I have received many Christmas gifts, but can only remember a few. Likewise, my wife remembers the magic of Christmas, but not so much specific presents received.
Karen’s father, Thom Mason, worked three jobs to provide a magical Christmas for five children. His third job was bartender and he left a glass tip jar filled with coins under the tree for Santa and each Christmas morning the jar vanished, purportedly carried away in a sleigh by Santa to help pay the North Pole bills. Christmas morning exploded in color, tinsel, lights, and presents under the tree. It was simply magic.
I no longer struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve. And I have always lived with a sort of Christmas dissonance, a stubborn belief in the magic of Christmas juxtaposed against a mocking cynicism of vapid Hallmark Christmas movies.
I’ve always wondered about Christmas without presents.
Today we celebrated with only the gift of presence.
There were no gifts.
There was no tree.
Only a shared meal, shared dreams, tears and a prayer of blessing.
This was my favorite Christmas.
No presents, no tree, no lights, only family.
And, we were together at a beach house…which is a kind of present in itself.
So we ate ricotta pancakes and eggs and prosciutto and fried potatoes. And two sets of parents, the old folks in our group of ten, were challenged to tell about our challenges, victories, wants, and wonders for 2018.
And so the parents told stories about their lives and about their dreams and what they wonder about and six children stood over us and prayed a prayer while holding onto us and blessing us. It was Christmas turned upside down, the children wrapping joy as a Christmas blessing.
I wandered down to the beach to read, my chair facing the sun, my back to the wind, and I watched sandpipers scooting across the beach hunting crabs, and pelicans cruising just inches above the crest of breaking waves. As I listened to the eternal surf break against the shore I thought about how Christmas really is a miracle.
It’s as simple as reading a book with your toes in the sand, hearing God’s presence in the musical constancy of the surf.
It’s Immanuel come near in a way that allows us mortals to see the glory of God without going blind.
It’s the magical gift of grace for parents who deserve a lump of coal but get children praying over them.