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This week, as I was walking through our living room, I noticed a picture that a friend had given to Deidra for her birthday. It was a casual picture of our family and I was struck by how blessed we are and how quickly our kids are growing up.

As Christmas Day rapidly approaches, I have found that the excitement level of our kids is directly proportional to their age. The younger they are, the more excited they are. Of course, you probably already figured that out!

I can remember when I was a kid and the thought of having to wait for Christmas morning to open all of my gifts was, at times, unbearable.

In fact, during my most infamous Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait. I held out as long as I could but while everyone was still asleep, I slipped into the living room and opened every single gift that I thought was mine. I couldn’t read yet, but I could recognize “M”, the first letter of my name.

As the house was still and quiet, I opened every gift that had a card with the letter “M” in the name. That would include:

Mark (Me)
Mom (My Mom)
Mother (My Dad’s mother that celebrated Christmas with us)
Mother (Gifts from my Dad to My Mom)

As you can probably imagine, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth that Christmas morning. My mother was mortified that she missed it all. My Dad wasn’t happy that I had opened a very nice piece of jewelry (this was the gift that I realized I had messed up, but trying to save myself placed it at the foot of her door when she came out of their bedroom as if Santa had left it there).

I felt terrible. My parents felt terrible. And to this day, we continue to talk about this infamous day.

What surprised me then, and less so now, was that I didn’t get in trouble.
I’m not sure how that happened, because I rarely missed out on that part when I messed up.

Now that I’m a Dad, I can fathom how upset they must have been but also why I wasn’t punished.

The greatest gifts at Christmas can’t be wrapped with paper or ribbon or bows.
The greatest gifts at Christmas are the people that we get to share our lives with and the celebration of Christ that is our greatest gift of all.

As I look at the picture of my family now, I’m reminded by my oldest that our precious time before he is off to college and then to his adult life is fleeting and that time is more valuable than any gift I could give him or he could give me.

His sister is not far behind.

As I look at my 2 youngest, I find joy in the precious time we still have for a while before they are ready to move on to their own lives away from our own roof.

This Christmas, you would be wise to spend more time and resources on being present rather than on presents. One is fleeting, but one will continue to give for a lifetime.

Pastor Mark

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