Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 23, 2012

MARK MAYNARD: Christmas is not about the presents

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — Christmas isn’t about the gifts we receive as much as the memories we make.

The gifts will wear out, go out of style, break or even be quickly forgotten. How many times have you come across a gift that was given the year before when you break out the Christmas decorations?

Gifts fade away.

But memories last a lifetime.

My Christmas memories are filled with pleasantries. I can honestly never remembering having a disappointing Christmas. Even though my parents weren’t made of money — and never really had that Money Tree my brother and I must have thought grew in the back yard — we never had one of those empty Christmas mornings.

I know now every child isn’t as fortunate.

I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for my parents, and I know they often did without to make sure me and my brother didn’t.

We always had smiles on our faces on Christmas morning, although it wasn’t always smiles of surprise.

Confession: We knew a lot of Mom’s hiding places and she always started buying early. Maybe it was because of her limited budget or maybe because she just liked to give (especially to grandchildren).

I can remember one Christmas when my brother woke me up early (or did I wake him up?) and we tiptoed down the basement stairs to see what a treasure trove we had. It was, like usual, more than we needed or wanted. We looked over the new toys with delight and sneaked back into bed.

Maybe not being the best actors in the world, we had to give our best “surprise” look when Mom and Dad woke us up later that morning. The thrill of the real surprise had happened hours earlier and Mom knew it. I’m not sure she said anything to us then, but she filed that one away and still reminds us of it from time to time.

Mom always loved the Christmas season and the idea of giving to others. It’s so much a part of who she is and always has been.

When we visited my grandfather in a nursing home during his later years, she would take the time to make some small gifts for every resident in the place. It didn’t have to be anything great; it was the thought that someone remembered them at Christmas. They were like 5-year-olds enjoying the season for the first time.

She wrapped each present — maybe an old unused lipstick, a perfume that was three-fourths full or a purse that she was no longer using — with care. The image of those nursing home residents, both male and female, clutching a wrapped gift and then tearing into it is something that has never left me.

It was like she was giving them $100 bills.

But it wasn’t what was wrapped up or how much it was worth. It was the thought that someone cared enough to remember them.

Those looks of delight were the present Mom received without ever asking. Her Christmas was complete without unwrapping anything.

Whether trying or not, she showed me and my brother, with that example, it truly is better to give than receive.

My favorite Christmas memory? It was my father’s last Christmas with us and we all sang Christmas carols together in the living room. We looked at each other with joy and sadness knowing this was indeed our last Christmas together until we are reunited on the other side of Glory.

Certainly, it was a bittersweet Christmas moment, but one I’ll forever cherish, too.

I hope, dear readers, you make a Christmas memory for yourself this season.

Lastly today, I’d like to share a poem that has been making the rounds on Facebook and the Internet. It was written by Cameo Smith of Mt. Wolfe, Penn., and deals with the recent school shooting in Connecticut.

I hope you enjoy it and Merry Christmas!

In Memory of the 20 Children

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38

when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.

Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.

They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God's house.”

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,

but Jesus, their Savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.

Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.

Those children all flew into the arms of their King.

And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,

one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.

And as if He could read all the questions she had

He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”

Then He looked down on earth, the world far below

He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.

Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,

“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”

“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools”

“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

Then He and the children stood up without a sound.

“Come now my children, let me show you around.”

Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran,

all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,

“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

- Cameo Smith, Pennsylvania

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.