Three identical, large, flat boxes rested beneath the Christmas tree, bearing tags identifying them as gifts for my two older brothers and myself. Most often, when there were three identical boxes beneath the tree for us, it meant clothes. These gifts, however, were well beyond the size that would contain clothing. All three of us boys tended towards the lean side, and we were still just kids. These boxes were big enough to hold a business suit for Orson Welles, and it was beyond belief that Mom and Dad would ever expect us to “grow into” an outfit of that size.
Those boxes, more than any other under the tree that year, taunted us. It’s quite likely our parents had precisely that in mind when they wrapped them. If we shook them, they didn’t sound like anything we could identify, and the more we tried to divine the contents thereof, the more perplexed we became.
It should be noted that boys and curiosity can be a dangerous mix. A good portion of our most dangerous weapons have been derived out of the results of boys getting curious about “what if”, and it is nothing short of a miracle that most of us survive to adulthood. Turn a seven year old boy loose with a screwdriver, and you might as well just toss a few hand grenades into the home. The destruction will be about the same, only the grenades will be quieter.
We three, curious boys came up with a plan. If we’d been older, it would have been a conspiracy, but at that age “plan” was how we thought of things. Since, we reasoned, all three boxes most likely contained the same thing, we would oh-so-carefully slip the tape on one of the boxes, and peek inside. Being so clever, of course, we would tape the box closed again in such a manner that Mom and Dad (not being as clever as we were, you understand) would be none the wiser.
So, at such a time when neither of our parents were around to inhibit our clever shenanigans, we selected one of the taunting boxes. Huddled around in uncharacteristic cooperation, one of us loosed just enough of the tape to hinge the lid of the box aside, and reveal the wondrous treasure that awaited all three of us on Christmas. We gazed in to see…
…an electric blanket.
We were all just a bit disappointed. Large Christmas gifts were supposed to be toys; things that were fun and would entertain our mischievous minds. Electric blankets? That was on a par with a new shirt. We executed our plan to learn this? Feeling a bit cheated, we explored one or two other gifts waiting for us.
I remember this Christmas especially for a couple of reasons. First, Mom and Dad were not fooled for a moment. They figured out almost immediately what we had done, and were more disappointed in us than we were in electric blankets.
Second, without the mystery of what the package contained, the fun of opening presents on Christmas paled. While the waiting for the holiday could seem unbearable, the surprise of what we would find was part of the magic of the gifts.
It would be a few years before I learned the reason Mom and Dad were so disappointed. There comes a time when we realize the joy of giving, not just getting, and discover the treasure of watching a loved one’s eyes when they reveal the surprise awaiting them. Few things in life can compare to that feeling we get from that initial reaction, when we see that something we selected was just right. Those looks; those smiles, are hard to fake, and that year, we cheated our parents out of those moments.
I wonder, perhaps, if that was part of the reason God wasn’t more specific on the prophesies of Messiah. He wanted to leave a certain element of surprise, so that He, too, could enjoy the expressions on our faces when we first looked upon the gift He had chosen for us. I wonder as well, if we had known too much beforehand, if we also would have been disappointed because we thought His gift should be something else.
Incidentally, I think I got more use out of that electric blanket than any of the other gifts I received that year.
That seems true for all the best gifts.
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