Christmas. The season of gifts and giving; decorations and family; food and parties. We all know it becomes busy – ridiculously busy. Especially for parents. We rush from concert to program; from work party to social event. All while we decorate and bake and shop and wrap.
And every year, we promise ourselves we will simplify next year. Next year we’ll start earlier. Next year we’ll commit to less. Next year…we’ll keep first things first. And if you are anything like me, this year was no exception. I can’t count how many times I’ve texted, said or thought, “Well, I’ve definitely bombed Christmas this year.” And in the process, as I do every year, I looked backwards through those magical glasses that paint the past in glorious tones.
One particular Christmas is playing over and over for me this year. Maybe because I miss Momma more than usual this year or maybe because of the way I’m getting it all “wrong.”
My parents worked in a sewing factory when my sister and I were little so unused fabric always seemed to find their way through my mother’s sewing room and into our closets or onto our beds.
This magical Christmas morning, my sister and I ran down the stairs to see what Christmas wonders would be awaiting us. Right there in front of the Christmas tree was a giant Ford blue puppet theater complete with curtains, puppets (with costumes) and drawstring bags to keep it all contained. There on the top corner was a great big tag that read “To Beth. From Santa!”
I was so happy and excited for my sister! She climbed right in and explored and I could see that her gift was going to be hours of amazing fun for her. But then I saw another present on the couch. It was the fluffiest, most beautiful sleeping bag I had ever seen. Above the red and blue gingham patchwork sleeping bag with its navy ruffled edge, was a built-in pillow shaped like a teddy bear with arms outstretched just waiting to hug his inhabitant into the sweetest dreams ever dreamt. And there was another giant gift tag. As an emerging reader, I saw “To Be…” and my heart sank.
“Look Bethy! This one is for you too” I choked out. I wanted to be happy for her – I did! But I was the one who collected teddy bears. My nickname was even “Bear.” How did she get both of these amazing presents?!
My mother in her always teaching way said, “Sarah, why don’t you look at that tag again?” And then I slowed down and read the whole story. “To Bear. From Santa!” I couldn’t climb in fast enough! I was snuggled down and grinning in all my toothless delight before anyone could tell me I had read the tag right this time. I opened every present from right there in that sleeping bag. I took it to all my sleepovers and to this day, every one of my children have slept in the “Bear Bag” at some point or another. Yes, the pillow has had to be restuffed more than once. And I’m sure there have been patches along the way. But oh the joy of that gift that was intended for me that I almost gave away!
The gift intended for me that I almost gave away.
Have you given away your gifts this year? Not the ones you got for others, but the ones that were intended for you. So often we are happy to offer peace, joy, comfort, love, kindness, and compassion to everyone who is hurting around us. But how often have you considered that all of that was intended for YOU too? I have given it all away. And I have overlooked the fact that MY name was on those “gift tags” too.
When Christ came that night so long ago, He was born to bring peace to all. Have you lost your temper because you are stuck in traffic, can’t find the gift, or don’t have enough time this season? Have you taken a pass on the joy because you couldn’t see past the to do list? Are you grieving but can’t bring yourself to take comfort in even a slow cup of coffee or a good hearty cry? Don’t get so caught up in wrapping and shopping and baking that you forget to be with those you love and receive the kindness and compassion they have to offer.
See, to my parents, our puppet house and sleeping bag were a repurposed refrigerator box, screen door spring and fabric remnants from the factory. But they took those moments on Christmas morning to see them through our eyes. And in that there was joy, wonder, and love. The gifts they intended for us to have. Take some time to remember this year, that the Gift that came wrapped in scrap cloths and in a used feed box was also intended for you.