Dave Watkins, today’s speaker of the final edition of the 61st annual Neosho Laymen’s League Pre-Christmas weeklong services, summed up “What Christmas Means to Me” in one word: Family.

Dave Watkins, speaker at the final edition of the 61st annual Neosho Laymen’s League Pre-Christmas weeklong services, summed up “What Christmas Means to Me” in one word: Family.

Watkins recalled Christmas Eve 1971, when his dad had a grand idea.

“We were not going to have any trash this Christmas,” Watkins said. “No trash. My grandparents always had a fire going in their fireplace. Fireplace, wrapping paper, you know where this is going.”

As the family opened the gifts, Watkins’ father would throw the paper into the fireplace.

“For awhile, everything went well, until we heard a knock at the door and sirens,” Watkins said. “Sure enough, the roof of my grandparents’ house was on fire. We had a good laugh the next Christmas when the local paper warned citizens not to burn wrapping paper in the fireplace.”

Watkins also remembers his father deciding to install a top-of-the-line toilet.

“It was unlike any we had seen,” Watkins said. “It was actually mounted to the wall and not on the floor. Well, my prim, proper and petite grandma excused herself to use the facilities. The next thing we heard was a thud, followed by a loud scream. You know, we found out that not many plumbers work on Christmas Day.”

Throughout his life, he said, Christmases in his home were filled with laughter and good times.

“I grew up in a loving, middle-class home in Kansas City,” Watkins said. “I honestly do not remember the presents received, but what I do remember is how much I enjoyed spending that time with my great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of both sides of the family. My family was very blessed.”

Growing up, Watkins assumed every family was just like his. But at the age of 8, it changed.

“My aunt and uncle were emergency foster-care parents and one Christmas Eve, they brought a boy with them who was a few years older than me,” Watkins said. “I overheard him tell my grandma that he had never met any of his grandparents and didn’t know if he had one.”

Watkins was shocked. How could someone not know their grandfather or grandmother?

“I was proud of grandma for telling him that he was one of her grandsons,” Watkins said. “The experience opened my eyes to how truly blessed I was to be a part of this family.”

“God gave us his son,” Watkins said. “But he gave us something else almost as special that night when Jesus was born: A model of how important a family is.”

Neosho Daily News