A Time For Giving

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When was the last time you stepped back and asked yourself what the holidays mean to you. When you are a child so much excitement fills your body you can hardly breathe!  I remember one Christmas as a child my father bought a new Polaroid camera. We  all slept in the basement of our house and we could not come upstairs on Christmas morning until our parents said so. 

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Well  it  took him quite a while trying to figure out this camera, and it seemed like forever until we could come and see what we received for Christmas!

Another year I got a doll with a doll case and my mother had spent hours making doll clothes for her. That was one of my Favorite Gifts that year for Christmas. 

My mother told me a story about my sister on Christmas Day. She had wanted a record player.  Well we had opened all of the Christmas presents and my sister had not received her record player.  There was still a  big box under the tree. 

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My dad had told her earlier that was a gift from someone at the station. (my father owned a Sinclair Service Station).. Well she was very  surprised when my dad told her to open  it  and inside  was her record player.

Another memory I had was one that makes your heart feel so good. When we were in a ward going to college in Utah  we adopted a family for Christmas. The father was almost blind and they lived in meager circumstances. We bought a tree with all the trimmings and gifts for all the kids and the parents.

We also purchased them their Christmas dinner. What a thrill it was to take them their presents and with tears in everyone’s eyes learn what Christmas is all about.

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Let me share another story….

THE GIFT BOX

Every Christmas a small gift box appears under our tree. It’s a fabulous present. How could one little box hold so much?
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When I was seven, I thought I had the true meaning of Christmas all figured out. Christmas was more than just receiving gifts. You had to be willing to give a gift if you expected to receive one in return

Each year our gifts to friends and neighbors were Mom’s holiday cookies and candies. Her walnut divinity was famous. My sisters and I would pitch in to help deliver plates of treats around the neighborhood. The neighbors would reciprocate by delivering their own favorite treats to our house—completing the exchange program.

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That year the last of the neighbors came by with their gift on Christmas Eve. However, instead of a plate of cookies, they gave us a small, beautifully wrapped present. They instructed us not to open it until we had opened all the other gifts under the tree the next day.

I used my best detective skills to try to determine what was inside. But the only clue I could find was a gift tag that merely added to my curiosity: “To the Luebke Family—the Greatest Gift of All.” That was quite a promise for such a small box—especially when all we had given them was homemade cookies and candy.

Christmas morning finally came, and we opened all our presents. Then, as we sat in the carnage of torn wrapping paper and opened boxes, Mom brought out the mysterious gift and read the tag. My sister and I fought over who would open it. I don’t recall who won, but I clearly remember my disappointment when I saw what was inside the box—nothing except a card. I had been skeptical that this gift would really be “the Greatest Gift of All,” but I had certainly expected more than a handwritten card. Mom, on the other hand, was visibly touched by the card.

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The next year when the Christmas decorations went up, the little present was back under the tree, like an unwanted fruitcake. I lifted the lid, hoping that I had missed something the year before. But it proved again to be an empty box with a simple card in it.

As the years went by, that little gift became a family tradition. Every year it was the first present under the tree and the last one opened on Christmas morning. In my teenage years my attitude began to soften toward the little gift.

The first Christmas after my mission, I headed home for the holidays after a semester at college. As I walked through the door, the memory of many Christmases at home came flooding back. As I looked in the living room, I saw it, that unusual little present, alone under the tree.

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It showed the wear of having many heavy packages piled on top of it over the years. I picked it up with a reverence I had never shown it before.

The tag was still attached: “To the Luebke Family—the Greatest Gift of All.” As I lifted the lid and read the card inside, I now had a testimony that it truly did represent the greatest gift our family could ever be given. It read, “From Jesus Christ—The Gift of Eternal Life.”

I am grateful for the family who gave us this family tradition that has blessed our Christmases by reminding us of the greatest gift of all.

What are some more GIFTS we can give each other this year?

THE ULTIMATE GIFT

The ultimate gift  you give won’t cost you a cent.  Put away your credit cards: you won’t need them.  When shopping for the ideal gift, you already have it,  it’s a unique gift, and it is waiting to be given.  The ultimate gift is the gift of unconditional love.

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THE GIFT OF PEACE

The perfect choice for everyone on your Christmas List.  God invites us and our families to set our sights on something higher–to see nothing less than the “peace on earth” announced by the angels at His birth.  Peace is the deepest need and longing of our hearts and of our world. 

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THE GIFT OF GENEALOGY

What to give the person who has everything—hmmmmm,  how about the Gift of Heritage?  Researching  your family tree has become very popular, raising interest in many people as to where there their ancestors came from, how they got here, and what they were doing. 

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No matter how you choose to share you family history, please remember that the Gift doesn’t need to be fancy or complete to be meaningful.  The time you have spent researching your family history and preserving it for future generations is the A Great  Gift For All.

THE GIFT OF FAMILY

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Our world is getting so busy we do not have time to be a family.  When was the last time you all sat and ate dinner together?  When was the last time you just sat and talked and found out what each family member was doing in their lives. 

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Families are torn because there are too many thing to do each and every day.  Did you watch the movie The Ultimate Gift.  This movie teaches families about life lessons and the importance of families.  It would be a great gift for this Christmas to watch as a family.  Go pop the popcorn  and enjoy each other.  

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Have you heard of the book THE CHRISTMAS JARS   by Jason Wright?

I think now a days Christmas is all about how much we can spend instead of how much can we give.  Let me give you some insight about this book.

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The Jars have a rippling influence.  One wealthy man who has no need for financial help is prompted to be more generous.  A woman who can’t afford to pay her heating bill is inspired to manage her finances better.  Others, who have next to nothing, are inspired to pass on the good turn to someone else as soon as they are able.

Just as the Christmas Jars spring a tradition of passing on service and love, Wright’s Book is one to be passed on and shared.

“To thine own self (and others) be true!” is one lesson Hope (A character in the book)  learns from her experience.  Choosing to justify her deception as good intent comes back to haunt her, something for which she will try desperately to make retribution.

Also evident is the theme of sacrifice ― giving when it is uncomfortable, when one could use the very thing they have decided to give away.  In addition to this, many of the characters confront a significant loss.  This interplay of losing and sacrificing subtly echoes the life of the Divine being we worship this Holiday season.

Wright may have created a new Holiday phenomenon.  Readers will be inspired to start their own tradition of giving, be it jars or something similar.  Christmas Jars is a short read with a tender message ― an excellent gift for Christmas.  It is magic mixed with fiction and will surely spark within you, the spirit of the season.

“Most will pause, if only for an instant, to consider the miracle of a perfect baby boy born in a manger under the brilliant star that predicted it all…Tonight a grateful single mother, or a homeless man, or a young struggling couple, or perhaps even you might find such a jar. 

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You will lift it up and hold it a foot from your wet eyes. You will spin it.  You will examine its uncanny beauty. Then you’ll wonder why.  The answer is simpler than time and curiosity will tell you.  It’s not the copper- and silver-colored coins you will empty onto your coffee table.  No, the answer is not in the total you will count and put to good purpose in your life.  The answer, dear reader, is what went into the jar each day, long before it ever found you”

ONE MORE STORY….

I AM A CHRISTMAS TREE

For seven long winters I stood in the woods, watching wildlife, and hearing the rains and the storms and the winds. I thought I had led a good life.  But I was cut down; and now I’m a Christmas tree.

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Tonight the family here took more liberties with me than I ever anticipated (but to tell you the truth I like the result). If my former woodland pals could see me now they’d think I was set for a masquerade! First the family set me up in some type of iron tripod contraption that pinched the very sap out of my veins.

It would have been easier to bore a hole in the floor for me. But I guess that isn’t done. I felt ridiculous at first, standing there like some artificial store-bought tree. But then things began to happen.

Dad came down from the attic with four huge boxes, each marked “Christmas trim.” Mom in the meantime had spread a sheet under me to keep my bare stump warm, maybe.

The kids (except for the two little ones, who went to bed at 7:30) tore at the boxes with screams of delight, setting up little piles of similar articles: colored balls in one pile, old moth-eaten treasures like silly animals in another, tinsel icicles in another, strings of lights in still another.

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As each of the four boxes was opened, the cocker spaniel’s wet nose slid inside to get a good smell. For her, and apparently for everybody else, it was a wonderful game.

Dad wound me up with the strings of lights, then tested each colored bulb to see why I didn’t light up. Finally I did and the family all let out oohs and ahs, and insisted on turning out all the house lights to see how I looked. I began to feel better.

Then they all tackled me with 207 different pieces of adornment until the four boxes were empty, and I was so full I began to protest at the overload.

(They even draped some of their best Christmas cards over me the effect was wonderful.) After that came the tinsel icicles. Johnny and Nancy started throwing these icicles at me a game which resulted in a stern cease-and-desist order from Mom.

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By this time I thought I just must be ready (I didn’t know what for), but I wasn’t. Johnny had started to pop some popcorn while Nancy got out some needles and string.  The popcorn went on the strings, which wound up, as everything else did tonight, around me.

Then after they put all lights out except mine, Mom went to the piano and played carols. She played so softly that the music just seemed to tinkle.  Johnny and Nancy started to sing the words, even Dad hummed along with them. It was nice.

After carols, the family hung their stockings on the mantel, let the cocker out the front door for awhile, discussed the chances of Santa’s coming, and finally went to bed. I should have felt lonely but didn’t. Even with my lights off, I could shake my branches a little whenever I felt like it in order to make the jingle bells, tied on my fingertips, jingle.

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Well, just as I was going to sleep, I heard, high above the roof, the sound of hundreds of jingle bells. “Holy smokes!” I said to myself, “it’s him!” And it was. In less than a minute a black boot appeared down the chimney, then another black boot, then red pants and coat, white whiskers, jolly old face, long tasseled cap finally the big leather bag. Yep Santa had arrived.

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Hi Mr. Claus!” I said. He jumped right into the air.

“Hi Mr. Claus,” I repeated. He jumped right back into the air again.

“It’s me Jack Pine! Remember me? I said. “I used to grow just outside your reindeer barn,  east of the southern end of the North Pole, across from the west berry patch!

Santa grinned. “Well as I live and breathe Jack Pine. I’m glad to see you!”

I wanted to shake hands with him, but was afraid

I’d drop one of the big ornaments, so I just shook my branches and jingled my bells to show him I was delighted.)

“Santa,” I said, “what happens now? Here I am decked out like a Christmas Tree.  I see you’ve got a packful of presents there for the family…what do I get out of all this?”

The old fellow sat down and munched on the raisin and chocolate chip cookies the kids had left for him. Then he looked at me and started to talk quietly. “Jack Pine,” he said, “you’re a lucky tree”.

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Tomorrow happens to be Christmas, and you are going to be the leading character in a drama that will take place most everywhere wherever there are children, that is.

You will see faith, when the kids come down in the morning to check up on my having been here. You will see the light of giving surrounding Mom and Dad (that’s a certain all-over-good-feeling people get). You will see an “atmosphere” settle down on this house and on the people in it the atmosphere of Christmas.

It’s something that makes people glad they have each other…thankful to be members of their families. Now this atmosphere is sometimes criticized because it comes to people, the criticizers say, just once a year. That’s not correct. Christmas is the time when families and memories and customs and love and generosity all are mixed together in sort of a big Christmas spirit which simply gets into people and recharges their systems with freshness and kindness and understanding for another long year.

“You, Jack Pine, have seen some of that Christmas spirit earlier this evening. You’ll see more tomorrow. And the reason you’re a lucky tree, Jack, is because you like myself are actually a part of that warm, friendly feeling. Yes, you and I help make the spirit of Christmas. 

With that Santa went right up the chimney and into his sleigh. The bells on his prancing reindeer started ringing again, then vanished in the softest music ever heard.

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I relaxed then, and waited for morning, knowing that all the old boy had said was true. I am part of the wonderful spirit of Christmas. I am a Christmas Tree.

I Hope You Enjoyed These Stories.

I Wish You All a Very Very Merry Christmas!

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