It seems fitting that we observe the coming anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ
So it's to you all I wish a Merry Christmas (And a wonderful Hanukkah to my Jewish friends).
When Linda and I were much younger, before our youngest was a gleam in his daddy's eye, we were in the midst of a deep financial trouble. It was enough just to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads, and if we weren't already getting a deal on the rent (our landlord was Linda's brother--it helps to have connections), we very well may not have had a place to live. But by God's grace and Wayne's mercy, we at least had that.
Anyway, in this particular year, we wondered how in the world we were going to get our children a little something. Gift-giving at Christmas to some extent is somewhat shallow, I know. We weren't looking to get the kids the latest video game console, or a big-screen TV or anything. We just wanted to give them something to unwrap on Christmas morning. That's pretty important for us. As it was, our "Christmas tree" was a sprig cut from my father-in-law's pine tree in his back yard, stuck in a coffee can filled with dirt to keep it from toppling from the coffee table. As I recall, it spilled over anyway, and we spent some time vacuuming dirt from the threadbare living room carpet.
No. Material things weren't what we were about. But celebrating Christmas to us is celebrating the greatest gift God bestowed to us, and that was His very own son.
So Christmas eve came and went in our little house. Our oldest was eight, our daughters were three years and three months respectively. I don't even remember what we had bought for the kiddos, but it wasn't much. I do remember feeling like a failure as a provider for my household, in spite of the fact that Linda was working as well. It's my responsibility after all to make sure my family's needs are met. The buck stops with Dad.
The sun came up bright and clear on that snowy Christmas morn, and we prepared to head over to the in-laws to celebrate with the larger clan. I was assuaged a little by the knowledge that Grandma and Grandpa H. would be sure to have little somethings for the kidlets to open.
I opened the front door to clear the walk to the car and stopped short, bewildered. Someone had left a large black bag of garbage on our doorstep sometime in the night. I muttered a word or two about the neighborhood teens, some of whom were pretty unsavorable. It was just like them to leave us this kind of insult.
I grabbed the top of the bag to drag it out to the curb, and noticed it was lighter than I expected. Also, there were some corners that stuck out at odd angles. So instead of chucking it out, I brought it inside.
Someone (I don't know who, to this day) had decided to bless us. The bag was full (I did say "big bag," right? Like, an industrial-sized bag) to the top with gifts for our three children. The cards were all from Santa Claus. The girls got dolls, and our son got an art set, and there was more than I can recount. But rest assured, Linda and I spent some time in tears thanking whatever mysterious Santa had left for us. And it seemed like the kids knew something special had happened, because they appreciated those gifts a little more, and not because of their monetary value. The girls wore those dolls out, and every scrap of paper in that art set was covered in a joyous riot of color betraying the enthusiasm of a kid who knew what he had.
We have had others bless us in so many ways through the skinniest of our times, and we are thankful for each and every blessing we receive. But that Christmas stands out to me as one of the most blessed we've ever had.
I wish for all of you the same joy, the same wonder, the same feeling of surprise as we felt on the day.
Have a wonderful Christmas, and may your new year bring you so many blessings you have to give some away. And if you can, find a way to be a blessing to someone new.