They always bewitched me, those three richly robed men who traveled by camel, bringing gifts to the Christ child in a land far away. Such an exotic picture they painted as they moved across the sugar sands of the midnight desert, following that blazing, mysterious star. Even the names of the gifts that they carried were mesmerizing ..... gold, frankincense, myrrh. For a contemplative child who dwelt in a house under tall southern pine trees, this was heady stuff. The significance of their mission was no doubt given short shrift by my imagination, so lost was I in the romance of the colourful scene. However, they were but one piece of the puzzle.
I was to learn more later.
When I was around six, my father .... who always loved Christmas ... whispered to me to come take a ride with him. On tip-toe, I followed him out of the house, clambering into the cold family car. I still remember how freezing it felt that afternoon, the icy car seats, my breath like smoke on the frosty air. We drove for awhile and then Daddy pulled over, reached in his pocket and pulled out a box. It was the watch he had purchased for my mother’s Christmas present. He was so excited he had to share the secret. It was a gorgeous watch to be sure, but I could never tell you exactly what it looked like now. What I do remember clearly was the look on my father’s face. Pure delight. And that was the day that I learned firsthand it is truly more fun to give than receive.
Through the years that have passed, the biggest pleasure of Christmas has never been found in the gifts I have been given, amazing though they have been, but rather in the gifts I have given to others. I squirrel away treasures all during the year, revelling in delicious anticipation for that crystalline moment when I can present them, wrapped up divinely, to those that I love.
The wise men are still my favourite members of the old nativity set that I set out every year, and I think perhaps now I can see a bit clearer the vibrant illustration drawn by their journey.
Christmas really is all about giving. In every gift that is given, a tiny picture of love is painted, an infinitesimal reflection of that ultimate gift.
Perhaps giving is a blessed act.
Perhaps that is why it feels so good.
The Nativity Set at The House of Edward