Whad’ya Get For Christmas?!

Sure, it’s shallow. It’s embarrassingly shallow to ask people what they got for Christmas. It’s just the lamest. And of course it couldn’t be further from the meaning and spirit of Christmas.

Of course, it is is true that Jesus received some excellent gifts on the occasion of his physically committing to going from being the supreme, all-powerful ruler of the universe to being someone in swaddling clothes who has to be burped. It’s not like Myrrh grows on trees, you know.

Wait. Does it?

Be right back.

Okay, so myrrh does grow on trees. Sort of. It grows in trees. It’s fragrant-smelling dried sap from a tree that … that must make other trees feel like they smell like feet.

Back in the day, myrrh was worth more than its weight in gold.

Can you imagine going into an international currency exchange place today, and going, “Yes, I’ve four pounds of myrrh here I’d like to change for five pounds of gold? And can you hurry—I’ve got a bus to catch.”

Anyway, tell me what you got for Christmas! Unless you got nothing. And then, God bless you—for real. For then you can be closer to the true spirit of Christmas than can anyone who can’t help but equate the miracle of God’s incarnation with the personal acquisition of material goods.

Wow. Now I don’t want to tell you what I got for Christmas.

Well. I’m actually thrilled with what I got, so here it is: This year for Christmas my wife Cat got me a two-volume, 40-pound boxed set of Don Martin cartoons. (Don Martin used to be a cartoonist for Mad Magazine.)



Can you believe it? Don Martin, being treated like Michaelangelo wishes.

Cat was moved to buy these books for me out of her conviction that humor is what saved me when I was a kid — when, it’s true, Don Martin meant so very, very much to me.

I used to study Don Martin’s insanely funny cartoons, and think, “Okay. So. Anything is possible.”

Cat is a phenomenal giver of gifts. It really is a talent, of which she is an absolute master.

But enough about what I got. What did any of you guys get? Do tell!

(And to my fellow believers: Can you believe the joy this time fills you with? God, born as man, come to show us how to live a life beyond this life! For free! We did nothing to deserve it! It’s just … all the love from God that we can possibly process! MERRY CHRISTMAS, INDEED!!)

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  • Yay for polaroid film! Despite being an all digital canon photographer I still relish using my polaroid camera on christmas morning! And at a cost of over a $1 per photo, the film is an awesome gift!!

  • windyblue

    Well considering I have no family, most of whom have died. and my sister and brother, well, I use to sent them presents for many years, and got nothing at all I use to sent them birthday presents too, and got nothing, and that also went for my parents too. So, finally I stopped. And found out later on that my sister and brother and parents would exchange gifts, but they did not with me, But I was always considered the black sheep, and second class in there eyes.

    Now, well one of my girlfriends, heres a list, plastic brushes, emmery boards, 2 pencils, earrings that I had given to her, and she gave them back, bubble gum, and one time she gave me a teddy bear, well she forgot to take the card off of it , the one that says who its from and to, Well it said Too ( her name) from her mother, thanks for helping me with the wreaths. I put that in the trash. AS the rest of the gifts ended up. Also so she give me her white elephant gifts.

    And I know because I have seen the things at her house. I have now gotten some very nice gifts from the people I work with, who do not have to give me anything, and I have a secret Santa, whom I have no Idea who this person is, but for the last 2 years they have left me gifts by my Car. this year, they have now put them up by my apt door, and today I just about tripped over them. They are very nice ones too. I also had to very nice friends give me a wonder christmas eve dinner and christmas day dinner. As far as my friend with the junk gifts, well, I still have the bag from last year, and showed it to 2 people, they just about fell out of there chairs wondering how some one could give those kinds of gifts to someone. So this year, I gave all the wonder gifts I bought for her to some other people, whom I know appreciated them. And I got some wonder things in return.

    Oh, my friend how gives the junk gifts, well this year she gave a lady I know 2 pencils, 3 single packs of gum, a magnet, and some other junk things. this woman just about was ready to ring her neck, but just tried to laugh at it. But I know she did not at all think it was funny,. And this is all she gives people, too. Her family oh, no they get the espensive gifts, she will spend way over 50.00. And her best friend oh, her too, she gets gifts way over 50.00 too.

    I have told her to keep her junk gifts. And well I figure this year will be the same, so I am going to give her some back. In fact I just might give her some from the bag I saved from last year. And see how she likes it. I figure if you cannot buy some one at least a 25.00 gift do not buy anything at all.

  • Ah, Windy. You never fail to leave a comment. And your comments are always perfectly …. consistent in tone. It's really amazing.

  • Sabina

    My daughter gave me the Josh Groban Christmas cd-so love it! My ex-mother in law gave me a lovely hat/scarf/glove set and invited me to their Chirstmas eve gathering, for the past five years I've only been sending her grandchildren to be with her-so loved that, seeing everybody! And my coworkers gave me candles, footies (red) and some perfume-so appreciating the generosity. I love giving, but its nice to get some things makes you feel warm inside:). My kids had a great Christmas and that was important to me.

  • Oh, wow. How totally lovely, Sabina. Wonderful. Thanks.

  • Cathy

    Both of my children came home for Christmas–my son from college and my daughter from ministry. As that didn't seem to them to be a wonderful enough gift, I received a book from my son, FREAKONOMICS, which is so very interesting (at least to a trivia collector like me) and season 2 of Gilmore Girls from my daughter. I am so blessed–and I am like Sabina, I love giving gifts.

    Thanks for your blog, John, I try to read it every day.

  • anita

    While my beloved and I will be exchanging gifts in another day or two when we return home from my families (seems pointless to pack them for the flight here only to pack them back up for the flight home), we exchanged our usual tall stack of Christmas cards throughout the day. My mom gives all us kids/grandkids/great grandkids bank checks at this point (none of us are complaining) but she still likes to have something under the tree for each of us. Well, this year she had something for everyone (38 people to be exact) under the tree except for me and so when I arrived in town I went at her request and purchased a gift certificate from Table la Sur for her to give to me which I then proceeded to wrap for me, and place under the tree for me. And on Christmas Eve as we opened gifts, I excitedly opened the gift that I had purchased, wrapped, and placed under the tree for me from my mom. And of course, I was happily and gratefully surprised!

    Just another great Christmas memory to laugh about and cherish.

  • breezy

    Christmas has always been filled with love and togetherness for my family and me for as long as I can remember. Some Christmas' have been very lean, yet I recall them to be some of the most cherished ones of all.

    When the children picked out gifts for eachother at the dollar store and secreted them into their rooms to wrap and bow, laying them under the tree in anticipation of Christmas morning when they eagerly passed them out to each other, their eyes sparkling with that look of hope.

    This year the most awesome gift I received was having my son, who is a USMC Corporal, home for four days. He returned from two years of duty in Japan last month and was finally able to make it 'home' on leave.

    Hand in hand with that gift was being able to take him with us to visit 'Grandma' (who has had two very tough years undergoing surgery and radiation/chemo for breast cancer) Watching her with her grandson (and the younger five grandchildren as well) filled my heart with so much joy it is literally uncontainable.

    The folowing day I received another wonderful gift. After not being in contact for over three years, my 21 year old son finally put aside his fears and differences and came 'home' to see his family, bringing his sweet girlfriend with him. We spent a wonderful day together talking, singing, older brothers playing with the younger ones.

    I cooked the "Christmas Dinner" early so we could all share in it. And what a joy when we all bowed our heads to say the 'family prayer' together (the one we have prayed at each meal for 20 years) and I heard the two older ones reciting it loud and clear in their deep baritone voices as the younger ones joined in, faces broad with smiles and eyes glossy with tears. Truly a miracle from Our Heavenly Father.

    p.s. the other thoughtful gifts I received were from my brother, who knows how much I love the 'Eagles' (yup I'm dating myself, lol). He purchased every song from their "Hell Freezes Over" Tour (I know, hard to not see the irony in that title at Christmas time) and burned it onto CD for me, even creating a cover with ocean waves and naming it "Made With Love For My Sis' ".

    His wife gave me dangle-y earings she made herself (very pretty and sparkly).

    My Mom gave me a beautiful glass salad bowl that appears to be tilted when sitting on the table (neat to look at filled with all the green, red, yellow and purple veggies I like in my salads).

    My Marine son gave me the movie DVD "A Walk in the Clouds" (one of my most favorite romantic flicks).

    The younger children each gave me something they picked out at the above named store ;-)), an angel sculpture, a praying child figurine, a little kitchen scale, a tower of fruits, nuts and candy.

    What a glorious and miraculous Christmas it has been. I am blessed beyond measure. Thank you John for giving us space to share our truly uncontainable gifts and joy. Merry Christmas to you and Cat and may the New Year bring you more Love and Joy than you could possiblly keep to yourselves, love in Christ our Savior, breezy

  • samwrites2


    I've had a rough year (but not as rough as a lot of other people) and so to my unexpected surprise my co-workers took up a collection and gave me a $150 gift card to make sure my beloved children had a good Christmas.

    Of course, my co-workers love my children more than me, but hey, my children are more lovable.

    In addition, my co-workers piled on candy and other gifts.

    My children had the best Christmas ever. My 10-year-old son's big gift was Guitar Hero III. My six-year-old daughter received a Barbie laptop, Barbie shoes and Scooter Barbie. It took an hour before all gifts were opened.

    I took sick after the huge Christmas dinner and had to leave my children and their mother. I drove home to my abode where I languished with a high fever – alone and in pain. The kids gift of cologne and the book their mom got me, "When Bad Christians Happen to Good People" were a little comfort, though I'd asked for one of your books, John.

    I turned on the Fox News Network to find a Saddleback Church Christmas Special, but my holiday still seemed to lack purpose.

    My mom called and prayed for me on the phone, then I took some medicine and so felt better when I woke up bathed in sweat due to the fever breaking. The morning news reminded me of the Dec. 26 tsunami anniversary and I felt even better.

    My birthday's Dec. 27 and my children promised they wouldn't forget this year. They asked me to buy them chocolate cake mix so I think they're up to something.

    Life is good. God is better. There was even enough money left on the gift card for me to go by a battery for my car that died on the way in to work.


  • Elizabeth

    Hey, John!

    Our Christmas rocked!!!! It was just full of cool miracles… Hunky Hubby is still recovering nicely from his cancer treatments… We found out last week that one of the rental properties we put up for sale in early fall sold and will close after the first of the year….. H.H. got a raise in his early retirement pension, too! And I have more music students coming in January. Yay!!!

    Oh… best gift of all???? Getting to tell one of my music students how to become a Christian and praying with her to receive Christ last Thursday!!!! So Merry Christmas to her, huh????? Go, God, Go!!!

    Yeah, there was a lot of stuff, too… H.H. and I have been "play fighting" over a UT throw with a "Power T" on it (only UT fans will understand that) that my mom got ME for Christmas… I think that has been the most fun gift… Come to think of it, there was a whole lot of Big Orange stuff in our house this Christmas… No Outback Bowl tickets, though… Too expensive… LOL

    Anyhow, Cat did great! That looks totally awesome, and it was a good choice for you (at least from what I can figure from this blog, anyway.)

    So… Merry Christmas, dude… a little late… and Happy New Year!

  • Trisha

    After a 10yr heroic battle with Cancer, my husband's sister died in early November. She had become a sister to me in the 13yrs that I have known her. I don't know if her prior inherited Christian faith was totally discarded or if there was somewhere inside any remment of a believer but I know that I can trust God's mercy, love and justice. The grief has been very hard for us all. This Christmas my greatest gift was seeing the comfort, tears,and joy of her parent's when they each examined the grief book that we selected for each of them, the key-chain digital collage of pictures of her, and her own favorite framed picture of herself (blown-up 20X30) we presented to them. The other wonderful gift was seeing our 24-yr-old son and his wife bring themselves out and step-up-to-the-plate by moving from a perifery quiet place in the family to loving, active members.

  • Angela

    My daughter was home from college and my son from Va Beach where he is serving in the Navy. We had our traditional Christmas morning at home, then spent the rest of the day at my mother's house with Mom, my brother, and sisters. This was our first Christmas without Dad, who died in August. This Christmas season has been difficult for me as I miss him so.

    My sister Joanne has a knack for creating some kind of surprise every year. This year, each of us siblings received a box with a gift tag written in Dad's handwriting. These were copies of tags he had written in the past (I don't really know how she did it, but there they were – gift tags from Dad). When we had finished opening our other gifts, each of my sisters and brother opened our gift from "Dad" together. Each box contained a flood lamp.

    Remember the old 8mm home movies from the 50's and 60's? Every Christmas morning when we were kids, Dad would tell us we couldn't go downstairs until he checked to see if Santa had gone. Dad would go down to the basement and come up with the 8mm movie camera rolling and a bank of flood lights shining up the stairs as we carefully made our way down to the Christmas tree. We have laughed about this for years. So – we each got a flood lamp from "Dad" for Christmas this year.

  • Pastor_David

    Besides the watch and the Twighlight Princess game (did you know that they are not making GameCube games any more? I’ve got to get out more) we are spending a vacation week with our gandchildren. I went swimming in the ocean on Christmas Day. Sweet!

  • “Twighlight Princess”?

    Hey, this is a family blog, pal. Let’s keep it … unscary.

    Ark, ark? But seriouslY: What’s Twighlight Princess?

    And swimming in the ocean?? How cool is that? Or how FREEZING was that? Where do your grandkids live? Hawaii?

  • The gift I got the most joy out of giving on Christmas day was in helping to serve a hot Christmas dinner . . . stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce and everything that goes with it, to homeless people, many who live under the local bridges near our church. Our pastor looked magnificent in his Sana Clause suit. Gift bags were given to each one. Towards the end of the meal, a bearded gentleman covered with snow came through the door, out of breath. (it was miraculously a white christmas here in Vancouver, Canada!) He had run all the way to the church. I will never forget his words as our pastor shook his hand welcoming him to the meal: ” There are four other people holed up under the bridge. They daresn’t leave our few belongings because the city would sweep in and confiscate our carts, tarps, bedding and other meager belongings. Can I please have four take-out meals to take back to them?”

    Our pastor took the elder gentleman’s wet coat and mitts and led him to the buffett table for a steaming hot meal while his coat and mittens were laid out to dry. After he had eaten to the full he was handed four loaded plates, wrapped and insulated to hold in the heat.

    Somehow I knew Jesus was smiling!

    My best received gift? Let’s see . . . . . guess it would have to be the two tickets to the Stage Production of the Nutcracker Suite this coming weekend, along with a hotel room and dinner reservation for the night at a prestigious hotel. The best part of it for me though was not the anticipation of the play, the hotel or the meal, but that my 18 -year- old grandaughter would be sharing it with me. We will have 24 hours together, catching up on each other’s lives. Sounds like I am spoiled doesn’t it!

    I pondered telling about this gift, because windyblue’s Christmas story broke me up on the inside! Just so you know, windyblue, I said a prayer for you and blessed you with loving people to surround you the rest of your life. Sounds like there are some good people in your life already, but keep the eyes of your heart open…..there will be other’s added to you in this coming year!

    Lucky you, John! Cat has great taste! So do you! Blessings be upon you in 2008 . . .

  • My sister gave me the coolest gift! Ballroom dancing lessons!! I get a month of private lessons and then group lessons. I absolutely love this!! Dancing with the Stars is my favorite TV pleasure. Now, Marie Osmond better move on over! I am just praying my instructor has a sense of humor and strong steel toes!


  • Wow! That’s definitely one of the more different/fun gifts I’ve heard of. Too fun! I once wrote a magazine piece about ballroom dancing. It’s such an intense environment, and the way they compete and everything is so extreme. I’ve never seen Dancing With The Stars. I know people love it, though.

  • Rebekah

    hi, i read you blog after sihning up for the crosswalk newsletter. todya i found another article of a rather ingenious gift – that keeps on giving 🙂

    so here it is !!!

    *The Gift That Keeps On Giving*

    Roy Collette and his brother-in-law have been exchanging the same pair of pants as a Christmas present for 11 years– and each time the package gets harder to open. This year the pants came wrapped in a car mashed into a 3-foot cube. The trousers are in the glove compartment of a 1974 Gremlin. Now Collette's plotting his revenge — if he can get them out.

    It all started when Collette received a pair of moleskin trousers from his brother-in-law, Larry Kunkel of Bensenville, Illinois. Kunkel's mother had given her son the britches when he was a college student. He wore them a few times, but they froze stiff in cold weather and he didn't like them. So he gave them to Collette.

    Collette, who called the moleskins "miserable," wore them three times, then wrapped them up and gave them back to Kunkel for Christmas the next year.

    The friendly exchange continued routinely until Collette twisted the pants tightly, stuffed them into a 3-foot-long, 1-inch wide tube and gave them back to Kunkel. The next Christmas, Kunkel compressed the pants into a 7-inch square, wrapped them with wire and gave the "bale" to Collette. Not to be outdone, the next year Collette put the pants into a 2-foot-square crate filled with stones, nailed it shut, banded it with steel and gave the trusty trousers back to Kunkel.

    The brothers agreed to end the caper if the trousers were damaged. But they were as careful as they were clever.

    Kunkel had the pants mounted inside an insulated window that had a 20-year guarantee and shipped them off to Collette. Collette broke the glass, recovered the trousers, stuffed them into a 5-inch coffee can and soldered it shut. The can was put in a 5-gallon container filled with concrete and reinforcing rods and given to Kunkel the following Christmas. Two years ago, Kunkel installed the pants in a 225 pound homemade steel ashtray made from 8-inch steel casings and etched Collette's name on the side. Collette had some trouble retrieving the treasured trousers, but succeeded without burning them with a cutting torch.

    Last Christmas, Collette found a 600-pound safe and hauled it to Viracon Inc. in Owatonna, where the shipping department decorated it with red and green stripes, put the pants inside and welded the safe shut. The safe was then shipped to Kunkel, who is the plant manager for Viracon's outlet in Bensenville.

    Last week, the pants were trucked to Owatonna, 55 miles south of Minneapolis, in a drab green, 3-foot cube that once was a car with 95,000 miles on it. A note attached to the 2,000-pound scrunched car advised Collette that the pants were inside the glove compartment. "This will take some planning," Collette said.

    "I will definitely get them out. I'm confident." But he's waiting until January to think about how to recover the bothersome britches.

    "Wait until next year," he warned. "I'm on the offensive again."

  • Me

    I got some really cool stuff….but I think that the coolest was the set of throwing knives. And the money. That’s always nice too

  • Pastor_David

    Well, if it is still of interest, Twilight Princess is one of the latest versions of the Zelda series. My Grandchildren live in Houston area. The ocean was . . . cool.

    I pray for everyone a Blessed New Year

  • Hjordes

    Nuts. My godmother always gives me nuts, and I love them.

    Oh! And I saw Nisse Naked! Well, not really, but my imagination filled in the missing pieces so that was a fun Christmas gift. We have Norwegian Christmas, complete with the Norge Santa Claus named Nisse.

    We were out caroling while Nisse was prepping the children's presents – only I am oblivious, and thought we were caroling for the fun of it. When someone clued me in I dashed back to the house to give Nisse my children's gifts.

    "Where is Nisse?" I shouted frantically to our Old People.

    "In the garage," they replied.

    I ran to the door and threw it open just as Nisse was holding up his Nice Winter Pants. We were both surprised, but I was the quicker to recover. My camera still in my hand from caroling, I now have a picture of (not quite) Naked Nisse to pass around for Christmasses to come.

  • send me that picture! I'll post it on my blog!

  • My 3 year old grandson Riley has just begun speaking complete thoughts. This Christmas he shared his first full sentence with me (I assume other sentences preceded this one but this one was for me): "Thank you Granddad!" Followed by the hug of course.

    Then of course he just kept giving and giving… culminating with "I love you Granddad" when we had to say goodbye and head home.

  • I didn’t get anything and I didn’t give anything, having decided a few years ago to bow out of that part of Christmas. It’s much easier to enjoy Christmas when you’re not obsessed with that part of it, at least for me.

  • Yes. Right. Obsession is bad.

  • Allie

    We had a very non-obsessy Christmas too – usually we give loads of presents. My mother has an emotional investment in everyone having plenty of presents so it looks like a “big Christmas,” and typically we have to think up stuff we want for long lists so we have enough. But this year everyone gave everyone else one modest present. Coming up with even that many gifts for my dad is tricky, since he’s getting fragile and a bit spacey and doesn’t have as many interests as he used to. He thinks the whole idea of giving him stuff he doesn’t need is absurd. So he got socks, lots of socks.

    The other thing we’ve done to reduce holiday obsession is that we don’t eat Christmas dinner. We have Christmas breakfast, since breakfast food is quick and easy, and then we open presents, and then we retire to the fireside for contemplation, classical music, and book reading. My mom still manages to obsess over making Christmas breakfast, but since my husband and I have forcibly insisted on doing most of the cooking and all the cleanup, there’s a limit to how much she can freak out.

    I know a lot of folks who visit this blog have families that flip out over the holidays, so y’all will understand when I say how much nicer things are when my mom isn’t flipping out over the details of a big fancy dinner, exhausting herself doing things no one wants done, then taking it out on everyone within reach. This way she still gets to hold Christmas at her house and be nominally in charge, which is important to her, and she gets to flip out for the 15 minutes or so it takes to cook breakfast, and that’s it. The rest of the holiday is relaxed and pleasant. This is the second year we’ve done it this way and this year she was actually smiling!