Not All Christmas Gifts Are Under a Tree

Not All Christmas Gifts Are Under a Tree December 21, 2023

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Christmas Eve 1969:  

Most of the day had gone as expected. Grandma had homemade sauce bubbling on the stove before noon. Gnocchi were mixed, rolled, cut, and “tucked in,” as Grandma called it–one of the tasks I got to help with in the kitchen. The pot was already filled with the water in which they would cook. Fresh bread wrapped in a towel rested on the countertop near the warm stove. In the fridge, iceberg lettuce was torn (not cut) with Ice cubes on top to keep it crisp for a salad that would be assembled later. Homemade cookies were arranged on a plate for dessert. All the dinner preparations would be completed after church when my aunt and uncle would join us. There were gifts under the tree and everyone was excited, but the excitement wasn’t centered around those boxes, well, not entirely. We all knew that not all Christmas gifts are under a tree.

Amazing, but Normal, Christmas Eve

The afternoon scooted along, and I bathed and got ready for church. We attended First Presbyterian in Martins Ferry, Ohio. It was a big church for a small town with a beautiful dome and gorgeous stained glass windows. Mrs. Marian Packer directed five youth choirs from tiny children through high school, and there was an adult choir, as well. Everyone sang on Christmas Eve. At the end of the service, candles were lit as the congregation joined the choirs in “O Holy Night.” It was a glorious service, as Christmas Eve always was, and afterwards, hungry, we headed home. Snow was just beginning to fall, not an unusual occurrence in Martins Ferry, Ohio. 

Dinner was amazing, but as we ate, the snow began to come down in earnest, and it hustled our plans along a bit. We ate, then opened gifts quickly, and my aunt and uncle headed home “before the roads got bad.” The snow continued.

Amazing, Not Normal, Christmas Eve

Left on our own, my mother, brother, Grandma, and I turned on a Christmas movie. Grandma dozed in her chair, then finally went to bed. The hands of the clock passed eleven. Snow outside was getting pretty deep.

Then my mother made one of the most unexpected and spontaneous offers I can ever remember: “Anybody want to go for a walk?”

“Well, yeah!”

We quickly donned coats, hats, gloves, and boots, and ventured out into the frozen night. As we walked down our street, Christmas lights glowed radiant from porches and were echoed by colorful reflections in the snow. We got to the end of our street, but kept walking. 

Turning to look back, our own footprints were the only marks we could see in the pristine snow. We saw no cars, no other person, not even a dog or cat.

Like Walking Through a Miracle

Without talking, we walked the streets of downtown. The Christmas displays in the stores devoid of customers and nearly emptied of inventory, gleamed like topaz against the cold nighttime. The decorations on the light poles and the traffic lights twinkled and winked, enchanting the holy night that was all about light and love and the coming of the baby who was the light that shined in men’s darkness. It was like walking through a miracle.

We walked all the way back to our church. Then the chimes from the clock tower broke the perfect silence, and as though it were a signal, we headed back in the direction of home. 

Not All Christmas Gifts Are Under a Tree

Back in our own kitchen, Mom started the hot chocolate, even as my gloves were still coming off my hands. We  were all uncommonly quiet, but it was the quiet of peaceful hearts in a loving home. Ever since, I have referred to that night as “the best Christmas gift of all time.” Like I said, not all Christmas gifts are under a tree.

Continuing Tradition

My brother and I got ready for bed, and even though we weren’t little anymore, my mom recited “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” and then, the scriptures from Luke 2. That had been our tradition for years, and when I had children of my own, I continued the tradition. I have been blessed, on occasion, to share the stories with my grandchildren, as well.

I guess, now that I consider the Christmas story, I have to concede that the Christmas Eve walk in the snow was really the second best Christmas gift of all time; but #1 is not under a tree, either. 

The Best Christmas Gift

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord, And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly, there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” 

I think we can all agree that Jesus Christ stepping out of eternity to be born into this world to redeem us to the Father is the best Christmas gift of all time. Not all Christmas gifts are under a tree, but Christmas is not really about a box under a tree anyway. It’s all about love, isn’t it?


God bless you, and may your life abound in love this Christmas and always.

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