Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

It was the smallest of presents, but it would potentially have the longest shelf-life. Sweaters and ties come and go, iPhone 5 is replaced by iPhone 6, the toys break or lose favor, but the ornaments come out every year. They dance out of storage with delight, their long hibernation complete. It is their time to proclaim holiday happiness surrounded by the bright lights of Christmas. They become a part of the family tradition. It was the smallest of presents, given with a heart full of love, but never fully appreciated.

Our Christmas tree travels from a forest green to our living room each December. With the greatest of care, she is placed in a stand and reaches her arms for the stars.

“Spin it around, a little more to hide the bald spot. Stop there — that is perfect.” It was of course, like every other year, the best tree that we have ever had. Strings of white lights came next; they would provide a simple contrast to the colorful orbs which illuminated the cold air on the other side of the French door. Every ornament that graced the tree had a story. Some were handmade by preschoolers; others spoke of far-off lands or far-off relatives. There were churches and trains, ferry boats and icons, flying ears of DeKalb corn, and a holy family that would not be home for Christmas. The crowning jewel was not a star, but an angel, who leaned like the Tower of Pisa.

The smallest of presents was there too, a tiny ornament, a gift box with a bow and with a simple inscription: “To Jenna. Love the Crokers.” Our oldest daughter Jenna was 10 years old when the smallest of presents arrived, delivered in loving care from Bainbridge Island. For the next 15 Christmases the ornament would be cradled in Jenna’s ever-growing hand as it found it’s place on our family Christmas tree.

When Jenna and Michael got married the smallest of presents moved with them to a new home. Safely tucked away she never saw the light of summer. But every Advent when the days were getting shorter and the anticipation of Christmas was getting stronger, out she came and up she climbed to a prominent limb next to the snowman.

And so, it was, and so it would be, until 2020. My grandson, Cooper, is a sweet, sensitive two-year-old. He follows his big brother around, repeating every word and attempting every daring feat known to a four-year-old. On this fateful day, Cooper had a plastic bat, no human or Christmas tree was safe as he took one mighty cut after another.

And that is when it happened. The kid looked like Griffey as his rhythmic swing delivered a near fatal blow to the tiniest of ornaments, a gift-wrapped little box that had survived twenty-three Christmases. At the crack of the bat, the little ornament flew through the air, the most exhilarating flight she had ever experienced. That is, until she crashed into the wall with a bone crushing thud and fell lifeless to the floor. She seemed to be broken and oh so sad. Her top was blown off; in pieces she lay.

A tearful mother picked up her old friend and Christmas arrived early that day. It had not broken at all; it had simply arrived twenty-three years past its due date. For the box that became an ornament was in fact both. Hiding in the smallest of presents was another present, a bracelet, jewelry designed by the artist Nancy Hofeditz Johnson.

There was joy now and wonder; just how could it be that the smallest of presents had a secret gift up there on the tree? For all of these years it was always right there, waiting for the strike of a two-year-old’s bat. As the pixie dust settled it all became clear — blessings are hidden and visible too, but sometimes it takes trauma for them to appear.

Cooper dropped his bat, picked up the bracelet and said, “It’s pretty.” And the bat wielding boy was embraced by his mother.

Every ornament has a story, every year they come out in Advent and lead us on to Christmas. Could it be in the brokenness of 2020 that we might find the real gift of Christmas, hidden and yet right there all along?

I wish you Joy, but even more I wish you wonder!

My love to you,
Pastor Jim