It was Christmas Eve and I couldn’t wait for Santa to come. I am not even sure I believed in Santa at this point in my childhood, but I believed in presents and that was good enough. I had trouble sleeping, and hearing the rustle of last-minute gift-wrapping upstairs only heightened my anticipation. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, I prowled the attic, my mom’s closet, and any other place I could think to snoop. The idea of being surprised was overrated. Practically speaking, I could just as easily be surprised by looking inside a plastic bag while standing barefoot on the attic’s plywood floor. I felt certain that I had watched enough television to feign astonishment on Christmas morning. I even fantasized about my Emmy-award winning performance. It would be as bright and colorful as the lights on the tree that would spotlight me.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking for during all that prowling but that’s part of the journey of discovery, right? It’s the thrill of seeking, of what could be, — maybe even of finding something better than we imagined. In my case, what I found didn’t compare to the curated wares hawked in the Spiegel catalog I carefully perused as a pastime. There was a Tootsie Roll piggy bank filled with chewy chocolate jerky. Meh. Fun socks — as if those two words could possibly go together. Toys that were obviously for my brother. I certainly had no use for G.I. Joe. He was too short to use as a suitable partner for Barbie. Then there were a few miscellaneous clothes that I hoped were for my sister because they weren’t quite cute enough for me.
I wanted a fur coat like the one I lovingly pet in the department store inspiring a lecture from my mom on animal cruelty. What seemed crueler was her begrudging me this accessory that I was certain would make me look as glamorous as Sue Ellen on the Friday-night soap-opera, Dallas. (If they didn’t want children to watch such smut, they should not have run it after an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard). I would have settled for a rabbit’s foot keychain like some of the other girls at my school had. They were supposed to bring good luck. Who wouldn’t carry around two inches of a dead animal foot in exchange for a little luck?
In retrospect, there was no way that anything under the tree could ever live up to my fantastical expectations. Years later, I realized that the one thing that could was upstaged by the material consumption that was my god. I understood it was the baby in the manger that was the glory I sought. He was the one who would make me feel like I was enough even without plush fur wrapped around my body. It was him I could trust to guide and protect me from harm – not a rabbit’s foot attached to a key chain. It was his love that exceeded my wildest expectations. It was Jesus, the Son of God, born in a manger, that has been the most surprising and significant gift of my life. For so long, I searched in all the wrong places, for all the wrong things. He was never in the attic or under the tree. All along, he was within – the perfect gift just waiting to be unwrapped.
Wishing you and your family the joy of Christ now and always. Merry Christmas!
Read last week’s post here: Hearing: It’s Not 400 Children and a Crop in the Field