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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 Joy Of Christmas…Presents

December 19th, 2007

Under a pile of blankets, Annie and Emma, dressed in their soft flannel pink and green polka dot pajamas, were snug in their bed. All I could see were their smiling faces. On the other side of the bedroom window, a nippy 29 degree night.

“Tell us a story, Daddy! Tell us a real one about you when you were little,” says Annie.

Emma said, “I like the one about when you fell down and cracked your head because you didn’t mind the teacher.”

Annie and Emma particularly enjoy the stories where Daddy learned a lesson the hard way.

“Ok, girls. Let’s see…when I was your age we would spend Christmas in Texas with your Uncle Jack. He’s my cousin, you know.”

“One Christmas when we were about five years old he and I got the coolest present. It was a dart gun. But not just any dart gun. A double barrel shotgun dart gun. It came with a wind up mechanical rabbit that would scoot around on the floor. We’d shoot the rabbit with our dart guns and knock it over. It was so much fun.”

“But after a couple days of this, we got bored. So we started shooting the darts at other things.’

“Ooh, Daddy, that’s bad.”, says Emma with cautious tone.

“I know. Well, we started shooting them at the ceiling.”

“Daddy, you’re not supposed to do that.”, Annie reminds me.

“I know. But your Uncle Jack figured out that if you licked the dart first, it would stick on the kitchen ceiling tile. They’d stay up there for a while, then fall down.”

“Daddy, whose idea was it to lick the darts?” That Annie asks this question means I’m not spinning the story well enough.

“It was your Uncle Jack’s idea.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. Anyway, we were busy licking the darts and shooting them at the ceiling. What we didn’t realize is that when the darts fell down they left little rings on the ceiling tile.”

“Daddy! You are so in trouble!” Emma is sitting up now.

“We heard the car pull into the driveway. Our Moms had been down the street at the store.”

“Uh oh, Daddy! What did you do?”

“We dropped our guns and ran like the wind. We hid under the bed. Then the darts started unsticking and falling off the ceiling. That’s when your Aunt Evelyn yelled, “Where are those boys?!!!”

Annie and Emma are both sitting up now, more than ready to hear what form of retribution would befall me.

“I told your Uncle Jack we should go out there but he said “no way”. We’d get a spanking for sure. We could see their feet walking down the hall while they looked for us. Just like the Tom & Jerry cartoons when Jerry is looking out from his mouse hole.”

Annie scolds me. “Daddy! You shouldn’t have listened to him!” I must be spinning the story better now.

“Then what happened?”

“Your Aunt Evelyn yelled something about going outside to cut a switch. I told your Uncle Jack we should surrender but he said he didn’t have a good feeling about that switch remark and that we should stay put.”

“Daddy, did they find you?”

“Oh, yes. They found us.”

Emma leaned forward, smiling and almost giddy. “Daddy, did you and Uncle Jack get a spankin’?”

“I think your Uncle Jack did.”

Annie is unconvinced. “Yes, but Daddy did you get a spankin’?”

“I can’t remember. My memory is fuzzy on that point.”

The girls laid back, pulled up the covers and looked at each other.

Says Emma, “He got a spankin’.”

Says Annie, “Yep. A big spankin’.”

Some 39 years later, Jack still has his wind-up mechanical rabbit. It sits on a shelf of memorabilia in his home, an all-time favorite Christmas present from childhood. 

The joy of Christmas is enthusiasm and anticipation to be sure. The joy of Christmas is also presents. Under the tree, hidden in attics and closets and on high up garage shelves, tied up with ribbon and beautiful paper. Presents are wonderful. Who doesn’t like to give and receive a present? Even Dr. Seuss’ cold-hearted Grinch eventually warmed to the spirit of giving. We all have memories of opening a Christmas present that made our face light up like the star on top the tree. Life around Christmas is presents and all that comes with them.

I hate to say it, but sometimes well-meaning Christians are a real downer this time of year. More concerned about what they see as commercialism run rampant, they approach this wonderful season with the freshness of last year’s fruitcake. Some of them, which is to say some of us, try to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas with phrases like “Remember the Reason for the Season” while decrying the buying and selling and the emphasis on gift giving.

When we communicate this either/or approach to Christmas, we give the impression that  genuinely remembering the reason for the season means being serious, somber and boring. We symbolically shake the snow dust from our boots as we pass the Super Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us, as if celebration and partying have no part in the reason for the season.

Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. There is no better reason than Him to celebrate and party. God is the gift. We give because He gave. Let not your heart be troubled when you see malls full of stores making money hand over fist at Christmas. Nor should you waste your time crusading against commercialism. A moment spent decrying the holiday profit margin of The Gap is a moment not spent pondering the miracle of God with us.

If you want people to know the real reason for the season, let your celebration be worthy of the Gift you’ve been given. What’s the proper expression of celebration for being on the receiving end of forgiveness, unconditional love and eternal life?

Smile. Sing. Laugh. Party.

Be grateful. Give gifts.

Give of yourself. Volunteer.

Extend grace.

Be joyful.

Here’s hoping the memories you make this Christmas will become stories you tell to those you love for years to come.

Merry Christmas.

“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

– Isaiah 9:6-7