The Greatest Gift

So, another Christmas is upon us.  At this moment, everyone is either enjoying a warm, cozy morning opening presents with the family, sharing in a time of celebration at their favorite place of worship or simply nursing a raging hangover from a night of too much Dirty Eggnog and mistletoe.  No matter what you are doing or who you are spending it with, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy and joyous day.  As a Christian, I celebrate my faith and my family, so I am doubly blessed on this day.  However, I am not here to speak about my faith.  If I am to share anything with you today, it would simply be my view on what is the greatest gift we can have today.

I’m afraid that what I have to say will be neither very surprising nor very original, but I feel that there is no limit to the amount of times a decent message can be spread and I know from experience that no matter how many times something is said, there are always people who would do well to listen.  If anything, Christmas is a time for sharing.  So, I will share with you my experiences and my view on Christmas and I beg you to share both a little of your time and an non-cynical ear.

I remember my early Christmas celebrations with the exalted glow of a childhood of being well-loved and well-raised.  Christmas mornings always had that special aura that all of the TV specials have, where magic is in the air and the spirit of the season is ever-present.  I remember getting up in the mornings (usually around 6 am, much to my parent’s chagrin) to see what Santa brought me.  I wasn’t spoiled, but I was never disappointed on those mornings.  After a crazed morning orgy of paper-ripping and toy-playing, my parents and I would head to my grandparents (my mom’s parents, that is) and have a slightly smaller gift-giving and then sit down to a wonderful lunch.  After that, we headed to my Dad’s great-aunt’s home and had a massive dinner with around twenty of my relatives.  This was the template for nearly ever Christmas from as early as I can remember to well into my teens.

As a child, the gifts were a big part of it, of course.  However, they weren’t the most important part, not even to my child’s mind.  The day was special and it was wonderful, in ways I could feel if not truly understand.  Looking back, I know now that what made them so special was that we treated them that way.  It was a day for family and for joy.  It was a day where magic and faith and exuberant happiness were the most important things.

I’ve had some truly horrible Christmas Days in the intervening years.  I’ve been blessed to always have people to spend it with and to have a home and food on those days; for that, I am every thankful.  Still, there was the year we spent in the hospital with my mom, who was dying from a terrible cancer, hanging on to the last spark of her life.  There was the year after my grandfather himself died, the cherish Grandpa who was my Buddy and a mentor when I was a young boy.  And of course last year, the first since my Grandma died (though wonderful as well, since it was spent with my newly-married wife).  There was every year spent in my previous marriage, loveless and rancorous beyond imagining.  On each of these days there were presents, but the day was cold and dark nonetheless, bereft of any type of joy or happiness.

I still love gifts, but the greatest gifts I can receive are waking up next to -and spending the day with- my lovely wife Jennifer, having dinner with her family and having my Dad, who fought of his own cancer many years ago, share my new family with me.  For me, it is the magic of the day, the sharing with family and friends, the happiness I have on this day.  It is knowing that no matter how dark or cold my life might become, I have these people in my life. It is having hope and promise and faith and love.  These are things that cannot be wrapped in paper and a bow, but are given and received just as joyously.

I bid you today to seek out your own greatest ‘gifts’, to share with them this wonderful day.  Celebrate their life, forgive them their flaws, and let them know that there’s nothing you’d like better than to have them in your life another year.

No matter what your faith or creed, I with you a Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Sean Burnside


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