By Ada Brownell
With eight of us children and I the youngest, many Christmases we had no gifts. But one year, probably while I was 4 or 5, I received a doll almost as tall as I was. She obviously was used because she had little cracks all over her hard "skin," even up into her molded hair. Her clothing, however, clean and new, showed someone made it for her, probably Mama.
I hated that doll. I wanted a soft baby doll like I saw another girl have, with a bottle that you could fill with water, and when you stuck the nipple into the hole in the doll's mouth, the bottle emptied and the baby doll wet its pants. That big doll I had did nothing but stand up.
Just a little growing and every time I looked at that doll, shame filled me--a selfish, unthankful kid who hated a gift given in love. I didn't like the doll anymore than I ever did, but I loved my parents more. I saw myself, probably as God saw me, and that did something in me.
Perhaps it was the Christmas poem I was given to deliver at the annual church program. The poem, titled "If Jesus Should Come at Christmas," touched me and although I can't remember the poem, I never forgot the message it delivered. Would I go to heaven with all that ugliness and greed in my heart? I learned to appreciate what Christmas really means.
Yes, Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus, and giving and receiving is wonderful, but I learned as a child the Christmas story doesn't revolve around Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, and Christmas trees, but the centerpiece is a lowly manger, an ugly cross smeared with blood, an empty tomb, and the scripture, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
But it's O.K. and wonderful to enjoy the lights, because Jesus is the light of the world. It's also nice to give gifts and receive them, because it brings joy all around. The Christmas music reminds me of that holy night when Jesus arrived as a baby and why there is Joy to the World.
Yet, whether or not there are gifts under a tree, who we share the holiday with, it's possible to have a merry Christmas. Jesus came. He brought the gift of hope to anyone who will receive it, and that not only makes the angels sing, humankind has been singing year 'round since that day.