What was the best present you got for Christmas? Did someone really special surprise you with a totally unexpected gift? Maybe a complete stranger or a friend you had not seen for a while shocked you with something totally amazing.
Let me rephrase the question by adding one word - what was the best present you EVER got for Christmas? Not just this Christmas, but any Christmas.
I asked myself that question and relived many Christmases past. There was the Schwinn bicycle I got when I was 9 or 10 years old. I still have some old black and white photos of me on that bike when it still had fenders, a horn and a headlight...and very few scratches. That was special.
Then there was the sweater. Through the years there have been lots of Christmas sweaters, but this was THE sweater. It came from Golden-Farley Men’s Store in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Sammie and I had shopped - on the square in downtown B.G., listening to “Silver Bells” on the speakers in the park - and she knew I loved that sweater. She couldn’t afford it, but somehow she scraped together enough teenaged babysitting money to buy it. That was really special.
Of course, there have been lots of other gifts that have meant much, such as the 20-something-year-old pick-up she surprised me with a few Christmases back, but enough about stuff I’ve gotten!
I asked my wife the question, and there was nothing close to numero uno; however, there were several gifts that tied for second place. Certainly there were childhood prizes and surprises.
And then there was the cameo ring I bought for her the year she gave me THE sweater. There was no mistaking what was in that tiny box; it had to be a ring. But it scared her to death, because she thought it would be a diamond...and she knew her daddy would kill me. Nope! Since it was a cameo, I lived to tell about it.
There were other rings, after we were married - which happened a year and a half after the big scare. One was the aquamarine ring that I hid in a large box under a piece of firewood. I surprised her for sure with that one. And there was the silver cameo that came from Victor Hardy’s Jewelry Store.
But nothing compares to her most precious gift. Our daughter, Stacia, was born Dec. 23, and, on Christmas Day, the nurse brought her to Sammie in a big red stocking. She had been feeling sorry for herself, being in the maternity ward, alone, on Christmas, but her sadness turned to joy. Holding her newborn baby and singing carols to her, she was reminded of another baby, born in a filthy barn, and she celebrated Christmas as never before. The gift of life was in her hands, which brings us full circle to the best gift ever given or ever received - Jesus, the baby in a manger.
“When the time was right, God sent His Son; born of a woman, born under the law to redeem you and me...”
“The Word became flesh and lived among us humans...”
“God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...”
Certainly the best gift we can receive, no matter when we accept the gift, is the gift of God’s Son, but here’s another question to contemplate: “What is the best gift Jesus has ever received for His birthday?” Is it gold...or frankincense...or myrrh? Those were certainly wise gifts.
But I would suggest that the best gift anyone - the wise men or you and I - can give to the King of kings is our heart. Yours. Mine. Everyone who gives Him their heart gives the gift He really wants from us.
--Steve Playl, columnist college instructor, former pastor, and hospital chaplain can be emailed at email@example.com
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