Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Gift Ever

As a child, I loved Christmas, as I think most children do.  To me, Christmas meant delicious food and toys.  Growing up in a large middle class family in the 1970's, we did not have extravagant gifts, but I remember many Christmases fondly.  There was the year that I received the baby doll in the pink blanket, and the year that I got the little record player that played Christmas songs on 45s.  One year, my brother received a set of plastic cowboys and Indians complete with plastic cows and horse corrals, and we could not wait to get up to start playing with them at the crack of dawn Christmas morning.

We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, and then my mother would read the Christmas story to us from the Bible while we ate candy and treats.  It was the most wonderful day of the year.

I am reminded of that joy now as I purchase gifts for my nieces and nephews.  Their wish lists are a lot different than mine were since they are a lot more technologically savvy than I ever was--maybe than I still am--but the excitement over Christmas is the same.

It seems to me that as we get older, the Christmas spirit is a little harder to catch.  For those of us who are self-employed, the holidays are an especially stressful time of year as we try to adjust to ever changing demands of an economy that does not want to cooperate. This is my 16th Christmas self-employed and it seems that every year there is additional stress at the holidays. This year the stress has come from selling my office building which housed our company for 10 and a half years. Our final day here will be December 30th. I have spent the month of December packing a decade of experiences and memories into cardboard boxes and looking back at all we accomplished here. As I look in 2014 I see the likelihood of relocating to a new city and starting a new life--a prospect which is filled with both opportunity and difficulties.

Add to this stress the normal stressors of packed malls, packed streets--I work relatively close to a major shopping mall so traffic can be a real headache--and the invariable stresses of work and finances, and it can all combine to make the most dedicated lover of Christmas throw up his or her hands and shout "Bah Humbug".

But it is at those moments that I force myself to take a deep breath and to remember that Christmas is still the most wonderful day ever.  Although my nephews and nieces would take exception to this, the best gift ever is not a video game, or a doll, or a toy, or a car or a vacation.  The best gift ever is the gift of Christmas itself, which reminds us that we always have hope and that miracles happen no matter how bleak the world may seem.  For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is a powerful reminder that God is with us and we don't have to fear the future, even if at times it looks scary.  It is a reminder that we are loved. "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17).  And it is a chance to express love and kindness in real terms to people around us and to those we are blessed to have love us in return.  And all of those things are priceless and worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas.
Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at


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