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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

The Weight Of Christmas Present

December 20th, 2001

“Are you finding everything ok?”

The 20-something brother and sister were looking through a stack of Phoenix Suns shirts.

“Who knows? We’re buying for our mother. She’s really picky.”

“Don’t you have the “it’s from my daughter, I’m sure whatever it is I’ll love it” thing going for you?”

“You don’t know our mother.”

“So it’s more like, “You’re my daughter, you should know better” that you’re dealing with?”

“Exactly…This looks like the right size but if it shrinks it’ll be too tight and she’ll be upset. If I go a size bigger and guess wrong she’ll open it and say, “What’s this? Do you think I’m fat?”

The brother speaks. “She likes Diamondback stuff. Get her the World Series DVD. She and Dad can both enjoy that.”

“But that’s really more of a present for Dad. And we already got him a shirt. Which means Dad would be getting a gift and a half and Mom would just be getting half a gift.”

“So buy a shirt for her and the DVD for both of them and it’s even.”

“What if I get the wrong size?”

“She can always return it.”

“From Minneapolis?”

A few minutes later they left the store carrying the weight of Christmas present in a two-ply shopping bag.

The holiday music floating above our heads proclaims this a season of comfort and joy. A quick check of the facial expressions in any mall during the month of December and you’ll see that many of us aren’t buying it. Retailers do their biggest business around the holidays. So do counselors and psychologists. Stress and the holidays go together like red stripes and candy canes.

We open more than neatly wrapped packages at Christmas. We also open up the emotional boxes we’ve been stuffing in our closet all year. Or, perhaps more accurately, Christmas opens them for us. There’s something about Christmas that shines the light of reality on our relationships. Be they good, bad or ugly, we’re more aware of our perceived success or failure with others this time of year. And our awareness presents itself…in presents.

The preferred year-end relationship therapy of Americans is to buy something. The perfect gift, we tell ourselves, will make everything better. The perfect gift will communicate what I haven’t been able to say this year. The perfect gift will make up for all my mistakes. The perfect gift will reconcile me to the one who pulled away from me. Or to the one I pushed away.

On December 24th and 25th people from New York to Newport Beach will gather in living rooms and sit in front of fireplaces, anxiously waiting for their perfect gift to land on the lap of the one they love. Or the one we wish loved us. Or the one we’ve never been able to get along with and wish we could. Or the one we’ve been trying to please all our life. Or the one we hurt. Or the one who hurt us. Or the one who keeps us at a distance.

In a few days, many of us will live or die by the expression on another person’s face. Our success or failure depends on that microsecond flash of non-verbal feedback when they open our gift. If in their eyes we see happiness and affirmation, we win. If we don’t, we lose. Until that moment, our perfect gift sits under a tree like a time bomb and we’re praying it’s full of confetti.

For many of us, “the hopes and fears of all the years” are wrapped in ribbons and reindeer paper and sealed with Scotch tape. The perfect gift, we tell ourselves, will make everything better. It will break the communication log jam. It will be the key that opens the door to a locked heart. It will win us the approval we desperately seek. It will close the gap and heal the hurt. That’s an awful lot of weight to put on a cashmere sweater from Sak’s. Or a socket set from Sears.

There’s something about Christmas that shines the light of reality on our relationships. Some 2,000 years ago God shined His light on a broken, hopeless humanity. His preferred method of relational therapy was to give a Gift. And God knows all about the deep desire for a gift to be well-received. Every day He watches the eyes of His created humans for that expression of affirmation, that confirmation that His gift of forgiveness has been accepted. It’s the grandest gift money can’t buy. Accepted, it closes the gap, heals our hurts and heads us toward heaven.

That’s an awful lot of weight to put on the shoulders of a baby in a manger.

And that’s the miracle of God’s Christmas present.

“And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people; for unto you this day in the city of David is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:10-12