Mystery Beneath the Tree

Dr. Steven J. Callis

I was a victim at the age of 7, and that incident is forever etched in my mind.  The first present beneath the tree that year was a long cylinder tube so beautifully wrapped, decorated with ribbons and bows at each end, and the tag had MY name on it!  I picked it up and held it when no one was looking, and something inside rolled from one end to the other as I tilted the package.

It taunted me night and day, even as a few other presents appeared alongside.  What could it possibly be?  My excitement and curiosity seemed to make the days pass even slower as I anticipated opening that one gift above all the rest.

I do not remember it being a family tradition, but that year my brothers and I were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve before we went to bed.  No one was surprised to see me select that uniquely shaped present which I tilted a couple more times before tearing the paper to dispel the suspense.  I looked in the tube and saw a small object at the opposite end, and then gently let it roll towards me until it landed in the palm of my hand – –  a walnut!

A walnut!!!  Since that time, I have opened many “gag” gifts at Christmas.  My brothers and I reached the point that we felt slighted and unloved if Dad did not wrap at least one such gift for each of us every year.  It is one aspect of Christmas that we all miss since Dad died.  Of course, we still carry on the tradition in our own families, but my Dad was the master.

By the way, for those of you who are deeply concerned about the horribly culpable action on this poor, innocent 7 year old boy, they allowed me to open a consolation present.  I loved my new book from the Hardy Boys series

At some point Dad began to blame Santa by writing his name on the tags of those special gifts.  On an occasion or two, the “gag” was that the gag gift from Santa was not a gag at all, but something nice and useful.  We just never knew what to expect from Dad’s creative mind.

Yes, I was a victim.  A victim of my Dad’s love and sense of humor.  He loved the Christmas season: the decorating, the buying and wrapping, the lights and lawns and school pageants and church programs and foods and treats and sounds…and he instilled that love in his children.

Above all, he made certain we understood that Jesus, the Reason for the season, is not a gag at all.  He is joy, love, and life; the real thing.  He’s always available, always on time, and exactly what we need.  No returns or exchanges necessary.  He is, indeed, the greatest gift of all.

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