“God is your father,” the young man said. “He came down at Christmas in human form. Through Jesus, you can know what God is like.” He looked at me with hopeful eyes, but I wasn’t convinced. “A father cares,” he continued. “A father watches over you and is always there.”
Just about everyone is excited to receive a gift. There is something wonderful about knowing that someone cared enough to think about what you would like, shopped for it or created it themselves, and gave it to you.
There is also a special joy in giving gifts. When you find a gift that you know the recipient will love, it’s fun to present it to them. The recipient’s delight becomes a gift to you and inspires you to keep giving. But stop and think for a moment of all the gifts you’ve received in your life so far, and which ones have stood out.
It was Christmas Eve. I was in a hurry, trying to finish my work early and prepare for the evening with my family and friends, when the phone rang. I answered impatiently, “Yes, hello?”
“Merry Christmas, Lilia!” the voice on the other end cheerfully exclaimed in accented English.
I went to my desk on Christmas Eve morning to find that our beloved sand clock glass had somehow broken. I threw it away, then fished it out again to take one last dramatic photo.
Sand clocks have always held a fascination for me, especially this one. It was a gift to my wife last Christmas, meant to represent “the gift of spending time together.” It also reminded me of a story and play I had written based around the symbolism of the sand clock.
Christmas can be likened to a Christmas gift, where the giver is God, the gift is Jesus, and the recipient is both the whole world and each of us personally. The analogy is based on what is probably the best known and most important verse in the Bible, John 3:16. I’d heard the analogy many times over the years and even used it myself, but the following email from Paloma Sridhar in Bangalore, India, added a surprising twist:
I’d been trying not to think about Christmas, dreading the day, hoping against hope that some angel would come into my life and make everything okay. I even tried pretending that it was just a normal day, nothing special, in hopes that would make the loneliness go away. But I couldn’t avoid it: Christmas was all around me, and I was alone. No one to talk to, no one to laugh with, and no one to wish me a happy Christmas. With each minute that passed I was getting more depressed, and that’s what I dreaded the most!
A number of years ago, I lived and worked in a small volunteer center in the south of Russia. A week before Christmas, a snowstorm blew down the main power line for the whole region. Nobody knew how long the blackout would last, as the repair crew had to wait for the weather to clear before they would be able to reach the affected area up in the mountains and fix the cables.
The year we had very little money to spend on Christmas turned out to be our best ever! After a recent move to a new country, we’d had to leave behind all of our Christmas decorations, and I wondered how we could decorate our home, especially since we were tight on cash and had extra setting-up costs. Thankfully, one autumn weekend while on a forest hike, my kids got the idea of collecting pine cones and using these to make Christmas decorations. We began right away, and by evening we had a large bagful.