I get cynical about Christmas. Sometimes I get a little grinchy. I get cynical about buying presents for people. I get grouchy about keeping up appearances. I sometimes even wonder about the so-called Spirit of Christmas. Then when I get in the Spirit of Christmas, then I remember. Here is a true Christmas story to help you remember what it’s all about.
My family had a tradition of going to the dime-store to shop for each other for Christmas. I always asked my parents why it was called the dime-store since nothing in there cost a dime, except maybe the gum machine. We were given money by our parents to shop for them and for our brothers and sisters a couple of weeks before Christmas. We were each expected to get each person one gift, usually costing between five and ten dollars.
When I was about seven years old, I remember picking out what I thought was the perfect gift for my mom. My mom had dark brown, medium length hair, but it was quite thick. She wore barrettes and bobby pins quite often as that was the style (remember sixties and seventies hairstyles ladies?). There was a dark brown set of hair combs which I thought she could wear to keep her hair back as she liked to do. I remember thinking that they would look so pretty in her hair.
The rest of my family was in another part of the store as I was doing my shopping, all by my little seven year old self. When I went up and laid the combs on the counter, the lady at the register looked at my gift with a sour look and said, “Your mom won’t like those.” I looked back and said, “Yes she will.” The lady answered, “Your mom doesn’t have long hair. She won’t wear those. You should get her something else.” But I was seriously convinced in my mind, for some reason, that my mom would really like these combs. I answered back, as indignant as a shy seven year old can get, “My mom has long hair and she will wear them.” I felt I might start crying right there. The lady looked at me realizing that she wasn’t going to talk me out of buying them and reluctantly rang them up.
We didn’t tell anyone else what their presents were going to be because we wanted everyone else to be surprised. I was convinced that my mom would like these combs, but the lady at the store had placed a seed of doubt in my mind. What if my mom opened the package on Christmas morning and said, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to wear these. My hair is just not long enough. Sorry Darrin.” I didn’t want to tell anybody what had happened because I didn’t want my mom to be fake in her reaction. I wanted to see if she really liked them, or if she was just going to say she liked them because she wanted me to feel good about it.
So I kept the incident at the store to myself, all the while wondering what would happen on Christmas morning. Inside, my heart was aching with anticipation, half excited about getting her a great gift, half dreading that the lady at the store would be right. When my mom got to my gift and opened it, she exclaimed, “Oh, Darrin, they are so beautiful. Thank you.” It was too much for my little heart. I started crying. My mom looked fairly perplexed. “What’s wrong, Darrin?” But I was sobbing uncontrollably; I couldn’t talk. After about a minute of blubbering with snot running out of my nose, I was finally able to answer the question of why I was crying. “The lady at the store said you wouldn’t like them.” “What?” After a bit, I was able to calm down and tell her the whole story.
My mom looked at me so sincerely and said, “Darrin, they are so beautiful. I will wear them all the time.” I knew she wasn’t lying. I knew that I had been right all along. But it wasn’t because of her reaction after my story, it was because of how she reacted before my story, as she had just opened the gift. As time went on, my mom would point out to me if ever she was wearing the combs. It made me happy to see her wearing them. But what had really confirmed my decision to buy her those combs was her honest reaction when she first opened them.
Here I was, using my parents’ money, taken to the story by my parents, using their wrapping paper, and thinking that I was doing some great thing for my mom. Really, it wasn’t very much at all. But my mom was so happy to receive my humble gift to her that it made me joyful. How much are we like that with God? We use His resources, His wisdom, His passions, His intelligence, and then we offer up something to God thinking we are doing some great thing for Him. And yet He receives our gifts. How condescending! How much like God!
I not only get cynical about buying gifts for others, I get cynical about the gifts that others get for me. I haven’t always been gracious like my mom. I haven’t remembered how my little seven year old heart could have easily been broken on Christmas. But maybe with a little effort this Christmas, I can graciously accept the gifts that others give me. Maybe I can open that gift, and with a genuine reaction say to whoever bought it for me, “Thank you so much. It is so beautiful. I love it. I will use it all the time.” How much like God!
Have fun and remember Christ amidst the festivities ~ I Corinthians 10:31
-The Orange Mailman