don’t, don’t ask me, Mother.” “But you must tell me why you are crying.” I said, “Mother, you can’t help it.” “Well, what is it?” And since she pulled me down I had to tell her and I said, “Mother, I know my clothes wasn’t as good as theirs and I know I didn’t have an overcoat this cold night and I knew everybody in the room knew my poor unfortunate dad was a drunkard.” She pulled me down and kissed me and said, “That’s all right. The day will come when you will wear good clothes,” and I kissed her for giving me the Bible. She continued, “And the day will come when your voice will be heard around the world preaching that Book that lives and abides forever.”
Oh, how good the Lord is in answering mother’s prayers and I close with this: When I feel like giving up and I don’t know how to pray, I walk through the woods or stand on the edge of the lake and I say, Lord, if You’re not gonna hear me, please open Your Book and turn back and read where one Christmas Eve night a little sick, tired mother said, “You’ll preach the gospel around the world.” And I get new courage.
The eternal Christmas is coming when we’ll never have a tear, never see a prison bar, no dragging chains, no marching to war, no buzzing of cannons, no crippled soldiers. In that place we’ll need neither sun nor stars where we shall behold his face, and not for one day of Christmas but for ever and ever. We shall behold his face. Angels tens of thousands upon tens of thousands shall sing honor and glory and praise unto Him that sitteth on the throne.
There is the land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers;
Death like a narrow sea divides
This heavenly land from ours.
Sweet fields beyond the swelling food
Stand dressed in living green;
So to the Jews Old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.
But timorous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.
Oh! could we make our doubts remove,
These gloomy thoughts that rise,
and see that Canaan that we love,
With unbeclouded eyes –
Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood,
Could fright us from the shore.