Well, here we are. It’s Christmas Eve, and all is right with the world (well, not really—but we certainly like to say that). I’ve already attended an early Christmas Eve candlelight service, and I’m ready to rock and roll (as we also like to say).
Anticipation of the next few hours is filled with joy, nostalgia, and wonderful memories. Yet, as I write these words, I’m reminded of my worst Christmas on record. I think of it every year at this time, as you might imagine. As the vivid images come rushing back, I always become more and more perturbed with myself. It taught me a good lesson, and I’ve lived by that lesson ever since.
The Christmas of which I speak occurred around the time I was ten or twelve years old. One day, my baby sister and I were left in the house unattended. Today, that sounds like child abuse (or, at least, neglect). Back then, it was common and customary. Twelve years olds were mature enough to babysit, and all was right with the world (well, more so than today as I remember).
“Christmas was quickly approaching…
“Since Christmas was quickly approaching, my sister and I went in search throughout the house for any hidden treasures that we might find to amuse ourselves. We got really bold and snoopy and checked out the forbidden back bedroom. Lo and behold, we unearthed the mother lode of snoop-dom. All our Christmas presents were stored there, wrapped in cheery paper and tied up with bows.
The wrapping couldn’t deter us from our appointed task (to have as much illicit fun as we could get away with). We carefully unwrapped our presents, played with them as much as we thought feasible (not wanting to break or scar anything), and then replaced the wrapping.
We were quite adept at our task at hand. That’s probably because our Mom had taught us to be meticulous wrappers of presents—a talent I seem to have lost in my golden years. We actually got away with it. My parents never knew until years later when, as adults, we confessed our misdeeds. They say confession is good for the soul. In this case, it was merely a time for a good laugh and the revelation of a bad memory.
“It was full of air…”
I say it was a bad memory because our sleuth-filled adventure led to my worst Christmas ever. Knowing what was in each and every secret box under the Christmas tree took all the joy out of that otherwise most mysterious and gleeful day.
I don’t remember the gifts except for one. It was a genuine leather, faux NFL football. It was full of air and everything (my parent had spared no expense).
It should have been the pinnacle of that bright and glorious morning. Alas, it was old hat. I opened it and attempted to act overjoyed and surprised. But I remember looking at it and thinking “Is this all there is?”
Lesson learned… Allow Christmas to be a surprise—every year.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]