The best gift

Christmas Day is fast upon us, and I pray you have a truly joyous one with your family and loved ones. My siblings and I gather with our families for an evening celebration21163-gift-box before the big day, and traditionally exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts. This year I created a three-year calendar with everyone’s birthday highlighted, as well as the date for our annual summer reunion at our place. Not a terribly creative or exceptionally attractive gift, but definitely useful. I believe the best part was the first page, where I expressed my love and appreciation for each of my brothers and sisters, even the whiny ones (‘cause I was one too). Because words are powerful, and it’s truly a blessing to hear (or read) that somebody loves you, and is glad that you were born. I do, and I am…all you siblings who shall remain nameless. And your loved ones, as well.

Here’s what I told them.

Christmastime brings families together all over the world. In practically every country, brothers and sisters, parents and children, aunts, uncles, and cousins gather to celebrate the season and remember shared experiences and reaffirm their love for and commitment to each other.

Our family is no different, and as we come together to celebrate the day, and each other, I’m reminded again how grateful I am for each of you, and for our parents who gave so much of themselves for us. Making Christmas Day special for ten quarrelsome children could not have been easy. But I believe they succeeded. The thing I remember most about the uniqueness of the day is the brief respite we enjoyed from squabbling and tattling, whining and crying. Especially from ______________ (insert name of whiniest sibling).

Christmas was the one day when all of us were relatively pleased with each other. And the peace and joy I felt then I feel today as I give thanks for you. Because even though we have our differences, we still love each other. And that’s something not all families share, large or small. Mom and Dad weren’t perfect, but they taught us to love, and forgive. And they demonstrated the beauty, blessing, and power of Family.

They also gave us “the heritage of those who fear God’s name” (Psalm 61:5). For that I am also grateful. From them I first learned that God created me and loves me, and listened to a little girl’s voice as she prayed at her mother’s knee for her parents and siblings “and all my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.” I learned of a God who didn’t disqualify her repeated closing request to “please make me a good girl” even though it was spoken robotically. Who continued to love and forgive even when she failed to be good.

What I didn’t learn then (perhaps I was preoccupied with boys or something), but have since, is that no amount of effort to be good would qualify me to go on and live with God in Heaven after my life on earth is finished. That Jesus’ death and resurrection secured that for me, as the greatest gift ever given. And a gift is never earned, but must simply be received.

The blessing of Christmas is the gift of Christ. We celebrate His birth, because He came to die. We sing “Joy to the World!” because His coming gave us victory over despair. We come together as families at this time because He made it possible for us to be with each other forever. And with Him. Praise His holy Name.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2:10-11