It was my first year in the broadcast profession. And even though it was over 50 years ago, I can remember it clearly and distinctly. In a sense…it was an early education program that God sent me that Christmas season so long ago.
I was excited. My first radio job. KGFF, Shawnee, Oklahoma. A small AM station in the college town where I was attending Oklahoma Baptist University. I was in the process of changing my major from music to speech, with the idea of pursuing a career in radio and television. I had my first radio position, and I was excited.
The first lesson for me that holiday was this: Someone has to keep the radio station going, even during holidays…like Christmas. I normally worked nights and weekends. And I quickly learned I would not be going home for the Christmas break. There were only a handful of us students there. An empty campus. An empty dorm. And… I would soon learn… an empty holiday.
My routine was to grab a 15-cent hamburger on the way to the radio station in the late afternoon. Yes…that’s what they cost then…and that was about all I had to spare. Then I worked untilmidnight. After I played the National Anthem and closed down the station, it was back to the empty room on the empty campus. I would wake up late the next day, and repeat the same routine. Day after day, all through the Christmas break.
Yes, I was thrilled to be working in radio. And I was learning a lot about the craft. But the holiday was quite empty for me.
Then, a kind man who had been to my hometown brought me a big box. In it were the gifts my family had wrapped and sent for my Christmas celebration. They didn’t want me to be left out. That was a neat moment. But I was about to learn a BIG lesson.
I remember opening the first gift. It was from my Mom and Dad, and it was a watch. I couldn’t believe it. It was beautiful. I don’t know what it cost, but I knew it was a stretch just to pay for my education, much less give such a nice gift. Upon seeing it, I was excited. Thankful. Happy. But that was short lived. As I looked at that watch, I realized there was no one there to thank. No one to hug. No one whose eyes sparkled in anticipation of my reaction to the gift. An empty moment.
No more Christmas gifts got opened that day. Or the next. Eventually I opened them, one a day or so. Then I would set it aside and go on to my radio routine. Sleep. Eat. Work. Repeat.
The big lesson I learned that Christmas had little to do with school or radio. The lesson learned had an eternal impact on me. You see, I understood that the joy of that Christmas wasn’t in the presents I received. It was because of the giver of those gifts…my family. Without them, the gifts held no real meaning. Yes, I appreciated the thoughtful gifts. But I missed the joy of personal fellowship with the ones who went out of their way so I wouldn’t miss Christmas.
It seems a lot of folks have missed that lesson. We love to see the pretty picture of the baby in the manger. And we love the happy feeling we get with all the concerts, music, lights, parties, and presents. But we often miss the Giver of the Gift. The disciple John told us that God… Almighty God… Creator of the universe and all that is in it…that God… so loved the world (you and me) that He gave a gift… His only Son… Jesus… to be born, to live, to die, so that we might have the joy and hope of Heaven. The old Christmas carol painted the dramatic picture for us.
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity….
God gave His Son. God is the Giver of the Gift. As James reminds us…every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights.
I learned a lot in that first radio job at KGFF in Shawnee, Oklahoma. About announcing. About news, and commercials, and music. About radio in general. But the greatest lesson…the greatest understanding I gained…was learned in an empty dorm room on an empty campus in front of a box full of wrapped Christmas presents. What I learned was that it is the giver of the gift that is most important.
Today, enjoy the gifts, the family, the food, the lights and music. But don’t lose sight of the One who gives the most important gifts, and the most important Gift…Jesus. Let’s live for Him. To God be the glory. Great things He has done.
The writer: Ron Harris began his broadcast career over 50 years ago. He has worked in radio, television, and church music and media. He has taught communication at both the university and seminary level. Ron Harris was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Dallas Baptist University. He is president of MEDIAlliance International, training and mentoring Christian broadcasters worldwide. Ron and Judy Harris have been married for over 50 years, and live in Arlington, Texas. They have four children and six grandchildren.