Our parents could only keep us in our rooms for so long. My brother, my sister and I were not delaying Christmas for one second longer. We burst into the small living room where we had left a beautiful tree glittering with colored lights and flashing tinsel just hours before; the floor below the bottom branches bare of presents.
We stood in the doorway with our mouths open and our eyes popping. In the colorful glow of the Christmas lights, we saw the pile of gift-wrapped packages nearly touching the ceiling!
Yet, there was to be no ripping into these surprises until AFTER the story.
It was a tradition in our house that we read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 before we opened any presents. Jesus was the most important gift of Christmas, so we gave the first few minutes of our morning to His story. Why we couldn’t do it after we’d opened our presents, I’ll never know. It wouldn’t have seemed nearly as never-ending as when we listened while staring at a mountain of goodies that required attention.
Even before my father became a preacher, we knew about Baby Jesus and the significance of His birth; our real reason for celebrating Christmas. Of course, we agreed that this was the greatest gift of all, bringing joy to the world, heaven and nature sing, and all that, but we were kids! I was 9, my brother was 5 and my sister had just turned 2.
Our hands were shaking with excitement as my father read about Mary and Joseph and their journey to Bethlehem. But, I admit it wasn’t the story that had our energy peaked; it was the gifts! So many gifts.
My father took pity on us and kept his follow-up prayer short.
We finally got the go-ahead to dive in. Paper flew in all directions as we attacked the patterned paper.
A pair of knitted mittens!
A pair of knitted socks!
A knitted scarf!
A crocheted blanket for my bed.
It’s not that I wasn’t grateful, but each soft, squishy package that was tossed my way killed a bit of my excitement. I’d certainly be warm this winter, but I’d have nothing to play with unless I turned my wool vamps into sock puppets!
New preachers often got placed in communities where there was a church building, but nobody who regularly visited the holy house. We were therefore labeled in the larger church association as a “pioneer church”; one where the salary was meagre, and there was no appreciative congregation to bless us with presents or even well wishes at Christmas. As such, we were recipients of homemade delights made by women’s groups in larger churches. The chances of getting something under that tree that wasn’t knitted, crocheted, sewn, embroidered, or cross-stitched were slim.
Just as my enthusiasm waned, however, my mom tossed me a package that felt different. It had some soft parts, but some hard parts too. This one had potential. I held it tightly for a few seconds, treasuring the anticipation.
I carefully opened the paper where it was taped, savouring the moment. The resulting hole exposed a chubby leg. My heart did a little somersault. I was done with careful and slow. I ripped the rest of the paper off to reveal a doll with a soft body and plastic head and limbs. The hair was made of wool, but the store-bought-hair kind, not the knitted kind. The mouth had the cutest set of lips painted around a small hole in the middle. I grabbed her hand to find, as I suspected, her fingers were curled into a fist with the thumb sticking out; a thumb which fitted perfectly into the hole in the mouth.
Adorable! I was in love. It was the best gift ever. I don’t know where that doll came from; whether a lady dropped all her stitches or spilled her coffee on the fabric she was sewing, but I was extremely grateful to her for this special surprise.
Well, I’m sure over the years I received bigger gifts and better gifts, but this one was definitely a memorable one.
As we begin this season, and I shop online for our loved ones, I find myself rifling through Christmas memories, wondering what I’d label my best gift ever.
Spiritual gifts and Baby Jesus aside, my favourite gift was not a Christmas gift. It was a wedding gift.
My hubby’s parents gave us a honeymoon in Mexico. These two kids who were barely twenty got on a plane in Deer Lake, Newfoundland and left our island home for the sticky heat of Mexico. We spent two weeks in a high-rise hotel on the beach in Acapulco, when Acapulco was still a desirable tourist spot.
The travel bug bit us both. Hard. We got a taste of what a real vacation could be like with the hot sun, the sand, the excursions on horseback, glass-bottom boats, and tour buses. This was a gift that would keep on giving, for it planted within us the desire to travel.
And travel we did, especially after our boys were grown. We especially enjoyed cruising, visiting four or five destinations in one week.
Then 2020 arrived. The world came to a standstill, and no one traveled. This did not take away from that gift given to us 29 years ago. The desire is still there. And we will travel again. Some day.
I circle back to that gift which was the subject of my father’s Christmas morning reading. Like my doll, it was a gift like no other. A baby; God’s Son sent as a human to heal the world. To be its Savior.
And, like our desire to travel, when that gift was stolen away when Jesus received a death sentence, the world still felt a desire for Him. His birth had been prophesied hundreds of years before; a King would be born; Messiah; Savior of mankind. He had to die to rise from the dead. He had to die to be the resurrected King.
Yeah, He wins. Jesus was my best gift ever. I can’t imagine my life without Him.
Don’t let anyone tell you that Christmas is not about the gifts! But this one won’t break the bank – in fact, it’s free!
I recently read that the Greek word for “salvation” is the same word used for “healing”. Our souls are healed as we accept Him into our lives. Our emotional health is restored.
Thank you for the gift of salvation, Father. Thank you for healing me. Thank you for the promise of eternal life with You.
Try taking time at the start of your day to spent a few minutes alone with God. During that precious silence, we hand over all our emotional baggage, so it doesn’t have to leak out onto our loved ones during the day. God will speak love over us as we spend time with Him. That’s when our souls find rest and freedom.
As His daughter, this quality time together feels like home.