The excitement of the Christmas season began the weekend after Thanksgiving when I was growing up. The day after our meal of Thanksgiving turkey with green bean casserole and stuffing we would begin decorating our home. The tree was always first on the agenda followed by each of the three girls pulling out ornaments chosen especially for us by our parents and grandparents.
Once the tree was glimmering with lights and the festive ornaments were hung, we would pull out the handmade stockings of felt covered with beads and sequins with our names stitched at the top. The garland was hung on the fireplace mantle or staircase and the egg nog was in the fridge ready for us to enjoy.
The excitement of the season didn't stop once the decorating was complete because growing up I lived far away from my grandparents and extended family which kept us apart at Christmas time. Because of this my family would ship boxes of Christmas presents to us the years we were kept apart. Each day in the weeks leading up to Christmas I would come home from school with anticipation bubbling forth waiting to hear the doorbell ring, waiting to see the familiar chocolate brown UPS truck sitting out at the curb. we would eagerly run to the door grappling with the cumbersome box eager to begin pulling out the festively wrapped contents and place them under the tree.
These precious memories still hold a special place in my heart. As a kid the excitement was focused on the fact that I would soon have new trinkets, toys and games to play. As an adult the joy I have in these memories is not found in getting new trinkets and toys but rather it focuses on the fact that so many of my loved ones had the gift of giving. Giving of their time and their thoughts. Each year my grandparents would painstakingly choose one ornament from Hallmark that reminded them of me. One year it was a Strawberry Shortcake ornament. Another year it was a tin ornament in the shape of an elephant. Each one chosen to bring me joy.
My mother also was giving of her time. At the birth of each new child and grandchild or the addition of a son-in-law my mother would spend countless hours stitching together a stocking. Each stocking was a different pattern and each required hand stitching of hundreds of beads and sequins and each had our names stitched by hand. Oh the love held within those stockings.
It is so easy, even now, to focus on the gifts rather than the giving. This past year has reminded me that life is precious and family is precious and love is powerful. I find myself in awe of what an amazing and selfless gift God gave us when he sent His precious son to earth as a sacrifice for our sinfulness. Oh how precious we are to God, how much we are loved by him that he gave us his Son.
Dear Lord: Thank you Lord for loving me so much that you sent your most precious Son to die for me. May we remember that this season is so much more than just giving gifts but also about sharing with others just how precious they are to us. Amen