I remember one Christmas when I was about 9 or 10 when all I wanted was an HO scale electric train set, the one with the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  I'm sure that my fascination with model trains had something to do with one of the many western movies and TV shows that seemed to dominate the airwaves in the sixties and seventies, and I just wasn't going to be satisfied with anything else that year. I had passed on many a trip to the mall that December, using the opportunity of an empty house to search through my parent's bedroom for hiding places where they might have stashed my treasured train. I wanted to have a peek at just one end of the package that I could unwrap without leaving too much evidence of my intrusion. But it was to no avail. To my ultimate frustration, my parents had guessed my intentions and found better hiding places for the family's gifts, so my train remained annoyingly well hidden.

On the morning of Christmas, I, like so many other children on that blessed day, found it impossible to sleep. At 4 AM I could take no more and I snuck into my brother's room and woke him, so he could share my delight at the treasures that we would find under the tree. But Fred, being six years older than me, looked at his clock and told me to go back to bed until “at least 6:30” or risk serious injury. Reluctantly, I complied, but only after dodging Fred's half-hearted swing and miss.

So, there I lay, staring at my clock, willing the minutes to pass until I had an epiphany. I would wait until I was sure that my brother was asleep, turn his clock ahead by an appropriate amount of time and rouse him! Why, he'd be so excited by the opening of presents that he'd never know the difference, right?

Well …

We tore our way to the tree, ripping package after package open and wondering at the toys and other gifts (no, not the underwear and socks) that “Santa” had brought us. But, with each present we opened, it became clearer that there was no model train set to be found that year. I was so disappointed and miserable that I didn't even mind when my brother, realizing that it was not yet 5 AM, left bruises on my upper arms that marked the event for the next several days.

It's no revelation when I tell you that the whole Christmas experience has become far too commercialized. The idea that we must take time to contemplate how much Sue will spend on our gift so that we might purchase something for her of an appropriate value, evening the score, so-to-speak, is ridiculous to me. In my opinion, the giving of gifts should be limited to children. It should be our way to show them our love for Jesus and honor the spirit of the Wise Men who travelled from afar to shower Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh in recognition of the birth of the One True King. The idea of exchanging gifts between adults seems just a bit petty to me, and the attitudes that some of us display at the stores this time of year is far from godly.

This past Christmas, I ordered for my son a signet ring with the crest of our family engraved upon it. It was possibly the most important gift that I would ever give him, and I had been planning to give it to him on either his twentieth birthday or, the following Christmas. When the package arrived on the Friday before Christmas (the company had guaranteed delivery by Christmas) I rushed home to examine this soon-to-be family heirloom. I was impressed with the polished cherry box where the ring would rest for safe keeping when my son wasn't wearing it and, upon opening it, I was thrilled to see the shining sterling silver band that he would treasure for the rest of his life. But, upon closer scrutiny, I realized that the crest (our family's is a castle on a hill) wasn't anything like the one that had been represented in the “proof” email that the maker had sent for my approval. There was a bear and tree design instead! And where the name FORTIER should have been, was the name HONSBERGER engraved on its face! They had sent me the wrong ring!

I was incensed, I was disappointed, and those feelings only deepened when the customer service representatives that I desperately needed to speak with were all “assisting other customers” … every time I called! At that point, there was no way that I could get my son's ring in time for a Christmas opening anyway, but I was still going to let those responsible know about my feelings!

Christmas came and went, and my son was far devastated about the turn of events like I was. We spent our time together, laughing and enjoying each other's company and came to realize that it wasn't the presents that mattered to us, it was the time that we spent together. I'm sure that the error will be corrected, and my son will have his ring at some point, but I learned an important lesson that day, and I began to wonder how many people, when asked the question, “What did you get for Christmas?” would answer with the only response that matters.

I got Jesus!

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-8 (NIV)

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.” Luke 2:21 (NIV)

The battle is on!

Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Chronicles 7:14.

G. J. Fortier is a member of Ironmen Ministries and First Baptist Church, Centerville, GA. Look for his novels on Amazon on Kindle and paperback. Or visit his website at www.GerardFortier.com