’Twas the night be­fore Christ­mas

Record Observer - - Religion -

Ev­ery fam­ily has those tra­di­tions and days that help de­fine their fam­ily. I per­son­ally know some fam­i­lies (although I shall not di­vulge any names un­less there is enough cash present) that are ad­e­quately de­fined by April 1.

Christ­mas Eve clearly de­fines me.

Christ­mas Eve means many things to me. For one, it means shop­ping. Yes, it is true; I do all my Christ­mas shop­ping on Christ­mas Eve. It cuts down on the stress. I know some peo­ple who spend weeks shop­ping and their life is full of stress.

Un­like me in many ways, the Gra­cious Mis­tress of the Par­son­age be­gins her Christ­mas shop­ping in Jan­uary and by Au­gust, she is in full shop­ping mode. There should be a law that any present bought be­fore De­cem­ber can­not be con­sid­ered a Christ­mas present.

When the chil­dren were still at home, I was just as ea­ger as they were on Christ­mas morn­ing to see what I had bought them for Christ­mas. They al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated the thought that went into their gift. You did not hear this from me, but some­times my wife was sur­prised at the gift as well.

There have been times, and again you did not hear it from me, when my wife bought a Christ­mas present and for­got about it by the time De­cem­ber rolled around. Once, and I will never re­peat this, we dis­cov­ered a cache of Christ­mas presents in the cor­ner of our garage when we were pack­ing to move. Only Santa re­ally knows how long they were there.

Up to this year, I have suc­cess­fully eluded such Christ­mas faux pas. My Christ­mas Eve starts bright and early in the morn­ing. My first stop is the “Slurp ‘N Burp Café” for a big break­fast. Af­ter an early break­fast, it is off to the mall for my Christ­mas Eve rit­ual of shop­ping. I only go to the mall once a year.

It is a tra­di­tion with me. My phi­los­o­phy is, the more tor­tur­ous the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence the more the re­cip­i­ent will ap­pre­ci­ate the gift. For me, noth­ing is more tor­tur­ous than a visit at the lo­cal shop­ping mall.

Some go to the mall for plea­sure and recre­ation. I go for pen­i­tence.

The av­er­age mall is so anti-man that ev­ery man en­ters its doors at his own peril. Many in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have a dis­clo­sure, in fine print, in their poli­cies to men mak­ing all in­sur­ance claims in­valid when in a shop­ping mall.

Shop­ping malls are de­lib­er­ately de­signed to frus­trate the male equa­tion of the mar­i­tal state of mind. Let me list a few ob­ser­va­tions in this re­gard: Is it just me, or do they move the mall stores around from year to year just to con­fuse the av­er­age man? Why is it, no mat­ter what door I enter the mall it is never there when I want to leave?

Once in­side the mall it only takes me three hours to ac­cli­mate my­self to the hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment. By that time, I am hope­lessly lost. As I wan­der aim­lessly around the mall, I try to re­mem­ber why I am there. One of the things on my shop­ping agenda is a Christ- mas present for my wife. Although I have had over 45 years ex­pe­ri­ence in this, I am no bet­ter off then our first Christ­mas.

In all those years, I have given her ev­ery­thing from jew­elry to per­fume to bub­ble bath. At this stage in my life, I do not know what to get her.

Last year I was tempted to wrap my­self and put the box un­der the tree, but I was afraid I would suf­fo­cate by Christ­mas morn­ing. As I wan­dered from store to store, I could not find any­thing to buy for her. I could get her a card with money in it but I’m afraid the check would bounce — and then I would.

If I bought her a dress, I would only be putting my life on the line. If the dress I bought were too small, she would be of­fended to think I thought she was gain­ing weight. If the dress I bought was too large – well, you know what that would mean.

If I did not get her some­thing, I would look pretty silly come Christ­mas morn­ing – I mean sil­lier than usual.

Wan­der­ing in and out of store af­ter store brought me no closer to that gift of all gifts that would say, “I think you’re ter­rific.”

I was ex­hausted and about to give up and go home in shame­ful dis­grace. Then, when I was about to give up, there it was. The per­fect gift. I could not be­lieve my eyes. I rubbed them in dis­be­lief and loudly ex­claimed, “Yes, Vir­ginia, there is a Santa Claus af­ter all.”

I wept, I laughed, I burped (musta been the soda). Right be­fore my eyes was the per­fect gift for my wife. A gift that said, “Honey, you’re the great­est.” Watch­ing the sales­per­son care­fully wrap my Christ­mas tro­phy, I could not help think­ing about the real mean­ing of Christ­mas.

God searched all of heaven to find that one spe­cial gift to tell mankind how much He re­ally loved them. Find­ing noth­ing bet­ter, He set­tled on that Gift of all gifts, the Lord Je­sus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only be­got­ten Son, that whoso­ever be­lieveth in him should not per­ish, but have ev­er­last­ing life” (John 3:16).

My Christ­mas prayer is that this year you will cel­e­brate with me God’s gift of eter­nal life in Je­sus Christ.

Dr. James L. Sny­der is pas­tor of the Fam­ily of God Fel­low­ship, Ocala, FL 34483, where he lives with the Gra­cious Mis­tress of the Par­son­age. Tele­phone 1-866-5522543, email jamess­ny­der2@ att.net. Web­site is www. jamess­ny­der­min­istries.com.

CH­ESTER — Adults seek­ing change, growth and heal­ing from life’s hurts, habits or hang-ups are in­vited to join the group at Kent Is­land United Methodist Church, 7 to 9 p.m., Jan. 4 and each Wed­nes­day there­after as Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery be­gins its sixth year of help­ing peo­ple gain the sup­port and strength to grap­ple with a mul­ti­tude of life hurts and chal­lenges, such as code­pen­dency, fam­ily dys­func­tion is­sues, lone­li­ness, an ad­dic­tion, or a bad habit to name a few. Child care is pro­vided for in­fants through fifth grade. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, con­tact cel­e­bratere­cov­ery@ki­umc.org or call the church at 410-643-5361.

The Land­ing is a faith­based min­istry of Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery for youth, ages 12 to 19. It is de­signed to help them grow in their faith, learn tools to gain self­con­fi­dence, re­cover from hurts or bad habits, gain strength to cope with ev­ery­day stresses, and make wise choices. Meet­ings be­gin Wed­nes­day, Jan. 4, and will be held each Wed­nes­day from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m.

Although the meet­ings are held at the Methodist church, the meet­ings are non-de­nom­i­na­tional and all are wel­come.

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