Colorful lights, tinsel, wreaths, garlands, and bows. Must be Christmas time. Fond memories from my youth flood my mind sporadically throughout the days leading up to Christmas day. Everything about the season speaks the message of hope, love, and peace.
Every year in my youth, we watched White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Bells of St. Mary, and Little Women, along with the Christmas specials by Bing Crosby or Bob Hope and many others. I always hoped Red Skelton would have another Freddie the Freeloader Christmas show, not just his usual short skits. I imagined myself in Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best family Christmas celebrations.
Back into my home reality, I had submitted my wish list and waited for packages with my name on them to show up under the tree from Mom and Dad–while anticipating the surprises to appear on Christmas morning. I wanted one gift that could not be wrapped. I wanted Dad to love Mom, my brother, and me enough to stop drinking.
Many years later, I realize Dad’s love language was giving. He didn’t realize that the greatest gift he could give me was himself, so he substituted with things—except for one Christmas. That day, my brother Kenny and I awoke to some grand presents. Kenny received a pinball machine that gave both of us and our company hours of entertainment. I got a Daisy BB rifle. The family got the board game Monopoly.
After all the gift wrapping had been cleared and Kenny had read the instructions for assembling his pinball machine, Dad sat down and opened the Monopoly game. I didn’t know what to do. He had done nothing like that before. On top of it, he had already drunk a few bottles of beer. My first reaction was flight, but Mom encouraged me to give him a chance. Try out the game with him. With apprehension, I picked out a playing piece, sorted my money, and took my turns with Dad and Kenny. Mom stayed busy getting Christmas dinner ready, occasionally peeking in on us to see how things were going and to take a picture.
I don’t remember who won the game. I only know I walked away the big winner, having had some fun time with Dad.
It’s always great to get things you’ve asked for, and sometimes the surprise gifts are even greater, knowing that someone knows you well enough to get the perfect gift apart from your list. But the greatest gift cannot be bought. No manufacturer or retailer can package love.
A little more than two thousand years ago, God did what man thought was impossible. He packaged Himself—God is love—and wrapped Himself in swaddling clothes and lay in a manger. The greatest gift of all time for the greatest desire of all humanity. If you haven’t yet, I hope you find His gift with your name on it, receive His love, and have fun with your heavenly Father this Christmas.