It was kind of a game at our house to see who could get to the mail box first. Mr. Davis, our rural mail carrier, was like clockwork arriving at the box out by the road nearly the same time every day. It would never fail that in the early fall whoever got to the box first would open it up to see a reminder that Christmas was near – the JCPenney’s catalog. I was always grateful to Mr. Penney for sending his catalog out so early so there was plenty of time to plan my Christmas strategy.
You see, from my stand point a good Christmas did not just happen it most definitely needed a bit of guidance through subtle persuasion and gentle manipulation to steer “Santa Claus” (seemed to be a bit of manipulation on both sides didn’t there?) toward the proper gifts. My standard strategy, and the one used throughout most kid-dom, demands a two pronged approach, recognition and appreciation.
The recognition phase required leaving the catalog open to the right page at the precise moment a parent walked by allowing for an exclamation within ear shot like “wow, I did not know the new G.I. Joe was out and it is really cheap too!” Other tried and true methods were to say how much you enjoyed playing G.I.Joe at Brent’s house but it was tough only having one soldier “wouldn’t it be great for Brent if we each had our own?” Can you go wrong thinking of others first just as mom and dad taught me to do? I always wondered how I could get my Sunday School teacher to put in a good word since getting a G.I. Joe would be such a loving and caring gift with which I could help out poor unfortunate Brent.
The appreciation phase was like two sides of a newly minted coin for its brilliance. On the face you begin letting the parents know, because I just may not always express myself well, how much they mean to me. They are the bestest parents in the whole world! On the flip side I would nonchalantly be visibly seen doing chores without being asked as well as fulfilling other parental demands around the house in a positive manner (including refraining from some of the negative). The hope was that if I started early enough (Thanks JCPenney reminder!) recent good will would override the memories of past shortcomings so that on the good vs. bad ledger that all parents have I may come out on the plus side.
This strategy was taken to the next level with grandparents because you did not see them as often, and they had the unfiltered stories of your behavior from your parents. Grandparents took work and creativity. The “out of the blue” phone call was a classic and writing a letter was gold. Grandparents like letters. We would have Christmas at my dad’s parents with all of the Aunts and Uncles and cousins on a Sunday afternoon. Grandma always came out and asked me what I wanted for Christmas but she was just being polite. It was not until High School I found that Grandpa would just give money to my parents to buy me something all of those years. Grandparents are sneaky that way; they know how to get unsolicited phone calls and letters out of you by subtle persuasion and gentle manipulation. Man, where do they come up with this stuff?
My mom’s mother lived in New Orleans and we tried to go that way when we could. I remember in Junior High we were going to get to have Christmas with Grandma in person so I just knew that a gift was going to come straight from the source – no default outsourcing to my parents. I loved visiting the Crescent City spending time walking to the levee, eating at Café de Monde and being around my Grandma – we seemed to be kindred spirits and she “got me” – understanding as much as anyone who I was. This may explain her gift…
When it came time to open presents I was given a plainly wrapped package that mysteriously resembled nothing that I hinted at. As I tore into it I found – a scrap book. Not just a scrap book but one filled with newspaper articles, Bible verses, cartoons and thoughts and sayings written in the margins in my grandmother’s neat old fashioned handwriting. I am sure my face said something differently than what I blurted out “gee thanks Grandma.” For someone that “got me” I sure didn’t get this gift at all. I remember thinking “I don’t think I am going to take this to Brent’s and play that is for sure.”
Today, as an adult I can remember few gifts that I received on Christmas mornings. But as I sit and write I have beside me a most precious gift –my Grandma’s values, life lessons, humor and hopes for her grandson all handmade and yellowed but read and reread. Man did she “get me” and know what I needed having the right words to encourage me long after she is gone. God, likewise, knows what each of us needs because He “gets us” – every one of us right down to knowing the number of hairs on our head. In our immaturity and selfishness we do not always appreciate the sacrifice made allowing for this gift to be personally delivered to us. This gift was not outsourced but is a precious package of values, life lessons, humor and hope that is for every person embodied in the baby Jesus, given by God Himself. Sometimes the giver “gets us” so well that He knows what we need more than we know ourselves. In this case He knew we needed a savior.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
This daily devotion is written by John Key