It’s Christmas Eve, but it’s not too late. There’s still time to pick up a few things for your kids. And no, I’m not talking about the Wii controller, the latest Xbox game, the flatscreen TV, or the new laptop. I’m talking about the gifts that will make memories for years; the gifts your kids will really appreciate when they get older.
My best presents weren’t the Legos or the Gameboy or the sweatshirt. As I look back on my childhood Christmases, my favorite gifts were the ones that forced me outside. I remember the Nerf football, spongy and shining out of the box, that survived hundreds of sessions of pick-up football in the cul-de-sac until finally it was nothing more than a bare block of foam. It’s paint gone from all those incompletions scraping off the asphalt, it’s shape altered by the times the neighbor’s dog got a hold of it.
I remember the hockey sticks for my brother and the goalie pads for me. Gifts that turned our driveway into an imaginary rink. Gifts that transformed my brother into the overtime goal scorer, and me into the netminder who preserved a shutout with his spectacular glove save. Believe it or not, that hockey gear is still in my parents’ garage, and still gets use from time to time. Simple gifts that gave me my favorite times with my brother and inspired in me a love of hockey that I still possess today.
I don’t know how old I was, but I remember the big, red wiffle ball bat. A stubby chunk of plastic, perfectly round and ready for home run hitting. All these years later, and it is still the bat of choice for our annual 4th of July home run derby. It’s dinged, it’s dented, and we assume every year this will be it’s last contest. But through hundreds of home runs hit across the street, that simple gift keeps on giving.
I remember unwrapping that brand new basketball. I ran my fingers over the unused leather and immediately started practicing my jumpshot in the living room. Years and thousand of layups later, that ball was unrecognizable as the one from under the tree. The leather faded, the bumpy grip worn all the way down on what was now nothing more than a smooth, inflated circle. The portion of the backyard we used as a court, now a rock-hard dirt patch completely void of any grass.
My best Christmases didn’t last for one day, they lasted for days, months, and even years. I got more out of those gifts, than any item of clothing or any piece of electronics. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but I think our kids could use a little more activity. And maybe I never got to play Halo online with my junior high buddies, but I got something better. I got the grass stains, the bruises, and the skinned-up knees. Most of all, I got the memories. The gifts may wear out over time, but the memories won’t. Those are the gifts that keep on giving.
Merry Christmas to you and yours! Remember, no matter how imperfect our gifts may be to each other, God already gave us the perfect gift when he sent his son Jesus to earth to die for our sins. May your Christmas be filled with the kind of joy and peace that comes only from knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior!