I looked at the gift. It was SO different than the others under the tree. With it’s careful wrapping and ribbon tied into a bow. A beautiful rich red paper had been chosen and it was much larger than the rest. Yet something was missing, there was no name. I couldn’t ask whose it was; it just seemed too special. I could only look and wonder. Merely having it under the tree added something very special to this Christmas.

In our home, Christmas, along with other holidays was not special. Instead it was filled with lots of drinking.

Drinking always led to yelling. . .

Yelling led to fights. . .

Fights sometimes went beyond words . . .

The “special” had been lost in all our holiday events and replaced by a constant fog. This particular Christmas was framed by angry discussions of job loss and financial stress. Conversations I wish I had not heard as often as I did.

And then there was the “Mysterious Gift”; it was a blaze of red color in my black and white world. It captured my mind. Hope infused my heart, could it be for me? What was it?

I could hardly contain myself when the time came to open our presents! We had a tradition of handing the gifts out, oldest to youngest. Myself being the youngest of four, I had to wait till the very end.  Each time another gift was handed out my anticipation built.

It did not go to my sister. . .

My oldest brother did not get it. . .

My middle brother was given the box next to it. . .

Then, my mom’s hand reached for THE gift . . . my world went into slow motion as she passed over THE mysterious, beautifully wrapped present to me! For just a moment I didn’t move. Maybe it was a mistake… then I saw the hidden tag; which said, “To Mike from Santa.”   It was real! And mine! Stunned by disbelief, my fingers began to un-wrap the box. As the paper fell away, I could hardly believe my eyes; a brand new pair of black ice skates!  Being the youngest boy with two older brothers almost nothing was new coming to me. Now right in front of me were brand new shiny ice skates.

I remember nothing else of that day beyond skating up and down the ice covered country roads. I was the only one thankful for the recent ice storm. In the next few days, I’m sure I broke some world record for the longest distance skated by a nine year-old boy.

That gift lifted me out of an indescribable fog that formed out of unmet or unrealistic expectations conjured from TV and childhood friends. Somehow I intuitively knew Christmas should be a special time, despite my own experience. The mysterious gift made that Christmas the most memorable of my childhood. I never found out who “Santa” was, I wish I could say, “Thank you” and let them know how much that gift meant. Someone’s kindness made a significant impact on the person I am today.

It was later in life I learned there is another mysterious gift that makes Christmas special and is the true reason we celebrate. Often it is missed amongst the busyness or misplaced focus of the season. This mysterious gift came in the form of a baby born in a stable. When I consider that Jesus, as God, left the perfection of heaven it’s almost incomprehensible. He came to a world he created, giving hope and offering eternal salvation. For me, God’s special gift of his son has permanently removed the fog of despair that had gripped my life. He did this for nine year-old boys and everyone else. All this is wonderful, mysterious and beautiful. What a powerful gift. Since I do know THIS gift giver I can say “thank-you” for changing my life.

I am so grateful for both of these special Christmas gifts. They have equally made a significant impact on my life. Both needed to be unwrapped and embraced; one lasted for a season, the other for eternity.

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Written by Mike Woodard

Mike Woodard

Mike is married to Karen, he is father of 4 and grandfather of 2. Backpacking is his favourite past time. Science and theology are his educational background, a biology degree from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in Christian Studies from Trinity Western Seminary. Mike is the Associate Director of FamilyLife Canada. For more of his story visit familylifecanada.com/mike