I don’t know what your childhood was like, but Christmas Eve night and Christmas mornings were always magical times in my life.  Connected with those moments are magical memories.  My parents were never made of money but they always saw to it that our Christmas’ were special.  We never got super expensive gifts, although I do remember that year I got a Sega Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog or X-Men.  Yet we seemed to usually get a lot of gifts.  Even to this day, when I think there certainly couldn’t be anymore gifts, my mother dismisses herself and says, “I think I have something else downstairs that I didn’t get a chance to wrap.”  Sure enough, she always comes upstairs to the living room with another sweater, socks, underwear, or game.  One year I specifically remember getting a Transformers punching bag.  Do you remember those things from the late 80’s early 90’s?  They were filled with air and if you punched them they would fall back and pop back up again.

So here’s the question: Did you ever peak?  I only peaked once and I regret it to this day.  All I wanted this one year was a Nintendo.  The summer before we had visited my uncle’s cottage in Canada and one evening he hooked up a Nintendo.  On the screen appeared a squatty man with a thick mustache and  red overalls…I would later learn it was Mario.  He would move acrossed the screen from left to right banging his head on bricks while squashing fat diamond-shaped bird heads and would transform if he ate mushrooms or flowers.  WHAT A CONCEPT!  Why didn’t I think of that?!?  Instead of fishing being the highlight that summer, it was shooting ducks on an electronic screen with a dog who would mockingly laugh at you if you missed and battling giant lizards with a short italian plumber.  It was a glorious vacation but one our grandparents wouldn’t understand.

So that Christmas I couldn’t take it anymore…was I getting a Nintendo or not?  I snuck into my parents room, my mother was never very good at hiding things, opened the closet door, shuffled some bags…when all of a sudden a beam of light exploded into the closet, while soft angelic voices hummed the theme melody of Mario Brothers.  Dun dun dun da dun da dunt da da dun da dunt da da dunt.  There it was in all of its splendor…a Nintendo.  Sure I felt joy and unexplainable awe at my discovery, but I also realized I had selfishly experienced that moment alone and no longer had anything to wonder about. 

I experience Christmas differently now that I am an adult with a four-year old daughter and a two-year old son.  Now it is about them and the joy I receive in watching the experiences they now have.  I understand Christmas in a different way now as well.  I realize that what I have enjoyed most over all of these years is–family.  I remember laying in bed Christmas Eve night hearing my parents laying the presents out under the tree or waking up the next morning and hearing them at work.  I remember getting up with my siblings and going out into the living room to see an array of presents scattered under the tree, some wrapped some not.  I remember everyone smelling like morning because we had all stormed out of bed without changing or brushing our teeth:)  I remember mom giving instructions on what to open first and in what order.  I remember dad putting on the Macy’s Day Parade and telling us to look up and see the Snoopy, Big Bird, or Gummy Bears floats.  I remember him holding a cup of coffee with a big grin on his face because he has always LOVED Christmas.  I remember mom in the kitchen filling the air with breakfast aromas and dad putting together our toys or “just trying out” our video games to make sure they worked.  As I recall these memories I feel warmth and am holding back joyful tears.  Why?  Because more than being able to remember the gifts (which I have forgotten most of them) I remember those moments I shared in relationships with loved ones.

As I get older I realize more and more that life is mostly about one thing…PEOPLE.  If you haven’t figured this out yet you have a lot to learn and many disappointments ahead.  THINGS will never bring true joy…even though I have a Nintendo that still brings me joy to this day.  Oh yeah folks…it works like a Nintendo was meant to work.  You know, it never actually works the first time until you have developed the art of Nintendo.  This art is highly skilled and developed and only the experienced know the ancient Japanese secrets.  You pound the top of the system, you take out the cartridge and swiftly blow into the trench at the bottom, also blowing into the system itself as though you are giving it CPR.  Those who are truly the Masters practice the Game Genie Method.  This is where you connect the game to a golden attachment cartridge that was meant to enhance your gaming experience with codes and passwords…

Okay, sorry I got sidetracked.  They say, “when you die you can’t take anything with you.”  This is true but what will be waiting for you and will eventually come with you is people.  What am I suggesting?  People are forever and so are those relationships we have with loved ones.  This is our hope as Christians isn’t it?  Our hope is that when we die we will actually live in Christ and in some way we will all be together for all time.  So this Christmas season, stop to notice the details and take in the moments.  But most important of all, stop and watch the people, your loved ones, and let those moments create memories in your mind.  Dad holding his cup of coffee with a big grin on his face, mom crying as she opens the gifts the kids made for her, brother or sister, son or daughter jumping up and down with joy as they say “it’s what I’ve always wanted!”

Enjoy the conversations, the hugs and kisses, the smells of comfort food coming from the kitchen, the feel of cold winter air on your face as you walk toward a warm dwelling where you will celebrate.  The smell of pine, the feel of wrapping paper, the sounds of laughter, the taste of candy canes, and the sight of lights.  And in the midst of all of this…think of Christ.  The giver of all good gifts who is preparing a place for us that will one-up Christmas morning a million times over for an eternity.  May this message be more than just cliché for you this year, let it be reality.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!