The perfect Christmas gift

By Matt Clayton - Guest columnist

Over the years my love for the Christmas season has endured, and to this day I am often moved to tears when hearing one of the old classic Christmas Carols centered on the birth of Jesus Christ. While the theme of more recent Christmas songs has migrated from our Saviour to chestnuts roasting on an open fire and a variety of other questionable subjects, it’s still the “good old stuff” that hits close to home for me — the unspoiled things from my youth.

It’s funny how we bump along through life without taking time out to really notice the little things. In the innocence of youth we learn to put the pieces of the puzzle together, but for most of us, many years pass before we finally begin to see the big picture taking shape. Tack on a decade or two … (or three or four) … of experience and wisdom shows up. For some it storms in like an avalanche, for others it creeps in slowly like a nervous mouse barely recognized; honestly, I must confess I’m a lot more familiar with mice than avalanches!

My profound respect for the Christmas season has always been there, and has always amazed and fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Yet I just took the situation for granted and never really asked myself exactly what it was that made it so special. That is until a few years ago when I earnestly wondered why I felt a conspicuous rush of emotions while listening to a group of children singing “Away in a Manger” at a school Christmas program.

As I sat there captivated by the situation, I considered the variety of reasons that stimulated the joy I experienced. All had merit, however, none could be isolated as the spark that ignited the fire. The noble side of me wanted to boil it down to being excited about birth of Christ but in my heart I knew that long before I understood the majesty of my Saviour and the fact He is “the reason for the season,” I was influenced by what my senses had taught me about that special time of year. The sight of a beautiful sparkling tree, the sound of Christmas music, excited-happy voices, the smell and taste of home-made candies, and yes the soft touch an oversized Teddy Bear were recognized long before a sense of reasoning could be fully understood and appreciated. It took a moment or two for it to sink in, but the answer was right there in front of me. As I watched the next group of little children preparing for their performance my thoughts momentarily drifted back to yesteryear when I was in the first grade in elementary school.

In my mind’s eye I saw a small group of children finding their positions, making ready to sing “Silent Night” in a small auditorium that seemed like Carnegie Hall. I was that little kid in the front row wearing a scarlet corduroy vest with shiny brass buttons. Complemented by perfectly combed hair, a black bow tie, white long-sleeved shirt and spit-shined shoes, I was quite the dapper young man. The room was filled to the brim with excitement, and all seemed perfect and right with the world. A hush fell over the crowd, and soon the joyful sound of tiny voices permeated the air.

Time had no effect on the feeling of pure joy, peace and contentment experienced that night so many years ago; it wasn’t just like being there … I was there! In the twinkling of an eye the floodgates of joyfulness were opened allowing the cares of the world to drift away … once again my focus was on what was good and right, there was no room for worries or what-if’s; it was pure joy unspeakable! That never-ending joy, often cloaked by the cares of the world was ushered to back to life by a precious memory, bringing with it a feeling of peace like no other. And, that fire of joy kindled decades ago continues to burn as bright as ever; the joy that made Christmas so special all those years ago never left me, I walked away from it!

Time and life has a way of stealing our joy if we’re not mindful about the need to keep our priorities straight. Had it not been for God’s perfect plan and a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger that special night at Lakeview Elementary School in 1963 would never have happened. The old school building is long gone but the memories live on, and so does the love, joy, and innocence of a risen Saviour.

Sure it’s fun to receive presents, but we really shouldn’t worry too much about the gift giving at Christmas time or let it get in the way of our joy. God provided us with the perfect gift long, long ago. It needs no batteries, never wears out, and never ever goes out of style. It’s the gift that keeps on giving … eternally, and with it the recipient will live on forever in a place too beautiful and amazing to comprehend. We don’t need “more stuff”… what we really need is to place our faith and trust in what that babe in a manger accomplished later in life; his death, burial and resurrection paid for all our sins, past, present, and future. The gift Jesus gave to us is a gift like no other, made available by grace through faith it resonates with everlasting joy. And, as Linus has pointed out time and time again … “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”… and that my friends, is the perfect gift!

By Matt Clayton

Guest columnist

The writer, who resides in Sidney, is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer, who resides in Sidney, is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.