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Guest Columnist - Dr. Kemp Mabry
Revisiting Christmas past
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    Christmas away from home. In my family, Christmas was a true celebration, hearing again the Bethlehem Christmas Story.
    My father had grown up on a farm carved out of what had been Cherokee Indian Territory. He sent himself to prep school and college. When I was a child he worked many hours overtime during the weeks preceding Christmas to enhance the family income.
    Although I never asked “Santa Claus” for anything, there were always gifts under the tree. On Christmas Day we visited my maternal grandparents where we enjoyed Christmas dinner. There were a few more gifts under the tree for me as a young child. The focus was on God’s gift of the Christ Child.
    Christmas 1944  I was in the U.S. Army in England awaiting orders to cross the English Channel into France and maybe the Battle of the Bulge.
    On Christmas Day 1944, my master sergeant said to me, “Mabry, do you want to go to church?” Of course I did and we went to the service in a Church of England (Episcopal).
    I was a product of small town and country Baptist and Methodist churches. I was not familiar with the Episcopal order of worship. A kind English lady tried to explain to me what was going on but I could not understand a word she said in her British accent!
    We stood for “The Star Spangled Banner” and again for what I thought was “My Country ‘tis of Thee” but it was “God Save the King,” same tune, different words!
    I am still glad I went to church on Christmas Day, 62 years ago in Southern England.
    WWII was over in Europe by 1945 but I was still in the army. I did not have enough points to go home. I found myself in the Army of Occupation in Salzburg, Austria, for another year.
    We had a college credit school for a semester in which I enrolled. It was called Rainbow University. We were in the 42nd Rainbow Division. I was one of 400 students in Zell Am See.
    I took German, Psychology and Calculus. At graduation, I learned I was one of the three top students — hard work and intensive study on my part.
    I did well in German. Frau Gutmanstahl was my teacher, a former professor at University of Vienna. On Christmas Eve 1945, I was invited to Christmas dinner at Frau Gutmanstahl’s home, along with another student.
    By December, 1946, I was out of the Army and back at home. I never wanted to be away from my family again at Christmas.
    I finished my work at Georgia Tech on the Gl Bill and changed careers to the YMCA, beginning at Columbus in 1949. I was home for Christmas as I recall but my pastor at First Baptist, Columbus, asked me to speak in the evening service on New Year’s so he could go out of town.
    I had been the youth pastor in Youth Week earlier that year. I was lonesome indeed. Attendance was off, of course, but I did what I could to deliver my prepared message.
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