On December 31, 2019

The greatness of the gift is not in the wrapping

Editor’s Note: Ed James wrote the following 20 years ago for the Addison County Independent, a sister paper to the Mountain Times. It seems as appropriate today as then.

Dear Editor,

The first day of winter — Dec.  22 — and already winter had been here since the first of November with grey, rainy days and wind. Slowly the cold intensified and snow took place of the rain. Still the wind blew and the sun became more shy as December advanced toward Christmas — a time of year that our lives seem to be centered around.

Today as the sun was setting — a slit opened over the western mountains and rays of sunlight shot through the porch window and lit the cellar door knob with a brilliance we hadn’t seen in more than a week. Maybe a sneak preview of things to come –of longer days now that the earth was staring its tilt back towards the sun — and spring. Maybe it was saying — now it won’t be so dark and the days will be long lives.

As my spouse prepared supper the wood range produced its usual warmth and cheer — a cheer that makes a house a home — a family into a close-knit unit of love and caring — a spot in the home where everything seems to evolve — and at night a large chunk of hardtack keeps the fire spirits alive till the morn.

All these special things were going on as I wrapped a few Christmas things on the kitchen table while listening to the radio and visiting. We don’t usually have this time of day to be together just to visit, but because I’m home recovering from the flu these simple precious things happen.

Wrapping gifts reminded me of Christmases past when as little boys we did the best we could doing up our simple gifts. Something for Mom — something for Dad and our sisters. We usually didn’t do very elegant jobs at wrapping — if the gift was there that’s all that mattered! Now that I’m old, my skill as a gift wrapper really hasn’t improved all that much — if the gift is in there …

The thought struck me that it doesn’t really matter very much to parents what the wrappings look like. The fact that a gift, no matter how simple, is being given, because they have taught their children that it is fun and important to give — is all that matters.

We sit in church at Christmas time — in our warm clothes, our warm boots — and the furnace going — listening to the lovely story of the holy birth. We seldom think how really bleak the times were for some — how cold and damp it must have been and probably even pretty dirty in that stable or cave. It must have been frightening and cold for Mary, who has little choice in the matter. She was chosen and thrust into the role as mother of our savior.

We really don’t know much about how she managed. As many who have become mothers in modern times, she may or may not have had attendants to assist her in what seems to me to be an awesome task. Did anyone give her a drink of water or place a warm soft blanket there for her — was there hay? — was it only a dirt or stone floor? So many questions, but if one thinks very much about the Christmas story, one might conclude that Mary was a very special young lady and was chosen for a very difficult task, just for that reason.

So as we sit in our warm dry home and churches and ponder the Christmas story, or listen to the verses proclaiming the world’s greatest event let’s remember that it was with much pain and discomfort, and fear that our Savior came into this world as beautiful as the Christmas story is and should remain.

Maybe the sunshine today at the last moment was a reminder of the promises and love and goodness he preached, and we should all strive to be like him no matter what our wrappings are like — as long as a the gift is in there.

Ed James,


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