Bill and Gloria Gaither’s “A Homecoming Christmas”

“The Christmas Story: Tell It and Tell It Again!”

Bill and Gloria Gaither’s “A Homecoming Christmas”

By Rhonda Frye, Published December 2011 SGNScoops Magazine

For many years, people all over the world have joyously and reverently celebrated the birth of Christ. Celebrations including decorating with special symbols, the giving and receiving gifts and other festive traditions have been carried out for many years. Unfortunately for some people, the wonder of the true meaning of Christmas has been buried under customs that have grown meaningless. The First Family of Gospel Music, Bill and Gloria Gaither, have certainly held tightly to their love for the Christmas Story in spite of changing times, busyness and repetition.

 FINALGaithercoverFor decades, Bill and Gloria Gaither have been a source of inspiration with their music, their lyrics, books, poems and other writings.  Gloria has stirred hearts with her unique style of communicating truth with conviction, by using words of grace and eloquence. The Gaithers have now turned their attention to the wonder of the Christmas Season and are encouraging others to make Christmas a holiday that is deeply meaningful. With the help of Homecoming Artists, Bill and Gloria have collected a treasure chest of ideas, stories, traditions, recipes, photos and songs to capture the wonder of Christmas. “Wonder” is defined in the book as the holy hush we feel when we contemplate the season of Christ’s birth.

With much anticipation, A Homecoming Christmas-Sensing the Wonders of The Season, was released in September 2011. The book is divided into sections so that readers experience Christmas through the five senses- smell, touch, see, hear and taste. The Gaithers point out that the Christmas story can be told through the senses and each time it’s told and re-told, God is glorified.

In a interview with Scoops Magazine, Gloria shared the idea behind the book.  “I don’t think there is any theological concept that is huger or more difficult to wrap our minds around or more awesome (and I mean that in the true sense of that word) than the incarnation. The God that created, as we are discovering more and more- the unlimited cosmoses beyond cosmoses created first of all this little dot of earth of which life could survive and then brought to it human beings.  He then cared enough about His creation to come Himself and become one of us with our huge limitations so that we could understand that He was a loving, gracious, forgiving, healing God.” Gloria continues, “We have a lot of mistaken concepts of God. We know He’s out there and we know He’s huge, but we tend to think He’s angry or He’s judgmental.  The wonder is that Jesus said, ‘If you want to understand what God is like, look at me, I am here to show you what my Father is like.’

“Every year for centuries we have been trying to wrap our minds around it{the incarnation} first of all, and then we’ve tried to tell it to another generation of children, Gloria explains.  “We try to keep that alive so that the things we do in order to communicate the story don’t become meaningless traditions. If they become meaningless, it’s our fault or if they are erroneous, they should die,” she said with much conviction.

Gloria has a great understanding of how people learn and remember. She explains the concept of dividing the book into sections of the senses: “We have just five avenues to our conscious minds to work with and that is our five senses to sense what God is like. Maybe…just maybe… if we use all of those five we can then help our children and help ourselves every time the story is retold to transcend what we can see and feel and touch and hear and smell to something beyond what the senses can comprehend.”

Summing up the book concept, Gloria adds,” The idea of the book was to show or to tell how we have used those senses to try to explain this amazingly transcendent and awesome concept. I thought it would be great to divide the sections into the senses and have people tell their experience of Christmas through their senses.”

Gloria used beautiful pictures of her grandchild throughout the book.  “I wanted a child in the book that is just in the edge of understanding, she explained. “We wanted the same little face in each section to show his ears, his nose, his taste, to show how this child and all of our children are introduced to the wonder and the immensity of Christmas through things they can actually understand.”

The book is filled with heart-warming stories and traditions from many Homecoming friends. To pull an effort such as this off, Gloria is the first to say, she had a lot of help from many people. “First of all, this is a collaboration because the Homecoming artists were just fabulous to give us input and respond to questions giving us secrets of their family’s backgrounds, recipes and memories and things that had to do with the five senses,” Gloria explains.

Just as everything started coming together, Gloria had to have surgery. Emily Sutherland, a writer that works with Bill and Gloria on their website and in the office, lent a special helping hand during the project. “When the pieces started coming in a couple of weeks away from putting together and getting everything organized as we had envisioned,” Gloria shared, “I was going into the hospital to have a knee replacement. So- Emily stepped in and put the pieces together in the right places and made all the phone calls at the end to make sure all the corrections were correct. I wrote this book with a lot of help from my friends.”

It is vitally important to not get carried away into the hustle and bustle of the season so much so that the real meaning of Christmas is lost. Also, many people set out decorations without truly understanding the meaning of symbols and even the Christmas colors.  “It can almost get lost in the doing of stuff and if the stuff doesn’t mean anything-the stuff that we have got accustomed to… and I mean the stuff in the sense of objects and baked goods and foil and trees…If those things don’t mean  anything we should either discontinue it or find out what it means. For Christian homes, it is almost unforgivable for us to not take the time to hold each ornament or something with our children or even with just ourselves and reflect on the meaning.”

The Gaither children are grown and have children of their own, therefore this year, Gloria found herself decorating her Christmas tree by herself- but she found it to be a sacred thing. As she decorated with Nativities, she was reminded of how the little hands that used to help her are now helping their children do the same.

Gloria shared how she intentionally jogs the memory of other grandchildren so that they still connect with Christmas memories. “I have one grandson in George Washington University for the first time this year,” she said. “I find myself texting him saying ‘I just put up the nativity that you used to help me with.’ I don’t want him to forget, in his context, all the years of holding the baby Jesus, handling Mary, putting Joseph in place, telling the story of that trip to Bethlehem and how the angel guarded them and how the wise men brought the provision so that when Herod decided to kill all the babies, they had the funds to go to another country for 2 years even thought they were impoverished. I want him to remember how God’s provision is for us too.” Gloria explained, “He’s been told that story, so when I text him in the middle of a secular university in Washington, DC he can still connect. I wanted him to make him home-sick not to just leave his campus, I wanted to make him homesick for Jesus always in his heart,” she added.

Gloria’s book includes song stories, Christmas memories, recipes and traditions, but it doesn’t stop there. The icing on the Christmas Cake is the beautiful writings of noted, best-selling author and theologian, Dr. Calvin Miller. Miller who has nearly four million books in print, who served as a pastor for more than 30 years, who penned The Singer Trilogy added a poignant and eloquent touch.

Gloria shares her thoughts about Dr. Miller: “He is one of my favorite writers in the Christian Community. I fell in love with his writing when I was a 60’s college student myself. He had first written the “Singer Trilogy” which I think is one of the all-time great pieces of Christian literature. I think it will go down with Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Re-Gained, but I called Calvin and asked him from his point of view not only as a male, but as theologian (a theologian who can put things in our words because he’s very understandable) if he would from his point of view tell the Christmas story through the senses.”

“His pieces are all shaded so you can read them chronologically if you want to go through the book and read them one after the other,” Gloria explained. “They are wonderful and I would like to encourage pastors, worship leaders and people that plan Christmas programs to use some of his pieces because they are so beautiful to read and share with people, with a Christmas carol or whatever. He did just a beautiful job.”

Dr. Miller addresses the dilemma some face regarding secular celebrations. On page 6, Miller says, “There is the general feeling that we need to keep Santa and Jesus in separate pockets all through Christmas.”  He reminds us in his continuation on page 11 of James 1:17, “Every good and every perfect gift is from the Father above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Miller says, “We have but to ask ourselves, not ‘is this gift sacred or secular?’ but ‘Is this a good gift?’ And if it holds goodness, it is worthy of our Christmas celebration. Christ will not be embarrassed if we mention snow and peppermint as we celebrate His coming into human flesh.”

When asked, Gloria offered her perspective of celebrating Christmas in regards to Santa Claus. “There really was a person… a very wonderful priest by the name of Saint Nicholas. His name wasn’t famous at that point, nobody knew he was going to be such a good man. In his spirit of generosity, he was celebrating the birth of Christ by giving to people that would not have had any kind of special Christmas. I think by that we can also say is one of the things Santa Claus teaches us the importance of giving. The story about the elves and the North Pole and all that, that came from a poem- Twas the Night Before Christmas, but that is a fantasy story that’s fun to talk about, there is nothing wrong with that as long as we know that is a beautiful story that someone wrote, but there really was a man that went around in his village in Europe and made sure that kids weren’t without on Christmas. We can learn from that and do what the Wise-men did too and give our most precious things.” said Gloria.

There is no doubt about it, to celebrate the birth of Christ in a meaningful way requires effort, intentional planning and at times can be exhausting. Emily Sutherland offers encouragement on page 160. “It is worth every ounce of energy we have to bring honor to this holy story with our very best offerings. As we attempt to communicate the greatest story ever told, it takes all five of our human senses to begin to grasp even a piece of it. Yet even then, we need the touch of our Savior, who gave His last ounce of life for us. He longs to celebrate with us-to hear us sing and tell His Story. He delights in seeing the beauty that we create for His birthday. He takes joy in our personal incense offerings, whatever they may be, and sits at our feast as we share His abundance. And perhaps best of all, He delights to embrace us with His holy presence!”  Well said!

Thank you to Bill and Gloria Gaither for sharing your insights and memories along with gathering insights and memories from the Homecoming Family. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. On behalf of SGNScoops, we wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

Bill & Gloria Gaither’s “A Homecoming Christmas- Sensing the Wonders of the Season” can be ordered online at and can be found in many bookstores nationwide.

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