There is an episode of the comedically-genius 30 Rock where the ficticious CEO of General Electric sees a video of himself as a young kid opening a present he loves so much that he throws up. He then spends the episode trying to recall what that gift was, believing that if he can buy it again he will reclaim the childhood excitement.
Turns out it was an Apollo space capsule toy. While an awesome gift for a 1960s era kid, it probably wouldn’t elicit much excitement now in the era of flying drones.
The holiday feelings the show drew from are not uncommon. Everyone remembers that Christmas morning as a kid when you open a gift and it’s exactly what you asked for. As adults we look back on Christmases past and remember that most special of gifts, the one that left us filled with awe at the magic of it all. How did Santa know? There are few things in life that match that feeling and we want it every Christmas, year after year.
Remembering Christmases past with such sheer delight can render our current Christmas mornings a little flat. We strive to give the excitement that we recall to our young children, but it becomes more and more difficult to either get or give a present that we are so excited about we literally lose control of ourselves. With every product under the sun available at the click of a mouse, it’s hard to surprise anyone. Any imaginable gift within your means is available all the time and any time. Heck, an Amazon search returned 368,714 results for “pet sweaters.” Anything a family member or close friend could afford to give us, we could buy for ourselves - and likely already have.
Church services highlight the true meaning of the season and clearly it would be better if we all focused more on the spiritual side. But as a practical matter, adults often let nostalgia color their expectations and form a yardstick of how to judge the yearly holiday. Was this Christmas as good as the ones my parents put on for me? Chances are, looking through the lenses of childhood magic, the answer is no for adults, even if your kids experience the full-blown awe of the season.
The magic may pass us by as adults, causing us to “miss” Christmas because we have become too busy and too familiar with Christmas. We’ve celebrated it all the years of our lives and become so familiar with all of our traditions that surround the day that it doesn’t amaze us anymore, both the spiritual and secular aspects.
We put up lights and send cards because it’s what we’ve done every Christmas before. And we give gifts because that’s just what you do at Christmastime. And in those gifts, we hold out hope for the wonder and excitement of all those Christmases long ago. So why are we disappointed that the sweater our husband gave us, albeit beautiful, is a size too small or the foot massager from a fancy store for mom doesn’t turn on when you plug it in?
The spirit behind the gift may be the best, but sometimes we find ourselves wanting to jump out of our seats with excitement when we open that gift, just like we did when we were kids.
While a gift might not bring us to tears - or make us throw up from happiness (thank goodness) - the true gift of Christmas is sharing ourselves - our time and our hearts - with those we love. Spending time with family and the ones we love will cheer our hearts in a way that an Apollo space capsule did for television series executive.
The gift of Christ is the best Christmas gift ever and the time together with family on that day is something to be cherished. Let us this remember this Sunday that the true joy of Christmas is family and loved ones, not a gift that sends us over the moon.
While we may try to get that feeling of utter joy and magic of Christmas that we experienced as children through gifts, remember the spirit of the day for what it is.