The gifts of Christmas

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My earliest Christmas memories are from my childhood in Scotland. These memories are filled with simple wonder. Cold, wintry mornings catching snowflakes on my tongue. Tangerines wrapped in red and silver foil at the bottom of my stocking. Cadbury chocolate boxes filled with all sorts of candy. Brightly colored paper chains to decorate our classrooms at school. Our little Christmas tree dusted off one more year, with a rosy-cheeked angel placed carefully on top. Fresh holly sprigs pushed behind every picture on the walls. The children’s service at church late on Christmas morning. We would bring our favorite toy to show, which made for the noisiest service of the year.

But there was one Christmas morning I will never forget … I think it was the best Christmas of all. Can you remember yours? I was seven years old. There was just one thing I wanted that year: a baby doll. I’d seen her in the window of our town’s only toy store. She was surrounded by other toys — robots, a bright-red fire engine, a windup monkey that played drums — all draped in gold and silver tinsel. She was beautiful, and she was all I wanted for Christmas.

Every Christmas morning was the same in our home. My brother, Stephen, and I would wake Mum at five o’clock and be sent straight back to bed. We’d try again at six and finally persuade her by seven that we simply couldn’t hold on for one more moment. We’d stand at the top of the stairs with our sister, Frances, while Mum went to investigate. I could hardly breathe. What if the baby doll wasn’t there? What would I do? After what felt like an eternity, Mum would tell us that a miracle had happened overnight and now we could come down.

There were presents everywhere. The lights on the tree were sparkling, and the warmth of the fire took the chill off the winter air as we raced into the living room. I didn’t look at my chair first. I couldn’t. Frances’s gifts were always piled up on the chair to the left of the fire, mine on the chair to the right, and Stephen’s on the table. I looked at the table and saw Robbie the Robot, which he’d been hoping for. He was already tearing into the box. Frances had a stack of new books that would keep her busy and antisocial for months.

Finally, I took a deep breath and looked at my chair. After a quick scan, I began to panic. She wasn’t there. There were lots of gifts but not the one I wanted so very much.

“Aren’t you going to open your presents?” Mum asked. I didn’t want to cry, so I gave the best smile I could as I began to peel Christmas paper off an assortment of games and puzzles. Then she said, “What about your other gift?” “What other gift?” I asked. “The one at your feet,” she said with a smile. I looked down, and there she was — my baby doll in a little cradle tucked under the chair. I was so busy unwrapping the gifts on my chair, I’d missed the one right at my feet.

I remember that story every Christmas morning because of the lesson it taught me. It’s so easy to miss the greatest gift of all, the one that was laid right at our feet, the one we so desperately need. Jesus, the Savior of the world.

It’s always been that way. On that first Christmas morning, almost everyone missed the greatest gift ever given. As the crowds poured into the cities of their birth to register, no one was looking for a gift with tiny toes and fingers. On a night of quiet wonder, Heaven’s greatest gift was born. No wonder most everyone missed the gift that night. He wasn’t what they were looking for. I wonder if we’ve changed much since then.

It’s easy to become so familiar with the Christmas story that we forget it’s the gift we desperately need, the one we can’t live without.

As the years have passed, I’ve discovered so many beautiful images that speak profoundly of the miracle that took place that night in Bethlehem. It’s the miracle that changed the world forever. Some of these images surround us every day of the Christmas season, and we might easily miss them. Others, like the angels, shepherds, and wise men, appeared so long ago but still have much to teach us today.

I invite you to come with me on a journey to exchange weariness for wonder and heartache for hope. You have a Saviour! You are loved! Let’s celebrate Christ, the greatest gift of all.

“For unto us a Child is born,
 Unto us a Son is given;
 And the government will be upon His shoulder.
 And His name will be called
 Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
 – Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

Extracted with permission from ‘The Gifts of Christmas: 25 Joy-Filled Devotions for Advent’ by Sheila Walsh, published by Baker Publishing.

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