Watching children on Christmas morning is a lesson, especially watching the very young. We spend days searching for just the right present, something we just know will be the child’s favorite. Then on Christmas morning after the packages are torn open and we sit to observe the child being absorbed with our perfect choice, we notice our choice is sitting alone under a tree, while the child is fascinated with the wrapping paper, a discarded box, ribbon, or a last minute stocking stuffer. The child is happy, but we are upset and murmuring under our breath “why we bothered standing in line for hours.” We miss the point.
My father, God rest, loved Christmas and loved giving, especially to my mother. He never wanted presents, his wants were very simple, and he got much more joy out of giving than receiving. He had many funny Christmas traditions and several he passed onto me and to my son. A son wishes he asked his father many things after his father is gone. I wish I knew the private joke between my father and mother regarding his “stocking stuffers.” My father always managed to surprise Mom with at least one present that found its way under the tree Christmas morning, somehow after everyone was asleep. He also stuffed Mom’s stocking with gifts that made no sense to us children. Who wants “bobby pins,” pencils, Brazil nuts, oranges, plastic hair rollers,etc. for Christmas? Yet Mom would always laugh and say whatever weird thing found its way in her stocking was “just what she needed.” My dad would laugh as much as when she opened the hidden package of a new robe, or pearl necklace.
I learn from young children that there can be immense joy from the simplest of things. That a torn piece of paper, a loose ribbon, or an empty box can entertain and fascinate as much as the complex and expensive, and as Jesus reminds we all need to be “more like children.” One of the many things I learned from my father is the story behind the gift sometimes is the greatest gift.
We bother to “stand in line” and to “agonize” over the perfect gift, not because we want our gift to be loved, but because we love. We want the gift to equal our love for the recipient, but in reality that is never possible. Our love is too great. When the young child plays with the packaging of the “perfect present” we gave, the child is not ignoring the love reflected in the gift itself. The child ultimately plays with the present, hours or days later. The child is simply saying I feel your love even in the packaging. That love is all I need.
Your friend, Webb