By Morgan Stoecklein
As I think back on past Christmases, the only gift that comes to mind (don’t tell my parents!) was an inflatable plastic chair. Doesn’t sound so fabulous until I share that it came with a matching inflatable floral ottoman. Aside from this grandiose 90’s spectacle in the middle of our living room floor, I can’t remember a lot of of the gifts I received on Christmas mornings growing up.
More than the gifts I received I remember the time leading up to the gifts. When my brother and I were really little, we had our two twin beds pushed together in one room. This made for a fun adventure every night, but especially on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve we’d take turns “letting each other nap” while the other watched the clock until it was their turn to sleep. Our genius plan to stay up all night and catch a glimpse of Santa, which of course led to us going to bed a mere 14 minutes after we were sent there.
In the early morning we’d wake up and my brothers and I would sit (as the years went by, we’d squeeze) onto the top step to wait for our parents to give us the green light on starting the Christmas day shenanigans.
Growing up, Santa didn’t wrap our gifts, so if you stepped your pinky toe on the second step to peak at what was lying under the tree, you’d hear a word from Mama. And no one wanted a word from Mama.
When the video camera beeped it was like Pavlov’s dog. A race to the bottom step where our stockings hung on the banister. But what was in them all those years? I couldn’t tell you.
I can remember my dad sitting with us on the living room floor, screwdriver in hand and piles of every type of battery you can think of, me and my brothers patiently waiting for our new toys to come to life. I can remember Aunt Patty coming through the door, her familiar perfume instantly filling the house, and lingering in the guest room long after she’d left and into the New Year. “How was your flight?” I’d know to ask because of the years listening to my parents ask her the same. My brothers and I would be distracted into the afternoon until suddenly, one of us would remember “THE CARROTS!!” We’d run to the window and press our noses to the frosty glass in hopes that the carrots we’d thrown in the yard the night before were enjoyed by Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. I can remember my Mama tending to her steaming pot of pasta sauce that she’d started before the sun came up. The scent would tempt us all day long until the sun set, and then we’d sit together, utter a unanimous “Amen!” and began the annual dinner of our dreams. All of these things I remember, but the gifts? Those seemed to have slipped my memory…
So although I was wide-eyed when I saw my inflatable chair towering over the Charlie Brown Christmas tree that Christmas day years ago, I can’t tell you much of what else I’ve received all of those years. I can’t remember what toys my dad brought to life with all of those batteries. I can’t remember what presents flew Southwest with Aunt Patty or what gifts were piled high in our stockings.
As I look back on Christmas, it wasn’t about the gifts. Christmas was more about the togetherness, the family, feeling warmth from the fireplace and from the peace and love that filled our home on Bethany Court each year. Christmas time brought a sense of security, hope, and wonder that has stuck in my memory all these years.
In my most recent years, although Christmas still isn’t all about the presents, I’ve found that it means so much to me because of the greatest Gift of all. This Gift brings all: hope, security, love, peace, warmth, belonging, and connection, perfectly through the Gift of Christ. A Gift worth remembering, a Gift worth holding close and a Gift to be cherished all throughout the year. A Gift for us to receive, so that we have the joy and the privilege to be called children of God.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12