In the 1950s, the day the SEARS CHRISTMAS CATALOG arrived in the mail was just about the best day of the year. I’d sit down in the living room, flip to the toy section, and spend the next hour or two looking at all the toys, page after page after page. When I got to the last page of toys, I’d go back to look again at the toys that I really wanted. They were usually on the cowboy page. I’d much rather dream about getting a ranch set than a doll house. (That’s probably why I still take such delight in setting up my “Bethlehem ranch” set for Christmas. My crèche has over 100 pieces, and is still growing!)
One year my mom tried to change my interests and she got me a big beautiful doll for Christmas. I cried when I opened the package. My mom gave up trying to change me, and got me a ranch set with a ranch house, corral, horses, and several cowboy figurines the next year. I couldn’t be happier. I finally outgrew the cowboy stage and drooled over chemistry sets in the Sears Catalog. One year my parents really splurged and got me the biggest chemistry set in the catalog. The next year, when my parents remodeled the kitchen, I was given the old hoosier to keep in my room as my laboratory. That way I didn’t have to take over the whole dining room table whenever I wanted to do chemistry experiments.
The other side of Christmas presents – the giving side – soon became even more exciting than the receiving side. Most Decembers I’d spend two or three hours working in the barn every day, stripping tobacco. (That’s another long story for another time.) I earned two-cents a lath – equal to about five minutes work. On Saturdays, I’d sometimes work all day. By the time I had earned between $5 and $10, I was ready to go Christmas shopping. Typical presents were a model car or airplane for my brother, a pen and stationery for my sister, a box of candy for my mom, and a tie for my dad. I felt rich with all the money in my billfold to be able to buy all those presents.
Over the last few years, Mim and I have changed some of our ideas about Christmas shopping. Whenever we’re in a store, any time of the year, and I see something that I’d really like to have, but I can’t quite justify that I need it and that I should spend the money on it, Mim will say, that can be your Christmas present, and vice versa. That’s how we justified spending $16 on a monthly planner notebook for 2013 for Mim, and how we justified spending $300 on a Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone for me last week. (I think I’ve mastered this new way of looking at presents better than Mim has!)
But the five things I really want most for Christmas this year are:
- Krumkake – and other homemade Christmas cookies, especially the Norwegian kinds.
- Good roads so that I can get to the Christmas services I’m scheduled to play for this year – all eight of them.
- Time to spend with my family and best friends.
- Quiet time to think about how much God loves me – and vice versa – probably relaxing time sitting at the piano, not necessarily completely quiet.
- The opportunity for everyone to experience a moment of God’s peace.