This was published on Christmas day. How many people read the newspaper on Christmas day?
We jump into Christmas with both feet. I suppose when you begin holiday traditions you are bound to them forever – or at least until the kids leave home. “Dad, when are you going to put Santa on the chimney?” asks my normally silent and elusive 18-year old.
We have over 100 nutcrackers we display. And 50 Santa ornaments on a tree we cut down ourselves. 20 years of hilarious, photo-shopped Christmas cards in frames surround the fireplace. There are Rudolph figurines on the counter and a 1970 Sears & Roebuck catalogue on the coffee table (so yours truly can indulge in a hearty case of nostalgia). Not to mention that the outside of our home is decorated like a Bethlehem casino.
But despite all the decorations, traditions and church activities that almost overwhelm me each Christmas season, there is one little memory that I will always cherish. Years ago, my older sister was so excited: she had found the perfect gift for me. Honestly, she taunted me. “You’re going to LOVE the gift I got you!” she told me on more than one occasion.
Christmas morning arrives and I stagger into the family room before daybreak NOT recovered from the last night’s midnight candlelight service. My kids tear into toys that Santa and I did not finish assembling until what feels like moments ago. After breakfast of my famous “Cap’n Crunch French Toast” (another required tradition), my sister and her family arrive and we begin to unwrap gifts.
Buried under a landfill of shiny paper and Scotch tape, my sister grabs the gift and shoves it into my lap, “Open it!” she demands. Everyone watches as I remove bow and glittery wrapping paper. There it is: a little wooden box. I open it. It was meant to be a sundial, with a built in compass – a fun way to know the time-of-day and your location when camping or hiking. The room went silent.
It was awful. Horribly made. Cheap. It would never work and it was doomed to fall apart. It looked like something I would have made in preschool. But then it happened: my sister burst into tears. She was heartbroken that they gift she gave me was such poor quality.
It is a lesson I will never forget. Her desire to give me something special is what I treasure – more than the gift itself. She wanted me to be happy. She wanted me to receive something wonderful. She loves me and found a gift that expressed that love.
It is Christmas morning. The day is being unwrapped. But whatever happens for you this Christmas I hope you can share the lesson I learned: that through all the traditions, busyness and glitter, there is a giver who, more than anything, wants you to know how loved you are.