Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift

Merry Christmas! I pray this day is finding you sharing the greatest gifts of love, joy, peace, and hope.

A Special Christmas Gift

In 5th grade I was not celebrating the greatest gifts. I was not joyful. I was not at peace. My hope had been dashed.

On Christmas Day back in 5th grade, I reeling from the shock of Mom and Dad’s “perfect” surprise, their greatest gift.

Before Christmas, I’d been out shopping with my family when Mom and Dad stopped at the Montgomery Ward catalog store. I was not surprised. Montgomery Ward was a frequent stop for new pajamas, a blouse, and toys. That day Dad stopped short of the Customer Service counter and turned toward a back corner, snow shovels and above ground pools ahead of us, a black bike in the middle.

Dad turned and smiled. Pointing to the bike, he said, “Get on! See what you think!”

In the harsh glare of florescent lights, I looked ahead disbelief. I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. My head jerked from side to side. No, not this one! Not this bike!

Urged to step closer, I walked into a wall of emotions. My cheeks burned, my eyes watered, my legs faltered.

Raising the kickstand, Dad held the bike steady, encouraging me to hop on and give it a try.

Seeing my hesitation, Mom gave me a little nudge.

Trapped, I grabbed the handlebar, stepped onto the pedals and eased myself onto the seat.

Dad winked at Mom. “I think it’s perfect!”

It was not perfect. It was not the greatest gift.

For weeks I’d been hopeful, merry and bright at the possibilities. I’d hung my stocking with care. I’d worked on my Christmas list, what I thought would be the greatest gifts. Item #1 was a new bike, the only item on my list that hadn’t changed with each revision, each reprinting. Other items had come and gone, but the bike had remained at the top of my list.

Ready to graduate from a blue-framed, wide-tire classic, I was hoping, hoping, hoping for a ten-speed, thinking my heart’s desire needed no additional explanation or description.

I was wrong.

Mom and Dad were schoolteachers who were thoughtful in their childrearing decisions and careful with their spending. Special occasions, like birthdays and Christmas, were often used to not only surprise and delight, but to take care of essentials. A new Chatty Cathy doll was accompanied by days-of-the-week underwear. A Nancy Drew mystery included knee-high socks.

By fifth grade, I’d chosen to overlook the practical side of the gift-giving equation.

And now the harsh reality.

I’d expected a black Schwinn. I’d expected to walk into the garage Christmas morning to a beautiful surprise, the greatest gift.

When I’d written “bike” at the top of my list, I’d used a single word to capture a ten-year old’s excitement, a dreamy dream that caught me smiling through Christmas preparations. At no time did I expect a bike from a catalog store, especially a Hawthorne from Montgomery Ward.

Sitting atop the bike, my heart breaking, my smile forced, I did everything I could to keep from crying.

That Christmas I got the never imagined, least expected bike. And unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be perfect, the greatest gift.

God’s Greatest Gift

Two thousand years ago, we would find ourselves at the door to a barn where a man named Joseph invites us in. Holding a lantern high, he leads us through cattle, sheep, goats, and larger animals, encouraging us to follow closely. And then the dim light finds her — a young woman next to a newborn wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And there we paused in disbelief. Not just you and me, but all of humankind.

Our collective response was, “No! Not here! Not in a back corner of a barn, not between farm animals, not surrounded by shepherds.”

Joseph smiled. “Beautiful, isn’t He?”

Yes, but we were expecting a king, a King with a capital K. In the city of David, we were expecting a royal birth, an event to be heralded, not just with angels, but with anthems, brass bands, symphonic tributes, ticker tape parades and the first century’s version of a paparazzi stakeout.

Shaking our heads, we wondered aloud: This is the good news of great joy? Here lies the long-awaited messiah? The greatest gift?

For generations, we’d been hopeful, merry and bright at the possibilities of a savior. This was not a time of dreamy dreams, some visit to some godly Santa. This was not a time for hanging celestrial stockings in hopes that a saint would be there. We were hanging onto God’s promises, His prophesies.

But we’d been awaiting a conquering hero, a king in David’s own likeness, a leader with Solomon’s wisdom, Moses’ incomparable heroism, and the promise of Abraham.

The realities of the manger seemed harsh, inconceivable. How would a child born into poverty save us? Yes, Joseph, he’s beautiful, but how will he battle the forces of evil? That Roman army?

We were praying, praying, praying for someone bigger than life, bigger than life’s challenges, bigger than persecution, bigger than hunger and poverty, bigger than disease and hopelessness, heartache and despair.

And that’s what we got when a small beautiful baby was born in that manger in Bethlehem, truly the greatest gift.

God in His infinite wisdom, mercy, and love for us sent a savior who was Christ the Lord. Not a battalion chief who would take up arms, but a loving, merciful God who would take us into His arms. Not a rebel who would conquer Rome, but a redeemer who would conquer sin and death. Not a descendant of David who would wrest the throne from Caesar, but the Son of God who would ascend to the Almighty throne. Not someone who would challenge them, but a savior who would change us.

Our stop at the manger caught all of humankind by surprise. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we would find ourselves in the presence of the holiest, most blessed gift, the greatest gift, one not imagined, not expected. Perfect.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her king! Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing.

Deanna is the author of two books, Fruit of My Spirit and Signs in Life.

Deanna Nowadnick author

Hi, I'm Deanna

I am a writer and speaker who loves helping women of faith connect our delightfully ordinary stories to God’s extraordinary love and faithfulness, so we can be encouraged and empowered knowing God’s been in the details–always has been, always will be.

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