Christmas Past – My Best Christmas Present Ever

This will be my 71st Christmas.  In that time I have been given a lot of Christmas presents.

Christmas gifts

  • Some I loved
  • Some I pretended to like but really did not
  • Some were expensive
  • Some were not so expensive
  • Some were store-bought
  • Some were homemade
  • Some shown that the giver had really put a lot of time and love into the gift
  • Some looked like the giver had just grabbed something off the shelf at the last-minute

But every year as I reflect on Christmas past there is one gift that stands out to me.  It was the best Christmas gift I ever received.

It is also the first Christmas I remember.  I was five years old and I believed in Santa Claus.  There were two gifts I was hoping he would bring me:  a doll and a toy stove with some dishes.

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Although I never felt our family was poor, looking back I realize we certainly were not affluent.  We lived in a three-room house – Mom and Dad, two sisters a brother and me.  I was the baby.  Mom and Dad shared the one bedroom and my sisters and I had beds in the kitchen.  Fortunately the kitchen was very large so the stove, refrigerator and table was at one end and our beds at the other.  My brother slept on a roll-away bed that we opened at night and put in the pantry just off the kitchen.

Looking back I think how hard it must have been to try to buy the presents we four children were hoping for.  How they must have agonized over not having enough money to buy all they would have liked to buy for us.

Christmas Eve my dad took me with him to my grandmother’s house where he added coal to her heating stove and set the fire for the night.  When we returned home I discovered Santa Claus had come.  So excited, I opened my one present and found the doll I had requested.  Looking around I realized there was not a second present for me.  There would be no toy stove and dishes.  My doll was so pretty and I slept happily that night holding her close.

stove

The next day my parents explained to me that Santa Claus had so many kids to buy for and he did not have enough money to get everything on everyone’s list.  However, my dad said he and my mother had a surprise for me.  They had a toy stove for me with some dishes.

Dad brought out the stove.  He had taken a cardboard box, turned it upside down and drew burners on the top.  He then cut out small openings in the front and had put in some little wooden knobs that were painted red, yellow and blue for me to use to turn on the burners.  He also had an oven door painted on the side and cut so that I could open and put in a pan.  Mom had rummaged though her pots and pans and found some older ones that I was able to use.

I was one happy little girl!  I had my very own stove and dishes.

Today I realize most little girls would be upset with such a gift.  But to me it was a treasure.  As I have grown old, the memory of that gift has increased in value.

As a parent trying to make ends meet I realize how much love had gone into their decision to make that gift for me, how much they must have hated that they could not give me a real toy stove and dishes.

Of all the gifts I have received over the years, none mean as much to me as that gift coming from my parents’ heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Now That It’s Over

Christmas 2017 is now history.

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The beautiful tree we spent hours decorating is now ready to be taken down and put away for another year if it was an artificial tree, or it soon will join the landfill if we chose a live tree.

christmas tree dead

All the presents that we spent days and weeks searching for in the store or online and then wrapped so carefully are now opened.  The beautiful packaging is probably in the trash cans ready to also go to the landfill.  Some are enjoying their gifts while others are perhaps a little disappointed that Santa did not bring them exactly what they wanted.  Maybe it was the wrong size so a trip to the store to make an exchange is on the agenda this week.

presents unwrapped

All the delicious food that Moms spent hours preparing has long been consumed or is sitting in the refrigerator waiting for leftovers tonight.  The beautiful china has been washed and put away for another year – or the Christmas paper plates are also headed to that landfill.

dirty dishes

Some are savoring precious memories made this year with family and friends.  For them it was a time of great happiness and an almost Christmas-card perfect day.  There were newlyweds spending their first Christmas together.  Grandmas and grandpas were enjoying spending time with grandchildren they do not see the rest of the year.  Brothers and sisters, cousins laughed over board games or their favorite Christmas movie.

Still others are glad it’s over because it was a sad time.  There were family members who were absent at the table this year.  Some were gone because death tragically struck this year.  Others grieve over the divorce that split the family in two.  Some families spent the holiday in the hospital or sitting quietly by the bedside of a loved one who is quickly spending their last days.

But regardless of how this year’s Christmas season turned out – happy or sad, perfect or so imperfect, it is history.

So now what?  Do we just put away the decorations, replace our Christmas CD’s with our favorite music style, close our Bibles to Matthew and Luke and go on with “normal” life.  Did we just “enjoy” the Christmas play at church, the children singing “Away in a Manger”, the classic Christmas carols or the contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know”  Is that all there is?

While we hear the Christmas story every year and it is old and well-known, I think we would be wise to follow Mary’s example as found in Luke’s story of the nativity.  When the shepherds found the baby in the manager and told Mary and Joseph of the message of the angels, Luke tells us that

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

So what do we do now?  Put aside all we have heard this season of the Christmas story and go back to our busy world.  Or, would it not be a good idea to stop now and then as winter turns into spring, then summer, then fall and think about what the Christmas story really means.  God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.  God’s demonstration of His love for us.

My prayer is that you will take time to think about Christmas – the real meaning of Christmas – in the days, weeks, months ahead and let it change how you live in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tale of Two Christmas Catalogs

Halloween is not here yet, Thanksgiving is over a month away and we have 70 days until Christmas.  But today when I went to my mailbox, I found two Christmas catalogs.  As I looked at them, I was struck by how different these appeals for my shopping dollars were.  One was from American Girl and one from Compassion.  Each showed pictures of children receiving gifts.  The gifts received were worlds apart.  As I looked at the gift selections from both magazines, I realized that I needed to really think seriously about where I would spend my Christmas dollars this year.

On the one hand, I could go to American Girl and order a doll for my granddaughter for $115.  Or, I could go to Compassion International and for approximately the same amount I could help provide a village with safe water for life and provide a family with livestock that could help them become self-supporting.

Now I don’t mean to be Scrooge or suggest that we are wrong to buy dolls for our granddaughters.  I have spent many a dollar on my grandchildren and plan to continue to do so.  Grandchildren are such a blessing and gift from God.  If you have grandchildren, one of the joys of life is to give them gifts, especially at Christmas, and to see their eyes light up with happiness.  But as I look at the children in the Compassion magazine who need clean water, food and basic clothing, I find it harder to spend so much money on grandchildren whose toy boxes are running over, whose CD rack is full and who sleep every night in a warm, soft bed with a full stomach after taking a bath with hot clean water.

We Americans spend so much money on “things.”  It is amazing the money spent on Halloween alone.

Don’t mean to suggest that we should not buy gifts or enjoy our blessings as Americans.  Just asking us all to think a little bit about our spending – and maybe use some of our money to help those who are so desperately in need this Christmas.