Monday, November 29

Advent 2010

When I was growing up in North Carolina, every time I got something with wheels for Christmas, it snowed.  I'm not kidding.  I got a scooter; it snowed.  Roller skates; it snowed.  A bicycle; it snowed.  And it's not like it snowed a lot on Christmas Day in Winston-Salem.  I began to think there was some kind of conspiracy against me.  Or even worse, maybe my parents were taking some perverse pleasure in torturing me.  I could picture them closely tracking the weather a day or two before Christmas and making a last-minute run to the store just to be able to photograph me trying to roller skate on the snow-covered driveway. 

Then came Christmas my senior year in high school.  I woke up to find a dusting of snow on the ground and because of my previous wheeled experiences I just knew I was getting a car.  I suppose had I thought about it before, I would have figured it likely.  After all, my brother had gotten an old Mercury Comet for Christmas his senior year.  And Daddy had bought a new car a few months earlier and parked the good old 1973 Vista Cruiser in the front yard with a sign in it.  Once I put the pieces together, I figured it was a sure thing.

Opening Christmas presents is something of a stage production in my family.  After the initial scurry to see what Santa brought everyone in their stockings, we open the gifts one at a time, each person watching and admiring appropriately.  It drives my nephews crazy.  That morning, as the pile of presents under the tree got smaller and smaller, I wasn't the least bit worried.  There was snow on the ground.

Sure enough, after a couple of hours, my mother presented me with the last gift of the morning.  I opened it and found a plastic bucket, car wax, brushes, and other auto-care products.  I looked up, smiled, and asked, "Where is it?"  Mother and Daddy had thought they were not going to be able to afford a car for me that year, but fate had intervened.  They hadn't sold the station wagon after all; a guy had stopped by and offered to trade a 1974 Mustang II for it.  It was parked in a neighbor's garage and even though there was snow, I got to drive it around the block into our driveway.

I loved that car and drove it for more than seventeen years.  When I was in graduate school and it got to the point it was no longer reliable, Mother and Daddy let me park it in the yard until there was a spot open at the local vo-tech high school to restore it.  I brought it with me here to Savannah and drove it until the summer of 1999 when I lent it to a friend out on Wilmington Island while his car was in the shop.  We had one of our hundred year floods and it turns out that the flooding on that part of the island starts in the Gleesons' driveway.  My Mustang floated off into the marsh in its own kind of Viking funeral.

But this story isn't about the end of that car, rather the Christmas morning I received it.  You see, because I had known I was getting a car, even though I loved it, my parents (particularly my mother) were disappointed in my reaction when I opened my present.  I was really excited, but came off looking rather smug and unappreciative.

And perhaps that is one of the lessons the infant Jesus taught us that first Christmas.  The greatest gifts are the ones that surprise us the most.  And as nice as it is to receive a gift given with love, we all should make certain that we express the true gratitude we feel.  God may love a cheerful giver, but I think God appreciates a little adoration too.

- Christopher Hendricks



Heavenly Father, help us to keep in mind that you will someday relieve all of our struggles.  Remind us that the poor will be made rich by your Spirit, the naked will be robed in your glory, and the hungry will be fed by your hand.  Help us to trust in you and to remember that with you in our hearts, there is nothing to fear.  Amen.

- Katie Durden


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