Every family has those traditions and days that help define their family. I personally know some families (although I shall not divulge any names unless there is enough cash offered) that are adequately defined by April 1.
For me, Christmas Eve clearly defines me. Christmas Eve means many things to me. For one, it means shopping. Yes, it is true; I do all my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. It cuts down on the stress. Some people spend weeks shopping and their life is full of stress.
Personally, I focus all that stress of shopping into one 24-hour period.
The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage begins her Christmas shopping in January and by August, she is in full shopping mode. (There should be a law that any present bought before December cannot be considered a Christmas present.) When the children were still at home, I was just as eager as they were on Christmas morning to see what I had bought them for Christmas.
There have been times, and you did not hear it from me, when my wife bought a Christmas present and forgot about it by the time December rolled around. Once, and I will never repeat this, we discovered a cache of Christmas presents in the corner of our garage when we were packing to move. Only Santa really knows how long they were there.
My Christmas Eve ritual starts bright and early in the morning at the "Slurp 'N Burp Café" for a big breakfast. Every good day begins with a hearty breakfast and especially when I am about to embark on a day of Christmas shopping.
Then it is off to the mall for my Christmas Eve ritual of shopping. My philosophy is, the more torturous the shopping experience the more the recipient will appreciate the gift. Nothing is more torturous than a visit at the local shopping mall.
Some go to the mall for pleasure and recreation; some go and are never seen again. I go for penitence.
The average mall is so anti-man that every man enters its doors at his own peril. Many insurance companies have in fine print a disclosure in their policies to men making all insurance claims invalid when an accident happens in a shopping mall.
Shopping malls are deliberately designed to frustrate the male equation of the marital state of mind. Let me list a few observations in this regard.
Is it just me, or do they move the mall stores around from year to year just to confuse the average man? And, to confuse me further, why is it, no matter what door I enter the mall it is never there when I want to leave?
Once inside the mall it only takes me three hours to acclimate myself to the hostile environment. By that time, I am hopelessly lost. As I wander aimlessly around the mall, I try to remember why I am there. One of the things on my shopping agenda is a Christmas present for my wife. Although I have had over 30 years experience in this, I am no better off than our first Christmas.
In all those years, I have given her everything from jewelry to perfume to bubble bath. At this stage in my life, I do not know what to get her.
Last year I was tempted to wrap myself and put the box under the tree, but I was afraid I would suffocate by Christmas morning.
Wandering from store to store, I could not find anything to buy for her. I could get her a card with money in it but I am afraid the check would bounce - and then would I.
If I bought her a dress, I would only be putting my life on the line. If the dress I bought was too small, she would be offended to think I thought she was gaining weight. If the dress I bought was too large… well, you know what that would mean.
If I did not get her something I would look pretty silly come Christmas morning - I mean sillier than usual.
Wandering in and out of store after store brought me no closer to that gift of all gifts that would say, "I think you're terrific."
I was exhausted and about to give up and go home in shameful disgrace. And then, when I was about to give up, there it was. The perfect gift. I could not believe my eyes. I rubbed them in disbelief and loudly exclaimed, "There is a Santa Claus after all."
I wept, I laughed, I burped (Musta been the soda). Right before my eyes was the perfect gift for my wife. A gift that said, "Honey, you're the greatest." Watching the salesperson carefully wrap my Christmas trophy, I could not help thinking about the real meaning of Christmas.
God searched all of heaven to find that one special gift to tell mankind, "I think you're terrific." Finding nothing better, He settled on that Gift of all gifts, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16 KJV).
My Christmas prayer is that this year you will celebrate with me God's gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
What was my Christmas trophy for my beloved? I will never tell.
Copyright, Rev. James L. Snyder
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Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores.