by Kenny Rader
What was your best Christmas ever? What made it your best Christmas? Was your best Christmas the year someone gave you your favorite gift that you only dreamed of receiving? Was it when you gave another person a special gift? Did your best Christmas include an engagement ring? Was your best Christmas the one you enjoyed your children the most? Maybe you went on a special vacation for Christmas. Maybe your best Christmas was the Christmas a loved one was with you for the last time. I’m not certain I can choose which was my best Christmas ever. I have several memories that I cherish. It might seem crazy, but while I cannot remember my best Christmas, I remember my worst. My worst Christmas two days before Christmas 1983, Martha had just given birth to our youngest daughter, Cheri, so when Christmas morning arrived, Martha and Cheri were still in the hospital. We decided that our other daughter and son (Janet and Andy) and I would open most of our presents on Christmas morning at home and then spend the rest of Christmas day at the hospital. On that Christmas morning, I remember sitting in our living room at home opening gifts with Janet and Andy, but my heart was breaking. I missed Martha. I sat on the sofa bawling my eyes out with the kids looking at me and wondering what was wrong with their daddy. I didn’t just cry. I sobbed and sobbed. I was a mess.
My best memories, however, are not about any particular Christmas. Rather, they are of Christmas in general. I have always enjoyed giving gifts and of making someone else’s Christmas special. One way I was able to do this as a teenager was that I ran a trap line with my next older brother. We got up in the darkness of morning before school and ran the line that included our creek and two of our neighbors’. After my brother got a job and quit trapping, I expanded the trap line and added two more creeks. It kept me busy but I loved trapping. I earned quite a bit of money trapping muskrats, raccoon, and an occasional mink, but I never kept the money for myself. The trap line was the way I earned money to buy Christmas gifts for everyone in our family. I loved to give. Sure, I loved to receive gifts and I could hardly wait for Christmas morning, but the expectation of giving someone that one item that they wanted made Christmas magical for me. Maybe that is why every Christmas is special for me. I get to give. I get to express love.
So how did you answer our opening questions? What was your best Christmas ever? What made it your best Christmas ever? Was love the key ingredient that made it the best? Maybe it was love that someone expressed to you: that special gift that you received and you knew what it cost that person who gave it to you. Maybe it was an extra monetary cost or a sacrificial effort of time and energy. Maybe your favorite Christmas was the one that cost you something you had to sacrifice to bring it about. Whatever it was, what made that Christmas your favorite one? Was love one of the most important ingredients? Maybe, like me, you can’t remember your best Christmas but you can remember your worst. What made it your worst Christmas? Was an element of love the cause?
God’s gift of Christ to come as a baby was all about love. God loves every one of us so much that He gave us baby Jesus. The magi couldn’t really comprehend the fullness of the small child they went to worship, but they came and presented Him gifts. Why? Because of love.
That first Christmas had no tree and no sparkling lights on it. That first Christmas had no special gift wrapped presents with colorful paper, ribbons or bows. But that first Christmas had something that has carried down throughout the ages. It is something that no dictator or army can suppress or take away. It’s love.
Christmas is a special time of the year. Parents and grandparents love to see the kids open their presents and we love to receive the special gifts from others, but when we think about it, it’s not about what is under the tree. It’s not about the presents.
It’s about the love we put into the gifts for others and all about the love they put into the gifts for us. But let’s not forget. The greatest gift of all was the gift love in the form of Jesus that God gave to a dark and lost world.
As the world tries to squelch Christ from Christmas, the world misses one of the greatest elements of the season: the gift of God’s love. And you can’t put that under a tree.