We all remember special gifts from Christmases past, but the one great Gift remains the Son our heavenly Father sent to us. It is a gift we can share joyfully.
by Jane Elling Haas
Who is that big gift for?” my sister, Kathy, my brother, Bob, and I all asked my parents simultaneously. We quickly spied gifts of all sizes and colors around our twinkling Christmas tree as we ran into the house after the children’s Christmas Eve service. We shook the boxes and read the gift tags. But the largest box had no tag.
“You’ll have to wait to unwrap that gift last,” Mom teased. She was good at making us wait patiently. She knew how hard it was for us.
It was Christmas 1961, and I was a highschool freshman. Our family traditions on the farm included participating in the children’s service at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Liberty Center, Ohio, and then receiving the brown paper lunch bags containing an orange, a candy cane, and an assortment of nuts and hard candies as we left church. All three of us kids were anxious to get home to see what might lie around our tree. At 14, I still had a childlike excitement about gift-giving and receiving, and our parents were able to keep the gifts wrapped and hidden in the farmhouse to surprise us.
On this Christmas Eve, we sat patiently and listened while Mom chose favorite Christmas albums to play quietly on the stereo and Dad turned to read Luke 2 in the family Bible. We couldn’t help but wonder what was in the wrapped packages as he read the Christmas story and reminded us, as he always did, of the best gift of all. We sang “Away in a Manger” by candlelight, imagining the sounds and smells of the first Christmas ever.
Then, slowly, we turned the lights on, and we took turns giving and opening gifts. Each of us opened one at a time, savoring the moment and thanking the giver. We were grateful for cozy slippers, a record album of the Boston Pops, board games, gift certificates for 15-cent McDonald burgers and fries, and new clothes. And then the biggest box sat alone by the tree.
“We saved this until last,” Mom said as she and Dad smiled at each other. “Jane, this is for you,” she told me, as she pushed the box toward where I sat on the floor. I pulled the box closer. It was too heavy to pick up and shake. For previous Christmases, Dad and Mom had surprised us with ice skates and clock radios. What could be in this heavy box? I wondered. I had no clue!
Mom had her camera ready to capture the moment. Kathy and Bob’s eyes were glued to my hands, which were about to break the red and green ribbons. I hesitated and asked, “Am I the only one getting a special gift?”
“Right now, yes, you are, Jane,” Mom assured me. “Are you going to open it tonight? Or tomorrow?” she asked.
We laughed. And then I didn’t waste any time tearing the red paper off the box and lifting the lid. If Mom took my photo, I don’t remember. I do remember thinking, What a gift! There, sitting in the box, was a new typewriter—a beige portable, straight from Sears, Roebuck & Co., in its own carrying case, with a twocolor
ribbon, just waiting for me to insert paper and type away.
“Oh, Mom, Dad, thank you! Thank you!” I exclaimed. “What a gift!” I was so happy! I cried and ran for typing paper at the same time. In a few minutes, I had quickly typed my name, the date, a short thank-you sentence, and practiced my j j j , k k k , l l l . I not only enjoyed writing, but also liked typing to a relaxing rhythm. Even though it was Christmas Eve, I didn’t want to quit typing, and I even refused a yearly treat—a piece of homemade pecan pie. “This is the best gift you’ve ever given to me,” I told my parents.
“We know you’ve liked to write since you could hold a pencil,” they laughed, “and you’re doing so well in your typing class this semester. You have so many papers to write for school, not to mention those you’ll have to write for college classes someday.”
If they said anything else, I was totally oblivious, and I didn’t even notice Bob playing with his new electric football game or Kathy practicing scales on her shiny, black clarinet. I typed to the melodies of Christmas carols into the early hours of Christmas morning.
God has blessed me with 45 awesome Christmas celebrations since that year, each surprising in its own way. Every year I think of my first typewriter, a true gift of love and sacrifice from my parents. And as I remember it, along with all the paragraphs and pages I pounded on those manual keys onto paper, I reflect on the best gift ever. It wasn’t the typewriter from Sears that Mom and Dad knew I needed.
The best gift ever was the Baby from heaven. God knew I needed Him even more. He knew who and what every one of us needed since Eve and Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. And thankfully, God provided who and what we needed because of our sin, the who and what we continue to need each and every day. He kept the promise He had made to all of His Old Testament people: “I will send a Savior.” And so the people had waited … and waited … and waited. How hard it must have been to wait and watch!
Then, in God’s time, Mary delivered Baby Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem where Joseph had found shelter for the little family and where Jesus’ first visitors from the nearby sheep pastures worshiped Him and then rushed to tell others the Good News: The Savior had been born! What a gift—an undeserved gift beyond measure, a gift beyond words! Jesus Christ—the Messiah—the Savior of the world!
But God didn’t stop there with His surprises. He knew that He would give more than just the safe and healthy delivery of His baby Son, because we needed more than a sweet-smelling, swaddled baby in a manger.
Along with the greeting “Blessed Christmas!” goes “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” God kept His promise through His ultimate love-action when He sacrificed His only Son on the cross to take away all our sins. He did that so that you and I will never have to face the punishment we deserve because of our sins. We can’t do anything to save ourselves.
Thank God that Jesus has done it all for us, freely and lovingly. In dying on Good Friday and rising to life three days later on Easter, He has assured all believers of His gift of eternal life in heaven with Him someday. In His great love for us, God forgives our sins because Jesus took our place on the cross. What an indescribable gift God, in His love and mercy, has given to us!
God’s gift tag to us reads: “For you. From your heavenly Father. I love you so much that I sent My Son to be born, to grow up, to die, and to rise from the dead, so you may have salvation!” What a gift!
During this holy season of Advent and Christmas, I pray that you, too, have special family Christmas memories, and that you share those with your family and friends as you worship our Savior and King and wait for His second coming. Most important, I pray that you join me in thanking our heavenly Father for His gift of Jesus, our Savior, Friend, and best Gift ever. Share the Gospel in John 3:16, and help someone get to know who Jesus is and what He has done for them so they, too, can exclaim, “What a gift!”