My Christmas Story

Here's the most recent article I wrote for the "Religion Section" of the Waverly Newspaper.  May it add a smile, and maybe a "good tear" to your holiday this year.  xox

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MY CHRISTMAS STORY

     "This Christmas will be the first since my dad died, and I will be especially cherishing a particularly poignant memory of him and a Christmas past. To be exact, the one when I was 15.

     I was a pretty miserable teenager - was inflicted with all the stuff that makes for miserable teen years, although it seemed like I had it worse than others. After several years of enduring things that often felt unendurable, I came to the realization that the universe’s payback justifying my struggles and bringing me out of my funk would most certainly be: receiving a nice stereo system for Christmas.

     I was a serious musician, a serious fan of classical music, and it was the ONLY present I wanted. The only thing I’d ask for. For all these very good reasons, of course my caring parents would provide it to me come Christmas Day.

 This is pretty close to the ad Dad showed me. The mustard yellow color of the thing was enough to turn me off....

This is pretty close to the ad Dad showed me. The mustard yellow color of the thing was enough to turn me off....

     Mom stayed out of the conversation, and Dad wasn’t so sure about my plan. He wasn’t gung-ho about gifting me a stereo, although he wasn’t totally against it, either. One night he came home from the office with a catalogue, showing me what he was thinking about giving: something compact, not that great in quality, fairly inexpensive. I was disappointed and let him know - I was hoping for something more top-of-the-line. But then I figured since I was young and just starting out in the world of stereo ownership, this would be okay, even if not great.

     As the big day approached, my dreams and hopes of receiving a truly nice stereo system grew - I just couldn’t help it. Then, on Christmas Eve, he told me his plan: “I’m going to give you a check for $75 to go towards a stereo. You can earn the rest.” This was the mid-70’s and $75 was quite a nice gift (of course it still is now), and I had a part-time job and could use my savings to help buy a stereo, but I heard his statement as a bluff.

     I tried not to smile smugly as I said, “Oh come on Dad, this is Christmas! You’re not going to just give me a check!” I knew there would be a new stereo under the tree - there had to be - my life was too miserable for just a check!

     Christmas Eve services that night came and went, and I along with my family sang, prayed and celebrated the coming of the Christ Child into the world. I went to bed with much assuredness (but also a little bit of fear; I was still a pretty insecure teenager after all), that my wish would be fulfilled when the morning arrived.

     Christmas morning indeed came and I ran down the stairs... and there was no stereo. Dad had kept his word; he was going to be giving me that check.

     Before that, however, there were lots of presents for the rest of my family to open. They’d asked for many things. Small things, but many things, so there was lots of ooh’ing and ahh’ing and laughing and joy being shared amongst them.

     I suddenly felt terribly left out, and I sat in a chair in the corner, far enough from the tree, so hopefully no one could see that I was starting to cry. Why oh why had I insisted on this dumb plan? Why had I gotten a little too big for my britches and acted like a spoiled brat, telling my parents what finery I deserved and what they, if they were really good and loving, should do for me?

     Then Dad spoke up. “What’s the matter Boggs?” he said. (“Boggs” was his nickname for me.) I couldn’t answer. I was too upset and embarrassed.

     “Why don’t you follow me?” he then said, taking my hand. One hand still was wiping lots of tears and a runny nose.

     Dad led me down rickety stairs to our basement, where, in the storage room, was a large lump covered by old towels. He removed those towels...

 This is pretty close to the amazing system I got to behold, once Dad removed the ratty towels....

This is pretty close to the amazing system I got to behold, once Dad removed the ratty towels....

     ...and there was the most beautiful, superior, stereo system...it was beyond anything I’d imagined! A receiver, a turntable, two state-of-the art speakers...now tears of joy completely flowed.

     Dad then hugged me. And excitedly helped me take it up the stairs to assemble so we could together hear how great it sounded.

      For me, no better experience brings home one of the big messages of the Gospel, and Christmas: “For while we were still sinners, Jesus came to earth to save us.” None of us deserve what God gifted us, still gifts us, no matter how bratty we are in our surety that we, even more than others, are owed. And Jesus continues to be so much greater than what’s on our “What The Perfect Messiah Should Be” list; He continues to transcend human imagination.

     I will forever be grateful for the sacred gift of amazing grace that my dad was for me, especially that Christmas. My prayer is that all of us will discover gifts of amazing grace in our walk into Christmas this year. This season is not about anything that’s earned. Or especially deserved by us or anybody else.

 Dad's last New Years Eve at the condo.  Cheers and double cheers!

Dad's last New Years Eve at the condo.  Cheers and double cheers!

     Peace! Hope! Joyful Tears! For ALL!"