I was shopping for last minute Christmas gifts a number of years ago and I spied the most gorgeous brown scarf with green fringe and little flowers appliquéd on it in the shape of a peace sign. And if you know me at all, you know I am in LOVE with the word “peace”…so I bought it for myself for Christmas.
Having said that, please know that I don’t NORMALLY buy myself Christmas gifts, but there were only two in the store and I didn’t want to go thru the rig-a-ma-roll of sending Tim in to get it for me and chancing that it would be gone. Sooooo…I grabbed one off the display case and asked the woman who rang me up to box and wrap it for me. She started to giggle and said, “I’ll put a card on the top that says, “From Uncle Harold”.
As she saw my questioning look, she smiled and proceeded to tell me the “Legend of Uncle Harold”! For the first few years of this woman’s marriage, her husband would receive some really awesome Christmas gifts each year from his Uncle Harold. Every year, on the last working day before Christmas, he would arrive home from a day at the office and say, “Good old Uncle Harold stopped by the office today and dropped off my presents!” He would pop these gifts under the tree with a big smile on his face!
Mind you, Harold never brought her any gifts – just her husband. That didn’t really seem too odd to her, however, since she had never met Uncle Harold before. Regardless, each Christmas morning her husband would open the “Uncle Harold” gifts and marvel at how well the presents suited him and would say that no one knew him better!
After several years passed, this woman happened to mention the name “Uncle Harold” one year at a family Thanksgiving dinner. It seemed everyone she asked about Uncle Harold denied any knowledge of such a relative. Confused and perplexed, she asked her husband, “Why doesn’t anyone know your Uncle Harold?”
Sheepishly, he had to then admit, that as much as he loved his dear wife, she was not the best gift giver. She’d give things like hankies or toothpicks. Or maybe vacuum bags or a can opener. (Very practical, this woman!)
He, on the other hand, was an extravagant gift giver! He had the knack of being able to find the perfect thing for each person on his list. And, he also could find the perfect thing for himself (then again, can’t we all…!). So, in order to make Christmas “merry” for himself too, he decided that he would become his own “Uncle” so he could be assured of getting what he wanted under the tree! Luckily, his wife had a good sense of humor and thought this was a clever and silly deception. And they keep up this “tradition” even today – 20 some years later…
I think back on this story every year around this time. On the surface, it’s funny! It’s cute! It’s even sort of endearing! And walking the dogs one morning, it hit me: YES! I want us all to have an Uncle Harold Christmas; I want us to have the best gifts that we have ever received under the tree this year.
Alright. I was wrong. I realized about a minute later that I don’t honestly want that. True – if we could buy and wrap our own presents and pop them under our trees, we’d have one fine Christmas morning, indeed. But you know what would be missing?
- Memory making (years from now, looking back at those handmade crafts that we don’t have a clue what to do with – or even what they ARE!);
- private giggles with our spouses over the coupon books our children make;
- tears of joy at the look of pride and excitement on the faces of the ones giving us the gifts;
- even BIGGER tears as we see the joy that the gifts WE gave have created; and,
- quiet moments of reflection and gratitude for the thoughts put into the giving after the gifts are open.
And that’s when it finally settled in, and I mean IN. Uncle Harold has nothing lasting to offer. Uncle Harold gifts won’t sustain us in hard times or grant us peace in the storms we all will have to endure. Uncle Harold can’t even enjoy the element of joyful surprise or the gauche of cheeky silliness.
Let me ask you something. How would you feel if you spent infinite time, care, and love wrapping something incredibly special for someone you loved and when Christmas morning came, that person passed over your simply wrapped present for those that looked a bit brighter, maybe a little flashier? Would it grieve your heart to think what you created for that someone would change his/her life for the forever better but they chose not to open it and accept it? I wonder if that’s what God feels like when we choose to fill our lives with things that have no lasting impact – things Uncle Harold can deliver, but don’t make any difference to our lives in the long run.
So I no longer wish you an Uncle Harold Christmas, my sisters! Instead, I wish you an Authentic Christmas, stuffed full of surprises (like the birth of a baby who became the Savior of the world), loaded with spontaneity (like finding a place where that baby would lay His holy head); and unexpected, simple gifts (like shepherds giving the only thing they could – keeping watch). And that, my sweet sister friends, is an authentic Christmas. Jesus. The gift of Jesus is a game changer – a LIFE changer, sisters. He is the energizer bunny of gifts – the gift that keeps on eternally giving (no batteries required)!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, my friends, filled with love, laughter, peace, and Jesus.
God bless you.
(Hope you enjoyed this fun, Christmas story, posted in its original form on 12/23/13!)
Peace, love, and JOY!