God Bless you and a merry, merry Christmas to you wonderful readers all around the
And if it's not asking too much, I'd like each of you to email me right back right now
before you forget it if for no other reason but to say, "Merry Christmas and Happy New
Please. I need to hear from you.
This is my 65th Christmas. My dear mother, Sarah Loraine Sanders, lived only to
enjoy 43 Christmases and my father, Rev. Anderson Douglas Banks, Sr., lived only to
I had some serious concerns whether I'd see this Christmas when I was told in April
that I not only had end-stage congestive heart failure requiring a heart transplant to
assure me I'd live out the year, but that I also had brain cancer and prostate cancer,
which promptly disqualified me from being a candidate for the heart transplant.
But through faith, prayer (yours and mine) and the God-blessed care of doctors,
my wife, family and friends, here I am today singing, "Deck the halls with boughs of
holly. Fa la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la la la la la" as well as
a host of other Christmas carols. I love Christmas carols. And my wife Joyce and I
celebrate Christmas for two weeks (from Dec. 2o to Jan. 3) and have raised our children
to do the same and to understand that Christmas is the mass for Christ. It's JESUS.
So, thank you Jesus!
I love winter. It's my favorite season, cold weather and all, because it is when we
celebrate on Dec. 25 the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ. I love snowflakes
falling, chestnuts roasting, jingle bells ringing, fireplaces burning, carolers singing,
Christmas trees being lushly trimmed with dazzling decorations, colorful-wrapped
presents being exchanged and families fellowshiping.
Thank God for Christmas! Come on and shout it out with me, if you will. Thank God
My most precious memories are those of past Christmases spent in my childhood
when our family--my parents, four brothers and three sisters--were all together at
home to celebrate this most blessed of holy holidays. My parents were poor, which meant
so were we children. We were dependent upon what the poor parisherners of the
churches my father pastored were able to give him in salary and special offerings. And
when our church members could not give him money, they'd give food and produce for my
mother to cook.
And my mother--have mercy!--was one of the best cooks in the history of the planet
earth. If daddy could catch it, whatever it was, mama could cook it. This includes rabbits,
squirrels, possums, coons, fish, ducks, geese, turkeys, peas, greens, beans, corn, okra,
Despite our poverty, which included, yes, us fighting bill collectors, eviction notices,
rats, roaches, turned-off utilities, frequent hunger, cold, sickness and shame, mama and
daddy did the best they could to assure that we would have at least a little teeny, weeny
piece of a merry Christmas.
I remember my father crying a couple of times before the family prayer, apologizing
that he hadn't been able to do better for us that Christmas and emphasizing that Santa
Claus and presents and decorated trees were not the real foundation of a merry
Christmas anyway. Naw, naw, naw. It's Jesus.
I said, it's Jesus. Christmas is JESUS. He is the reason for the season. Jesus. I said,
JESUS. Close your eyes, if you will for one moment, and say with me, "Happy birthday
There would always be presents under our Christmas trees, which were sometimes
skinny and skimpy. Then there would be a box of fruit, mixed nuts and candy. Daddy often
would buy a great big ol' pepperment cane, which he or mama would break up and ration
out to us gleeful kids.
As time went by, death started dropping by our house uninvited and unwelcomed.
First, he took five of my infant sisters and brothers, including four who did not survive
the cradle to enjoy Chritstmas with us surviving eight. Second, he took our mother at
a young age and in a most painful way as she died in Mount Bayou, Miss., from blood
poisoning after her 13th baby died in her womb and she did not have competent medical
care to prevent this or to find it out in time to effectively remove the baby to save her
Next, death took daddy. He died of a stroke. By that time, most of us had grown up
and moved out on our own to have families of our own. Only my older brother, Sonny,
who was mentally retarded from a childhood illness and my youngest brother, Hansel,
lived at home with my stepmother Mildred Johnson-Banks.
Death then took my oldest sister, Mrs. Maude Lee Burrell, who died of end-staged
congestive heart failure when she could not shake an infection to qualify for the
transplant, and then my brother Hansel, whose congestive heart failure was exacerbated
by alcoholism. He died of a heart attack.
Then came my health challenges--my brain cancer, prostate cancer and bad heart.
I could feel death trying to sneak up on me. I felt that I would be the next to go. But I
would not go without a fight.
When I was a boy, I was scared of death. When we got evicted from a house in
Indianapolis, a two-bedroomer where five of us slept in one bed, three at the head and
two at the foot, we had to spend some nights living in the church basement. I was so
afraid of that experience because I would be haunted by the memories of funerals that
had been held upstairs in the sanctuary.
But as I matured over the years and grew in faith and God's grace, I conquered my
fear of death and of dead people. It dawned on me that no dead person had ever called
me "Nigger" the way white folk did in his Mississippi boyhood. No dead person had ever
cursed me out, beat me up or threatened to cut or shoot me. So it dawned on me that
I should fear the living people instead of the dead people.
And since by the salvation of Christ Jesus, I have eternal life, there is no need for
me to fear death. For the grave is not the final resting place of the redeemed of the
Lord. We all have a home eternal in heaven, a building not made with hands.
So I conquered my fear of death a long, long time ago. I can look death in the face
right now, as I am doing, and say, "Death, in the name of Jesus, get the hell outta my
That's right. Yes, I said "Hell" because death makes me mad. Death punks too many
people around. But not me. Those people death bullies most are people with little faith in
God and little knowledge of the Truth that shall make them free.
Death ain't nothing but a possible bridge to heaven. It can also be likened unto a
short nap or a rest stop on the highway to heaven. But if Jesus comes back in the
rapture for His church while I'm alive, I won't even have to die. For I will be snatched and
caught up to be with Jesus for ever and ever more.
So death, I'm not afraid of you anymore because I got the victory and I have power
over the grave through Jesus Christ if I should have to go that way. So I'm not worried and
I'm not afraid. Death, get your ugly, cock-eyes, snagged-tooth, silly self outta my face.
You ain't (excuse me English teacher) nothing but a tramp while, in the name of
Jesus and by the grace of God, I am not only a champ, but I am more than a conqueror.
Death, get outta my face! I have dominion over you.
Death, get outta my face because if God be for me, and He is for me and in me, He
is more than the world against me.
Death, get outta my face because all things work together for good to those who
love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.
Death, get outta my face because the Lord is not only my shepherd and I shall
not want, but because the Lord is my light and my salvation. So whom shall I fear? For
I am persuaded that nothing but nothing shall separate me from the love of God, which
is wrapped up, tied up and tangled up in Christ Jesus.
Death, get outta of my face because I am providential private property; I am a
member of a chosen generation and a royal preasthood.
Death, get outta my face because I got Jesus and that's enough. And yea though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because I got
somebody in the Lord, who walks with me, talks with me and tells me I am His own and
His rod and His staff, they comfort me. And you best not let God have to hit you with His
rod or His staff. He'll kill you, death.
So, will this be my last Christmas? Well, No!
In the name of Jesus and by the grace of God, I declare unto you, my sisters and my
brothers, that there will be other Christmases in my life.
It's been a rough year for me. It's been the worst year of my life in terms of my
health issues. I've suffered tremendous pain and shame. I curse--yes, I am a preacher--
more than ever before because I am full of fury and of fight. But most of all, I am full of
faith. In other words, I am faithful. I know the Lord will not fail me nor forsake me.
Death, get the hell outta my face because God is hearing and answering my
prayers and at the end of the day, He will get glory out of all my ouches. Plus, I'm coming
forth as pure gold. And my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and
righeousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On
Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
Death, get outta my face because It's Christmas. And for me, Christmas ain't a time
for me to be dying. It's a time for praise and thanksgiving. It's a time for new life and glad
tidings of great joy. For unto us, a child is born; unto us a Son is given; and the
government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called WONDERFUL,
COUNSELOR, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF
PEACE.......THE ROSE OF SHARON......THE LILLY OF THE VALLEY.....THE BRIGHT
AND MORNING STAR.
His name is Jesus, my savior.
God bless you and merry Christmas to everybody all around the world.
Hallelujah and thank you Jesus!