Dale Johnson: I am here with the Yuille’s as we talk about Yuletide. Dr. Stephen Yuille and his wife Alison have been dear people to me and my family over the last several years. Stephen served as our teaching pastor at Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas. Alison, his dear wife, and their two children Laura and Emma have been a great blessing to our family and I’m delighted to have them here. I am interested to hear how connected your last name is to the idea of Yule in Christmas.
Stephen Yuille: Very connected. Yuille is simply a misspelling of Yule. At some point in our family history going back a couple hundred years, people didn’t know how to read or write. One of my forefathers went to register a baptism, a marriage, a death or something and some clerk spelled it incorrectly, and it’s morphed over the years. That is the history of it, something to do with Christmas. I don’t know if there was some ancestor born during Yuletide or the exact circumstances surrounding that, but that is the history of the word.
Dale Johnson: Well, it works out so well that you’re joining us for Christmas traditions. Summer and I have several different ways that we enjoy celebrating Christmas as we get into the season post-Thanksgiving, when the fall rolls around and the air is cool. We love this time of year. I’m interested to hear how families do things differently. How do you prepare your home and your hearts for this season that we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus?
Alison Yuille: There are a few resources that we use in the weeks leading up to Christmas. One of the books that we’ve used since our older daughter Laura was little is a book called Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration. It’s by several different authors and it has short little readings that focus your hearts and minds on the true meaning of Christmas. That’s something that we enjoy doing every year. We also have an Advent wreath that was given to us as a gift a few years ago. We will do a reading, usually from Luke 2, and light a candle on each of the Sundays of Advent leading up to Christmas. That has helped our family to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Dale Johnson: As you do this leading up to Christmas, do you celebrate Advent once a week? Is this something that you try to do on a nightly basis? I know with us having six children and having young kids, that can be a challenge at times. Walk us through what the evening or the morning looks like as you work through one of these books celebrating Advent. What does that look like?
Stephen Yuille: We normally have our morning devotion and evening devotion. Coming up to the Christmas season as our morning devotion, we will do readings out of the gospels that point us to the Christmas story, the incarnation of Christ, and the life of Christ. Then on Sunday evening we would spend time lighting a candle in the Advent wreath and doing that special reading that Allison just mentioned out of Christ in Christmas. We spend a little more time developing some of the central truths and events surrounding Christ’s Advent into the world. It was a combination of the two, working something into our regular routine and then doing something a little special with the Advent celebration.
Dale Johnson: Doing that repeatedly in the life of a child, you would solidify in their heart what this time of year really means, especially as our culture drifts further and further toward materialism. It really anchors them to know and to remember what this season is about—the significance of the Lord Jesus coming in the flesh. It’s exciting to hear how you encourage your kids in this way and it’s a great reminder to us personally. As you get closer to Christmas and Christmas Eve, you mentioned several events that you enjoy leading up to that day and the night before Christmas. Describe some of those.
Alison Yuille: We would go to a Christmas Eve service at church, come home, and as a family we would usually open one gift on Christmas Eve. We would talk about gifts and why we give gifts. It’s more about what we can give to our family members to show our love and it ties back to God giving us the greatest gift: the indescribable gift of his Son.
Stephen Yuille: The corporate element on Christmas Eve is important. Christmas is a big family event. We try to emphasize that it is a corporate event. It isn’t just an individual thing and it’s not just a family thing, but as the people of God we’re celebrating Christ’s coming into the world and what this means for the people of God. Gathering with God’s people on Christmas Eve has been an important tradition for reinforcing and communicating to the girls, as well as reminding ourselves, that we’re part of something bigger. The celebration is bigger than the individual and bigger than the family. This is the people of God and the historical change in reality that Christ has come into the world. The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men.
Dale Johnson: Gathering together with God’s people to hear people sing, exalt Christ, and talk about him were some of my favorite memories growing up, and to teach that to our children is so significant. One of the things that I want to contrast is the difference between the way I grew up and the way both of you grew up. I grew up in Florida. Christmas was 80 or 85 degrees, little snow, no true winter. It’s just different degrees of summer when we get to Christmas. You both grew up in Canada and you live there now. Talk about how different you lived life growing up in in such a cold environment. What were some of the different things that you did outside growing up in Canada?
Alison Yuille: Traditions are traditions because they’re what we always do, but we can also create new traditions. Our younger daughter, Emma, has never experienced a true Canadian Christmas. All her Christmas’ have been in Texas, which are a little different. Now we can create some new traditions related to snow. It will involve skating, tobogganing, hot chocolate, and those sorts of things.
Stephen Yuille: That was part of our upbringing. I remember being out and skating during those cool nights coming up to Christmas. I remember Christmas afternoons while Mom was preparing the feast, we all headed to the hill and went sledding. Those are memories that stay with you.
Dale Johnson: You grew up playing ice hockey, which is a completely foreign reality for me.
Stephen Yuille: That’s a big part of it. A hockey rink is to Ontario what a football stadium is to Texas. It’s central to the community and a lot of traditions build up around that with friends growing up. The church youth often involves skating, hockey, and outdoor activities.
Dale Johnson: The beauty that we just contrasted is important as we think about different places that we grow up and the different ways that we celebrate the winter. One thing that’s the same is how we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus no matter what culture or place in the world we are in. There’s still this solid truth that’s applicable everywhere that we go. Let’s zoom in on Christmas morning. What does Christmas morning look like in the Yuille home?
Alison Yuille: If we had our way it would be sleeping in, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We get up and have a special breakfast like cinnamon rolls that we don’t usually have any other day of the year, anything to make it special and unique. Then it’s a methodical giving of the gifts, so that it isn’t crazy and chaotic, but has some intentionality. Then later in the day, we get together with our larger family.
Stephen Yuille: We keep the rhythm of morning devotions as well. It’s Christmas morning, but it’s still morning and we keep those constant rhythms in life, which are so important. We spend time in thanksgiving both for the giving of God’s Son, for our salvation, and for the many benefits and privileges we enjoy living in North America: family, friends, health, and strength. We celebrate the fact that God is good and does good.
Dale Johnson: It’s always fun to hear the different ways that people celebrate this wonderful time of year and to see into someone’s home to learn how things go. Thank you both for joining us and sharing a little bit about how you celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus.
Stephen Yuille: You’re welcome, it was good to be with you.