The Hammer, the Train Set, and the BB Gun

Our vivacious, ever-so-verbal, 2-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Esmee, told Santa Claus the other day that she wanted a yo-yo and a hammer for Christmas. Oh the marvel of a child’s imagination this time of year. Should Santa comply, I’m a little worried about what that hammer might do around the house. Gifts have their downside sometimes too.

Can you remember the thrill of imagining what you might get for Christmas? You were very sure that clock radio that glowed in the dark and turned itself off would change your life. Do you remember those times when you imagined that perfect gift for someone else, and they actually loved it?

Stephen Newby, our wonderful musician and director of worship at Seattle Pacific, told me the other day, with a gleam in his eye, that he is getting a second train set for his son, Silas, this time a bigger one that would circle the old one. I remember when I got a train set for Christmas. It was very cool, indeed, with a whistle and lights that showed the way in the dark and gears that dumped off cargo onto waiting ramps. The thing was always derailing, but no matter, I couldn’t imagine anything more cool. I’ll bet Silas loves his new train too. At least I know Dr. Newby will.

Our family used to watch every year that great classic A Christmas Story. We discover early on that Ralphie, the main character, longs for an official Red Ryder, 200-shot BB gun. Ralphie’s mom keeps shouting, “But, Ralphie, you could shoot your eye out.” Of course his dad went ahead and got the great wished-for gift anyway. Even though Ralphie breaks his glasses with a ricocheted BB, this gift was the coolest thing he’d ever held in his hands.

I’ve been thinking about the ancient roots to all of this joy about gifts. We get literally hundreds of Christmas cards this time of year. Many of my colleagues and friends at secular universities have to airbrush any religious meaning out of those cards. I understand why, I guess. But they use language like joy and hope and light, and yet the nourishing roots to that language have been cut off.

The gift of Jesus was a gift “full of wonder,” says Luke. The wise men, of course, brought their precious gifts and kneeled before the baby, out of gratitude and joy and wonder for this new gift to the world. I love so much that line out of Luke where Mary “pondered all of these things in her heart.” Somehow the mystery of this extraordinary gift of her baby overwhelmed her. She was lost in deep reflection over the wonder of it all.

Maybe in this hectic season we can let the joy and wonder and mystery of this gift of Jesus spill over into our own giving and receiving of gifts. Maybe these deep roots can nourish us with the gift of vibrant new life in this season.

I wish for you and your families a wonderful time this Christmas. I likely will not have a blog post next week, but I will look forward to connecting in the new year. Thank you for joining me in this conversation over the last months. I will see you soon.