When I unpack the Christmas ornaments and see the little construction paper stocking my son made almost 20 years ago, it doesn’t yank on my heart for the regular sentimental gooey-mom reasons, but instead reminds me of a beautiful part of the Christmas story.
The stocking has a loop of yarn for hanging on the Christmas tree, and a little bell tied to the toe. There’s crayon scribbling on the front, which to me, looked like great marks of genius, and two puffy cotton balls held to the top with a little dab of glue.
I had dropped my son off in the toddler Sunday School class at the First Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia. The ladies who taught the class always cooed and smiled at my little red headed boy. I dressed him in little suits with bow ties (which of course conditioned him to grow up to wear nothing but ripped jeans and sloppy T-shirts).
He was just at the stage of understanding everything but not quite able to talk with full sentences. He could babble a few basic words, run around and zoom his toy trucks across the floor and sing a few songs with Barney. My husband and I breathed easy when we could leave him in the safety of the toddler room and join our friends who were also escaping the sticky hands of their wiggly children.
When we returned, I was surprised to see Harrison running towards me with outstretched arms and clutching the paper stocking in his chubby hand. His face was beaming as his teacher explained, “Our story time today was about giving, and we made these ornaments for our parents.”
The look on that kid’s face was nothing but joy. He wasn’t proud or selfish, he just wanted to give me what he had made. A little paper stocking, something he’d created with crayons, paper and glue. He babbled and pointed to the bell that he “helped” the teachers tie on the toe and demonstrated how we could shake it to make a jing-a-ling noise. He understood the artwork wasn’t for him to keep, but instead, watched my face to see how I would react to being given the most precious thing he had (except for his stuffed toy dog at home).
I choked up when I realized it was the first time he had ever really and truly made a gift just for me. I had a flash of future gifts; books, perfume, rocks and a few lizards — all of which came true, but at that moment, with this first present, I could see in his eyes he completely understood the joy of being the giver. He got it.
“It’s beautiful!” His face lit up with a smile that smelled like vanilla wafers, and like a happy puppy, ran around my legs before I scooped him up and gave him a hug.
Some people take a lifetime to learn that it truly is better to give than receive, but thanks to church volunteers who wisely knew preschoolers aren’t too young to hear about the love of God, Harrison discovered the joy of giving as a child and it set the stage for later understanding the true and best gift of Christmas that changed the world.
Merry Christmas. I hope you know you have also been given the true and best Christmas gift of all time.