Like you, I have sometimes been asked, “What is your favorite Christmas memory?”
I have no tales of dramatic rescue, needy children, or the-present-that I-always-wanted-but-thought-I would-never-get-yet-somehow-did. In both my youth and adulthood, Christmas has been pleasant but generally uneventful.
Yet one thought has recurred. One image has remained. One memory has resonated.
Each year, like every other child, I could hardly wait for Christmas. By Christmas Eve, my head was dancing, albeit not with visions of sugarplums. My parents, kind souls that they were, knew that for a child anticipating Christmas, a day is like an eternity. So in their mercy, they allowed me and my sister to open one present on Christmas Eve.
I am sure my perception does not purely match with reality, but I am confident that far more than once, my Christmas Eve present was underwear. Yes — a clear, squishy package of white undergarments designed to equip me for life in this cruel world.
(This was followed, on the day of Christmas, with good gifts from my sensible but generous parents.)
Why do I remember this? I am certain that more often than not, I received underwear with far less fondness than I now feel in writing about it. Surely I thought, “Great. It’s Christmas Eve, and all I get tonight is underwear.”
But what is a gift? It is something that I cannot demand because I do not deserve it. All the gifts I received were because of the generosity and graciousness of the people who chose to love me. It is a matter of perspective. If I think I deserve everything, I will be sullen and angry with anything less. If I know I have no right to demand anything, I will be joyful and thankful for whatever I receive.
Christmas is about a gift that we could hardly call glamorous, but now can proclaim glorious. It is about a gift that came not with loud trumpets, but with a little baby’s first cry. It is about a gift that we did not deserve and could not demand.
As I ponder the underwear of Christmas Eve, I believe I am now genuinely thankful for it, along with all the fun stuff I opened the next day. But I must always remember that the best gift came two-thousand years ago, and I am humbled that it came not because I had the right to demand it, but because God had the heart to desire it.
Because of this I can say, “Merry Christmas.”