I remember one particular Christmas when I was a kid. I was probably about eleven, and I was obsessed with a book called My Side of the Mountain. It was about a city kid who got disillusioned by the crowds and noise and he ran away to the wilderness. And he survived by learning how to hunt for food, build shelter with branches and leaves, pick berries, etc. But the most intriguing thing to me at the time was that he caught a wild falcon and befriended it, teaching it how to hunt on command! The bird would capture a small animal and return to the boy, landing gracefully on his arm. The boy would cook the prey over an open fire and feast.
As Christmas rolled around that year, and the television commercials were filled with hundreds of toys that kids could implore their parents for, there was only one gift I was interested in. Behold, some toy company had created a flying falcon toy just like the one in the book. In the commercial, the great bird of prey would perch on the lucky kid’s arm, take off on command, fly majestically through the sky and return, landing precisely. Every time I saw the commercial, my heart raced with excitement. I begged my parents for it. I told the mall Santa that I wanted it. Oh, I’d forego my entire Christmas morning cache as long as I got this one magnificent present!
To my utter joy, I ripped open a big box on Christmas morning, and there it was: my falcon! But inevitably my imagination (and the magic of television) had built up a much higher expectation for this toy than the reality. It was basically a big, heavy plastic bird. It didn’t flap its wings. It didn’t fly. It didn’t soar off into the sky and it certainly didn’t land gracefully on my arm. The most I could do was anchor it on my arm with my hand and run around the yard, but heck, how fun was that?
I was so disappointed.
Gifts and Christmas go hand in hand. When you’re a kid and you think about Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind are gifts. The same can be said when you’re the parent of young kids. When my two boys were little, I found myself in charge of their gift selection, shopping and wrapping. I came up with a dollar amount and spent the same amount on each kid to keep it “even.” But the year the boys were eight and five, it became very clear that this approach was a big mistake.
The toys on my younger son’s list were much less expensive than the more electronic toys on my older son’s list. Although I spent the same amount of money on each one, the resulting number of gifts were disparate between the two. Son #1 actually was disappointed when he finished opening, even though he’d gotten pretty much everything he’d asked for! And after all the effort I’d put into the whole process, I was crushed at his reaction.
Naughty or Nice? Have you ever found the lyrics to a particular song about Santa Claus kind of … creepy?
He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!
In the Santa tradition, kids have to be good in order to receive gifts. If you’re bad, you’re not getting anything that year. Or what about the newish tradition Elf on the Shelf, based on a 2005 book? The story introduces toy elves that work as Santa’s helpers (I suppose the job got too big for him to do himself!). Disguised as toys, they visit children’s homes the month before Christmas to observe and report back to Santa whether the children are being naughty or nice. The elves appear as toys and by magic, they come to life when the children aren’t watching them.
Boy, it’s a tough job being a kid at Christmas!
The Real Christmas Gift: Of course, as Christians we know that there is only one true Christmas gift, and that is God’s gift of his beloved son to all of us. There’s no disappointment in the receipt of this gift, and there’s no way to earn it. There is no giant checklist of who gets the gift and who doesn’t. The birth of Jesus is God’s gift to all his people, naughty and nice alike, because he loves us that much. Jesus came to earth to forgive us all our sins and to pave the way for all God’s people to live the lives that God intends for us to live, in the fullness of his grace. We can do absolutely nothing to earn this amazing gift. He doesn’t expect us to deserve his generosity. All we can do is accept it with an open and grateful heart. Now that’s a gift that is vital to us every day of the year.
A few gifts for you … In closing, I have a couple gifts to share to those of you who love to read and love to cook! Two free downloads to your ereader to help with your Christmas cheer!
My novella One Big Apple Christmas: Heartbreak turns to hope in this festive Christmas story set in magical New York City. Just in time for the holidays, a heartwarming story about love in the Big Apple.
And from last year, my Matchmaking Moms Cookbook: The Matchmaking Moms of Oceanview Church love to cook, and so do their kids. It’s my pleasure to present their recipes to you in case any of them tickle your appetite! Bon Appetit!
Comment and let me know: what was your favorite Christmas gift you received as a child? Did it live up to your expectations? What was your favorite Christmas gift that you gave to someone else? What made it special and was it well received?
Merry Christmas everyone!