Arguments broke out at our house every Christmas when I was growing up. It was always around one topic. The annual argument formed around a particular family tradition, in fact: the tradition of opening all gifts only on Christmas Day. The Parents’ logic was firm, but unequivocal—‘we are an open-presents-on-Christmas-morning family,’ and that was that. Because of this, tempers flared and tensions rose as the big day approached, and the parents would still hold out with the same argument. “No early present opening…we only open presents on Christmas morning.” Every year, my brother, sister, and I would attempt to badger, cajole and otherwise renegotiate the family tradition. And every year, Mom and Dad would hold out until the very end. Then on Christmas Eve…like magic, they would appear to give in to our pleas for grace and mercy in the grave and as if life depended on this matter of Christmas present opening. We could open the one and only gift.
“Well, just one,” they would finally concede. “But I will pick,” Mom would declare without budging. And, every year, it was the same. The concession of a Christmas Eve present-unwrap-reveal would relieve some of the pent up anticipation building in us kids about Christmas. And every year, Mom picked the same present. The gift from Grandma.
“Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:10-11
Grandma Hatch was an amazing woman. She raised seven kids, pretty much on her own, in a small farming town in Eastern Colorado and then in Denver where they moved during the Great Depression. Dad was the oldest and had to grow up quick, when, in his own fit of great depression over not being able to provide for his family, grandpa tried to take his own life by carbon monoxide poisoning. Uncle Roy found him before he died, but the poison affected his brain. His need to be constantly cared for after that added another burden to the load of an already struggling family. Dad enlisted in the US Navy at seventeen to support the family. After they got married and us kids came along, we were aware of Dad’s faithful financial support of his mom and family through all the military moves and seasons of life.
Nearly every summer, Grandma would come and stay with us for two or three weeks, wherever we lived. She was an incredible cook, loved to bake, and could sew anything. She taught us how to play marbles, and had her own practical life philosophy and homespun wisdom around notions like, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” and “God helps those who help themselves.” While not a particularly Biblical idea, it was one that didn’t allow for a lot of whining about your circumstances. You just bucked up and got through it…whatever it was.
But Grandma was not without sympathy. She had an incredibly large and comfortable lap…a special safe place for wonderful hugs, kisses of owies, and just the right amount of little boy affection and timely attention that helped the hurt go away, but didn’t make you a wimp. She was a strong and practical woman.
A Custom Fit
Grandma’s Christmas gift was always the same. Every year growing up until we were teenagers, Grandma sent the same thing. It was always a very practical gift, a gift that was needed more than wanted: pajamas. Handmade, not store-bought, pajamas. Boy colors and prints…blue or brown, and with teddy bears and elephants when we were little, and drums, soldiers, cowboys, and rocketships as we got older. Every time, it was specially selected with an eye to each of our particular sizes, shapes, and stages of life. Always made especially for us with great love and care and double stitching. And every year, it was mailed to arrive just ahead of the big day, in a former fruit or vegetable box from her local Safeway, and wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper that was often hand-colored and handmade from paper sacks.
Amazingly, through all those years of growth spurts and shape changes, the pajamas were always just the right size. “How did she know?” Mom would always exclaim. Yet after all, Grandma Hatch had raised five boys herself and she just knew. She knew the one thing we needed. And hers was the one and only gift we got open first…on Christmas Eve.
The One and Only Gift
Two thousand years ago, God the Father and handmade-Creator of the world sent his One Gift to a waiting, needy world. The gift? His one and only Son sent to a world in desperate need. And as the good Parent he is, He didn’t give us what we wanted. He didn’t ask for wish lists, or letters telling him what we wanted. How did God know? He already knew because he created the world and created each of us. He sent us exactly what we needed at exactly the time needed. A Savior, a King. Regardless of the individual and collective sin of humanity, the One and Only Gift, Jesus, fits everyone at every time.
Merry Christmas from the Food for the Hungry family! Thank you for your partnership in showing Christ’s love in ending poverty worldwide. May you enjoy this season with loved ones, and remember the one who first loved us.
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