December 25, 2020

Blessed Christmas morning.  One of the greatest delights of giving presents is seeing the surprise and hearing the thanks when a gift is opened. My mom was over-the-top when it came to delighted gift receiving.  After my dad died when I was 29, mom was more than happy to take up our offer to have Christmas Eve sleepovers at our home. I’m sure that our early elementary age sons were part of the attraction. The excitement of children on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning is a wonderful, although temporary, antidote for grief.

Her gift response was always amazing. An example. One year we gave her a slip that she had on her list. I picked it up from Boscov’s, a local department store. She removed the wrapping paper, noted the store logo on the box and squealed in delight, “Boscov’s, I love Boscov’s. I haven’t had a gift from Boscov’s for years.” Then, opening the box, discovering the slip and then holding it up and feeling the smooth surface exclaimed, “A slip! I needed a slip. This slip is so smooth. I love it. It’s from Boscov’s. It’s perfect.” Mom’s delight was genuine.  I think our sons learned it from her.

Not that they would sneak, but just-in-case, we hid their gifts when they were little, so they would not be tempted to try to find them. By the time they reached middle school we reasoned that if we wrapped their gifts ahead of time, we wouldn’t need to hide them. We were trusting enough to put the presents under the tree a few days before Christmas.

Christmas morning was great, and the delighted, surprised responses when our sons opened their gifts passed the “genuine” test.  No more hiding gifts.

Fast-forward 15 years. It was Christmas break, and the kids were home. We were hanging out one evening and they fessed up about the year we stopped hiding their gifts. They told us that one day when we were out, they got an Exacto knife, slit open the tape on every package to see what their gifts were, and then, ever-so-carefully re-taped each package. They nailed their “genuine” responses on Christmas morning. Rod and I didn’t have a clue. They said they never did it again, as it ruined the surprise for them. So they did learn self-control, patience, and delay of gratification, and the power of confession better late than never (at least in terms of Christmas gifts).

Does it matter now? Not at all. A gift is a gift. Fifteen years later, our surprised response to their story was also genuine.  And while I would not recommend sharing this meditation with your children, but I do think there is one gift that we ought not wait to open. It is never too soon to open our hearts to the mystery, peace, love, and fullness of life we receive in Jesus.

Mom would say “It’s perfect! I love it!” I hope you will, too! Anne

During this season of COVID 19, St. Paul’s UCC Woodstock, VA

offers these meditations as a service to the community.

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