Young Timmy stared wide-eyed at the mountain of tightly wrapped presents under the tree. It all looked so beautiful to his young eyes. Each little light reflected off of an ornament. There was the small glass globe that he had received from Ma-ma two Christmases ago—‘May the glory of advent fill you with tidings of great joy.’ Next to it, the small brass shepherd shape from some time before his birth. Then there was his favorite, a small Woodstock with a Santa hat, that he sometimes delicately removed to play with when no one was looking. This was just a sampling of the keepsakes that decorated each branch, a growing beacon to the promises of great joy that lay in each parcel underneath. They were all reminders, and each Christmas, one more was added to the tree.
“You know the rule, Tim. You can pick one to open up tonight before we go to Christmas Eve service,” Dad said as he sat down the book he was reading. Mommy came into the room with her new red sweater and green dangly earrings, now ready to go to church.
“I want the red one in the back!” Timmy bounced.
Mommy shook her head. “Why don’t we leave that one for later. It is so far back, we’d mess up the whole living room,.” That one was the show-stopper for tomorrow morning, the Red Rider BB gun of Timmy’s wish list. This year, they had to visit 4 stores before they found the singing little bear-thing that all the commercials had convinced every child in America they had to have. Timmy would certainly shriek in joy when he tore off the paper. He would forget all about it by mid-January, most likely.
“Before we open anything though, let’s talk about why we celebrate Christmas,” said Dad. “Come up and sit next to me.”
Timmy crawled up, as Dad opened the Bible that always sat under the coffee table below the current issue of O magazine Mommy received every month, yet seldom actually read. He grabbed the little ribbon marking the book of Luke, chapter 2.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Dad closed the Bible and returned it to its proper place.
Timmy understood a lot of this. He had heard this read each Christmas in church and on the DVD they watched a week ago. He knew that it was the same story that was illustrated by the Nativity figurines on the little table by the front door. He had heard that Jesus was the reason for the season. But the story did have a lot of big and weird words, and he didn’t get what shepherds had to do with it all, or even why everyone kept discussing a baby from long ago that was born in a barn. But this is what they were supposed to talk about before they went to that little church full of people he didn’t know.
The adults made sure that all of this was done before they got to do all the fun parts of Christmas that he looked forward to. If they didn’t read this part and light the candles at the church, maybe Santa wouldn’t come, the presents would never get opened, and they’d have to throw away the cookies now cooling on the kitchen counter. Sometimes, you had to do the stuff the adults wanted to do before you could have fun.
“Who else was there at the manger, T?” Dad asked.
“There were those 3 smart guys with camels,” Timmy answered proudly.
“Yes, the Wise Men,” Mommy said, smiling. “And what did they bring?”
“They had gifts for the baby,” he answered.
“Right, and that is why we get gifts on Christmas,” said Dad.
“Santa brings us gifts because of that?”
“No, Santa is different. He brings you gifts if you’ve been a good boy. But yes, Santa is bringing us gifts because of that story. See Jesus is the reason for the season.” Dad looked at Timmy with a smile and a pat on the head.
“Can I open that one, then?” Timmy jumped off the couch toward the tree. -Ryan