The Best Gift

Twenty-nine years ago, it was.  My first Christmas as a father.  Talk about overwhelmed and disillusioned!  I had been led to believe that babies were cute little things that gurgled and smiled a lot.  The truth was a far cry from the promise!  There was a whole lot more crying than smiling going on (it didn’t all come from the little girl,either) and I was just itching to get my hands on the idiot who coined the phrase “I slept like a baby”.  It was a tumultuous time in our little family and the initiation period definitely had it’s downside.

Having said that, I’ll be quick to assure you that it was probably the best Christmas in my life up to that time.  That precious little baby was the joy of our lives!  Yes, there were adjustments.  Yes, we had to make some changes in our lives and schedules.  But the wonder, the amazement at the miracle of new life was beyond anything we had ever experienced.

During the long nights when she didn’t sleep and being held was the only thing that would quiet her, she and I listened to music.  I would turn on the record player (yes, I said “record”) and listen to a wide variety of artists and styles, but that Christmas season, the one song that was my favorite came from the “Christmas Album” that Barbra Streisand had recorded a few years before.  In those quieter days before news and commentary was a 24-hour cacophony of noise and controversy, artists were known for the quality of their music, not the shrillness of their political tirades and Barbra has one of the finest voices I know.  I remember playing the record and holding the sweet little girl close as Barbra sang of “The Best Gift”, not one under the tree, nor wrapped with a bow.  That gift was a “tiny, newborn child.”  And, I understood the sentiment and agreed completely.

With amazement we watched the beautiful girl become aware of things around her; watched her make her opinions known in the only way she could, saw the perfection of the tiny hands and feet and realized that she was ours to raise.  One day she would move on to her own life, but for now, she was ours.  And Christmas has never been the same for us.

Isn’t it amazing that God decided it was so important for His Son to come into the world that first Christmas as a helpless baby boy needing parents to love and cherish Him?  What a great gift! As parents, we listen to the story and we actually feel the indignation of having to seek shelter in a dirty barn, the agony of the birth, and the wonder at the new life.  The joy and awe that Mary and Joseph felt can’t be much different than what we feel at the birth of our own children.  Well, except for the angels, shepherds, and wise men, but you know what I mean…

After all these years, I still think that one of the best gifts we receive in life is our children.  Of course, I also think the same thing about grandchildren, just with the added benefit of other adults who are actually responsible for them.  Either way, the season is improved exponentially by their presence in our lives.  Now, if there was just some way to install a volume control on them…

The best gift that I ever got
Didn’t really weigh a lot.
It didn’t have a ribbon ’round
And it sometimes made a terrible sound.
But, best of all, it seems to me
It wasn’t ‘neath the Christmas tree.
And yet, I guess I’d have to say
It made all the other presents twice as gay.
The best gift that I’ve ever known
I’d always wanted most to own.
Yet, in my dreams of sugar and spice
I never thought it could be so nice.
The best gift that I could ever get
Was sometimes dry and sometimes wet;
Was usually pink but oftentimes red
As it lay so innocently in its bed.
The best gift of the year to me
The one I hold most dear to me
A gift that simply drove me wild
Was a tiny new-born child…

(Barbra Streisand, 1978)

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