Everything looks different in the rear view mirror, even Christmas. After Christmas there is the inevitable feeling of let down. The thought that the gifts that we spent so much time looking for are not appreciated.
My son, who received from me a Nikon Coolpix camera, quickly said, “That’s neat,” and then a minute later, added, “Did you keep the receipt?” My daughter was worse. One of her gifts was a bejewelled flannel shirt, the kind that reminded me of something Daisy Duke would wear in the Dukes of Hazzard. Hannah, my daughter, wasn’t feeling so country, and proceeded to call all her friends over the next two days recounting what bad taste I had in clothing. When, in my defense, I pointed out that she had something similar in her closet, but not so stylish, she denied ever seeing the prior similar and offending shirt.
Children grow up. Once upon a time it was easy to buy presents for them. Then, the newness of everything and the excitement of gifts at Christmas was like the first taste of cool water after a hard workout – “sweet”. Now, it is like trying to eat one too many cookies on the plate.
That’s okay for me because the true meaning of Christmas is the gathering of family and friends and the sharing of stories and memories. Christmas, after all, celebrates the birth of Christ. It acknowledges the struggles that Joseph and Mary had in leaving Egypt and coming to Bethlehem. Of their attempts to find shelter on a cold night. Of the warmth that they shared in the stable, surrounded by the animals and the shepherds who came in response to the angels’ invitation.
The giving of the gifts of the Magi is actually celebrated on January 6 as the Feast of the Epiphany.Their gifts were frankincense, myrrh, and gold. I know these are expensive gifts, but they always seemed to me a little inappropriate for a new born child. I wonder if Jesus’ parents didn’t trade these gifts in for something a little more practicle, like a new donkey and something to eat. No, when I think of great Christmas gifts, I think of the Littlest Angel who returned to earth and collected the mementos he hid under his bed.
“Well, there was a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer day on the high hills above Jerusalem, and a sky blue egg from a bird’s nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his mother’s kitchen door. yes, and two white stones, found on a muddy river bank, where he and his friends had played like small brown beavers, and, at the bottom of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap, once worn as a collar by his mongrel dog, who had died as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite devotion.”
It has been 2010 years since that first celebration of the birth of Christ. The awe and wonder of it all has in time seemingly diminished, lost in the glitter of Christmas lights, discarded wrapping paper, and credit card bills. But the value of gifts are not measured in money, but in love.