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Memories at Christmas Time

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

   ‘Tis the season to reclaim memories. Thanks be to God for treasured recollections, and for His giving us the discernment to call pleasant ones into play from days gone by.

And why not? To dwell on unpleasant ones is gain for no one. The ones we value greatest are as welcome chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or rides across fields in a one-horse open sleigh. (That said, I think I could be equally happy in a sleigh drawn by two horses, or even four.)

Today’s memories center on two “Baylor brothers”–Drs. BO and Dick Baker, giants by any measure of ministry. They come to mind at a time in history when the university’s name has been smudged by a football program scandal that won’t seem to go away. BO was a well-known minister/evangelist/writer. Dick was a music minister/vocalist/composer. They brought much good to the world.

Neither of them ever truly retired. Even in their 80s, they were in demand, responding to requests as long as they were physically able. BO died at age 86 in 2010; Dick died a year later at 84. Their Christian witness continues to wash against the shores of eternity.

BO wrote a heart-warming Christmas story for the Baptist Standard. His annual piece appeared annually for 34 years. It was as welcome as fresh-cut Christmas trees, or the sounds of reindeer hooves touching housetops of the world as Santa made his Christmas Eve rounds.

Perhaps no brothers ever worked together more closely in Christian ministry than the Bakers. BO preached worldwide, and Dick was at his side during most of the years. (With more than 300 musical pieces to his credit, Dick published songs for 64 years.)

In the Metroplex, Dick is remembered for introducing grand Christmas pageants at Prestonwood Baptist Church, where he was longtime minister of music. It continues with multiple presentations annually. Almost 70,000 people attended the 13 performances this month.

Shortly before his death, I asked Dick what he most remembered about the pageants, which are known for grand music, unbelievable choreography and live animals, including camels.

I thought he might cite one of his own favorite arrangements, or show-stopping renditions by some talented vocalist. I was wrong. “That’s easy,” he answered. “There were numerous chilling moments experienced in the dead of night.” Turns out, he received many nocturnal phone calls from the Dallas Police Department. “Hey, Dick, your camels got loose again. They were last seen galloping through the intersection of Preston and Arapaho.”

Still ringing in my ears are sermonic expressions for which BO was long known. “Draw in a little closer,” he liked to say, often multiple times during evangelistic messages. He’d also say something akin to, “I’m so glad to be your revival preacher. But you need to know that my best sermon will be tomorrow night.” (Naturally, he’d repeat the claim nightly until the final service.)

Another Christmas memory centers on the late Paul Crume, brilliant front page columnist for the Dallas Morning News. In 1967, he wrote a Christmas Day column entitled “Angels Among Us.” So well-received was the piece that it continues to appear annually in the DMN. I look forward to it again this year–for the 50th time.

I consider it “must” reading; it’s a grand tonic for those of us who believe in angels.

The old year soon to leave us is treasured for birthing a grand Christian book and a movie of the same name–Miracles from Heaven. The “star” is Annabel Beam, the youngster who said an angel told her how to snap on a harness lowered down a rotted tree trunk so she could be lifted to safety. (She had fallen 30 feet down the trunk of a 100-year-old tree on the family home place.)

I believe her.

And I pray that in this blessed season, as you claim your very best memories, you’ll sense angels nearby, or hear the rustle of their wings.

 

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.