I was eleven when I decided to play Santa Claus.
Somewhere along the way, I realized it was my parents who filled my stocking, not him. It felt unfair that they filled mine and not the other way around. I wanted to give them a gift.
So a few days before Christmas, I trekked to the flower shop my aunt owned, where I purchased two little apple ornaments. My aunt painted my parents’ names on them for me.
I could barely sleep on Christmas Eve. 3 a.m. seemed like the perfect time for my stealth mission, so I set an alarm. When it chimed, I crept down the stairs and tucked those ornaments into my parents’ stockings.
The next morning, while everyone else dug in, I watched. My parents pulled out the unexpected items and gave them curious stares. Looking back, they must have thought it was a gift from the other, and not the snazziest gift ever. I didn’t care. I was so happy to give them something nothing else mattered.
This story came to mind recently as I look ahead to Christmas. I can see how, in a way, it’s reflective of the nativity.
Because you see, there is no Santa Claus (I apologize to anyone whose child might be reading over their shoulder). But there is Someone who gives and gives, to everyone, everywhere.
Can you imagine His anticipation of Christmas? Not just a few days, or weeks, but years upon years. How did He stand the waiting? He knew what He had in store.
And then, at just the perfect time, He snuck Jesus into the world. What an unassuming package.
Most people didn’t even know what happened that night. Those who did had to wonder, “Is this it? Is this what we’ve been waiting for?” This baby was so unexpected.
I imagine God watching it all unfold, so overjoyed to give us this gift. He knew what it meant for them, and what it would mean for us, 2,000 years later.
I want the exchange of gifts this year to remind me of this truth: He is present in every one of them. We give because He gave. The joy we experience is a pale reflection of the joy He has in seeing His plan fulfilled.
There is no greater gift, and He rejoices to give it to us.