Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, I've received a special "Christmas ornament." The ornament unveiling occurs every year like clock work. The moment comes when Mom and I are decorating the tree. I say "Mom and I" not because I am a fatherless child. Just fatherless at Christmas tree decorating time. The picking, purchasing and putting up of the Christmas tree has always been performed by my Mom. And happily so. She wouldn't trust anyone else to pick her perfect Fraser Fur or the traditional, yearly ornament gifted to her daughter as a special token to remember that one particular Christmas.
I have ornaments dating back to my toddler years. A few have been lost or broken along the way but most remain delicately wrapped and stored for eleven months of the year. Then, come December, the ornaments of Christmas pasts are unveiled and given a prominent place on the Christmas tree.
Every year, as Mom and I decorate the tree she always sneaks away to her bedroom for a few minutes - sometimes longer if she can't find the bag or the box in which she's hidden my annual Christmas tree decorating gift. When she reappears she has hidden within her hands the perfect ornament wrapped up in tissue paper. The ornaments are always unique, like the skiing squirrel of 2014, and perfectly suited to the past year's events, like the NYC bulb presented on the Christmas following my first trip to the big city. The ornaments are always a testament to the year gone by and to the love of a Mom that has a talent for making holidays, and her children, feel special.
This year Mom and I were together again in the living room decorating the Christmas tree. We wrapped the tree in strands of little white twinkle lights, like we do every year. Then we opened up big boxes full of ornaments and unwrapped each one with tender care. Delicate ornaments made their way to the top of the tree while soft cotton mittens and fluffy snowman were affixed to low branches. In the midst of our tree decorating I disappeared up to my room and returned with a little white bag. The Christmas ornament tradition has now become my own. Now I too buy a special ornament and present it my Mom while we decorate the tree. She unwrapped the tissue paper to reveal a rustic wooden ornament decorated with beach glass in the shape of a Christmas wreath.
The newest Christmas tree addition was placed on a prominent branch and then the decorating resumed. The rest of the boxed ornaments were hung, broken ornaments were fixed and some had to be ditched. With a few strings of red beaded garland the tree looked complete.
Except for one thing.
There was no "Stephanie's Christmas Ornament of 2016" hanging on the tree. The whole Christmas tree decorating ordeal had come and gone and Mom had never slipped away to her room. She never revealed a white bag or wrapped box or tissue paper wrapped treasure. For the first time in twenty six years, Mom didn't give me a Christmas ornament.
But she didn't need to.
The time in my life has come and with it a new understanding has dawned. Christmas isn't about getting; It is about giving.
It has taken too long for me to get here - maybe it takes too long for all of us to get here. But short or long, delayed or early, the time has come when I no longer need to receive a special yearly Christmas ornament. The only special ornament I need is the one I'm giving away.
I've often heard it said that it is better to give than to receive and at Christmas time I am reminded of why that saying is true. Because Jesus was a giver, not a getter.
This Christmas and all year long, I want to give like Jesus. I want to give, not because I'm hoping to receive, but because I'm hoping to bless. I want to give because I want to show Christ's love. I want to give sacrificially in order that the receiever will experience the joy of knowing they are special and treasured.
For my 26 years of life, my memories of Christmas tree decorating have been wrapped up tissue paper, in the special gift I was given. But not this year. This year my tradition, and what made Christmas tree decorating special, was wrapped up in what I gave and the special woman, my Mom, who I had the gift of blessing.