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Dec 24, 2023 275 Karen Eberts, USA
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The Gift Under the Tree

Gifts are part and parcel of Christmas, but do we realize the value of The Gift we have been so freely given?

I was awakened one December morning by my son Timmy’s exuberant proclamation: “Mom! Guess know what?” (his way of expressing an invitation to respond, without a requirement to wait). He was brimming over with the need to impart urgent information…so pronto! 

Seeing my eyelids forced apart, he blurted out with glee, “Santa brought ME a bike and YOU a bike!” The truth, of course, was that the larger bike was for his big sister, but as you can imagine, that was actually a bit of irrelevant information; what really mattered was Timmy got his heart’s fondest wish—a new bike!

The season that causes many of us to pause and linger nostalgically on memories from the past is fast approaching. There is something about Christmas that brings us back to those times as children when life was simple, and our happiness was predicated on having the desires of our hearts filled as we opened the gifts under the tree. 

Switching the Lens

As any parent knows, having a child completely shifts our perspective from life being about what is important to us to being all about meeting our child’s needs and often, wants. It’s almost as if we gingerly dusted off our own View-Master toy and handed it, freely and happily, to our offspring with nary a thought! For those of you fortunate enough to open one of those toys on Christmas morning, you will remember it came with a thin cardboard reel containing pairs of small Kodachrome photographs that, when viewed through the apparatus, created the illusion of three-dimensional scenes. Once a child comes into our family, we see everything not just through our own lens but through theirs. Our world expands, and we remember, and in some ways relive, the innocence of the childhood we left behind long ago. 

Not everyone has a carefree, secure childhood, but many are fortunate to remember the good in their lives while the difficulties we experience growing up recede in time. Still, what we focus on repeatedly will shape the way we ultimately live our lives. Perhaps that is why it is said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!” What this requires, however, is intention and practice, especially through choices such as expressing gratitude. Repeated peering through a View-Master, which once enlarged the landscape of our small worlds, led us to recognize beauty, colors, and different dimensions in the pictures within our field of vision. In the same way, a frequent habitual practice of gratitude can lead to seeing of life as a prospect of opportunities, healing, and forgiveness rather than a series of disappointments, hurts, and offenses. 

Social scientists, who examine and observe how individuals interact and behave with each other, have concluded that gratitude practices are psychologically helpful. “Thanking others, thanking ourselves, Mother Nature, or the Almighty – gratitude in any form can enlighten the mind and make us feel happier. It has a healing effect on us” (Russell & Fosha, 2008). A wise proverb says, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Untouched Gift

Pondering the past leads to remembrance. Focusing on the things we should be grateful for reveals what we couldn’t grasp in our youth…that is, until we receive the gift of a View-Master one Christmas! In truth, we have all been given one, but not all have opened theirs. One present lying under the tree may remain there while other gifts topped with colorful bows are eagerly scooped up by outstretched hands. Was the reluctance of the recipient to select a particular package based on the subdued hues of the plain wrapping? Perhaps the lack of curled ribbons and gift tags? The View-Master inside would open new vistas, bring new adventures, and change the world of the one who opens it, but that recognition requires receptivity from the receiver. And when a gift is presented by another in a way that doesn’t invite curiosity, it will likely remain untouched. 

Those who have been longing for a View-Master, who actively look for it under the tree, who are able to trust that something better lies underneath the simple exterior, won’t be disappointed. They know that the best presents often come unexpectedly, and once they are opened, their appreciation develops as their value is recognized. Eventually, as more time is spent exploring the many facets of the gift, the treasure now becomes a cherished part of the receiver’s life.

Time to Unwrap!

There was a certain group of people long ago who were hoping to be given what had been promised to them for years. Yearning for it, they lived in anticipation that one day they would receive it. When the time came for this promise to be delivered, it was wrapped in ordinary cloth, and was so small that in the darkness of the night, only a few shepherds knew of its arrival. As the light began to grow, some people tried to block it, but the shadows gave evidence of this light’s influence. Reminded of the value of becoming a child again, many people began walking with this Light that illuminated their path. With enhanced clarity and vision, meaning and purpose began to frame their daily lives. Filled with wonder and amazement, their understanding deepened. For generations since, numerous individuals’ devotion has been strengthened with the remembrance of receiving the promised Word that became flesh. The realization of what they were given changed everything.

This Christmas, may you receive the desire of your heart, as my son did many years ago. As our eyes open, we too may exclaim, “Guess know what?” God brought ME a “Wonderful Counselor” and YOU the “Prince of Peace!” If you have unwrapped this precious gift, you know the fulfillment and joy that follows. As we respond with gratitude, it causes us to want others to experience what we’ve received. Thoughtful consideration of how we present what we now want to give increases the likelihood that the gift will be opened. How will I deliver the treasure I’ve discovered? Will I swath it in love? Cover it with joy? Envelop it in a peaceful heart? Cloak it in patience? Enfold it with kindness? Package it in generosity? Protect it through faithfulness? Bundle it with gentleness? 

Perhaps the final fruit of the Holy Spirit might be considered, if the recipient is not yet ready to open this gift.  Could we then choose to encase our treasure in self-control?

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Karen Eberts

Karen Eberts is a retired Physical Therapist. She is the mother to two young adults and lives with her husband Dan in Largo, Florida

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