For this month’s newsletter my heart was drawn to an article I originally put to paper in 2008, the year that my wonderful wife and I first celebrated a Christmas Day with our precious boy. Being born on January 2nd, December 25th found him nearly a year old and us both 29 (the age which we both still happen to be!). Maybe it’s too early in Benji’s development to be nostalgic, but I think all of you parents will agree that when it comes to your babies, it’s never too early to remember with fondness when their feet and hands were smaller and their cries, though less intelligible, were often times also less demanding! Those of you with sons and daughters decades beyond our 7 year old (almost 8—in less than a month—how is that possible?!) are undoubtedly nodding your head (perhaps even more rapidly) in agreement along with others who, like us, have young children. On a more serious note, we are so grateful for our priceless gift from God and the young boy, and the soon, too soon, young man, that he is becoming. Some of the things mentioned in this 2008 article Benji is already beginning to realize. I’m so glad that in the loving providence of our Father, I get the blessing of being his father and of having a front row seat in seeing our boy become all that God has for him to be. I hope you enjoy this little blast from the past! I think I’m going for the Kleenex now! Have a blessed Christmas!
(From 2008)…Two weeks ago my wife (the most wonderful wife in the whole wide world with whom I am truly blessed and for whom I am truly thankful!) and I took Benji (the sweetest, most precious baby you ever will see!) out to shop for a Christmas Tree! This isn’t just any tree mind you, it is the first one that will ever grace the living room of the Strunk household! You see, last year, knowing that Benji would be born in early January, we decided to forego getting a tree until this year so that the three of us could enjoy our first Christmas Tree together as a family on Benji’s first Christmas.
Terry and I had looked at some sales ads and had done some scouting in the weeks prior, but Benji had to be a part of the final decision. He didn’t really say too much but we figured that him waking up from his nap (that he had been taking since we entered the store for this momentous decision!) when we were next to the tree that we liked was a sure sign that our choice had his seal of approval as well! So we picked up our 6.5 foot Saratoga Pine with 846 tips from the Old Time Pottery store, our star tree topper, garland sashes, and icicle confetti from Big Lots, and headed home to store them safely away until the Friday after Thanksgiving, the time we decided would become the traditional evening for the annual raising of the Strunk Christmas Tree! (We did start putting up the tree that night but are still in process at the time of this writing; those lights are harder to put up than I remember!)
In preparation for Benji’s first Christmas, we’ve already gotten him some Christmas presents too! (I know you’re shocked!) So far he has a cloth calendar with a candy cane that counts down the days from December 1st through the 25th, a gumball machine type toy that you can place various shapes inside, a pair of Handy Manny jammy’s (if you don’t know about Handy Manny, just see me after church!), a Veggietale’s Heroes of the Bible DVD (again, if you don’t know about Veggietales, see me after church!), and a few other things that neither time nor memory permit mentioning! You see, it’s his first Christmas and it just has to be as special as we can possibly make it!
Now I know that this being his first Christmas, he will probably enjoy playing with, crawling in, and perhaps even eating up the colorful paper his presents are wrapped in much more than the gifts inside. I realize that he may think more about trying to crawl under and perhaps attempting to pull down the tree that we worked so hard to decorate than he will about the beauty of the ornaments and lights. He will likely enjoy getting the special holiday foods on his face as much if not more than getting them in his stomach. I know that he may squirm in my lap or even take a nap as I read him the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke chapter 2 for the first time on this his first Christmas! But still, it’s his first Christmas, and it is special indeed!
All of our thoughts and preparation for Benji’s first Christmas got me thinking about the fact that, as a father, it is my first Christmas as well! I’ve perhaps never planned more, never tried harder, never thought as much about Christmas as I have this year. You see, as a father, I want everything to be right, everything to be special for my son. I think not only of this his first Christmas, but of those that are to come. I ponder the first Christmas he will ask for specific gifts, the first time when he will be the one pining for the decorating of the tree, the first Christmas morning when he comes bounding into our bedroom saying, ‘mommy, daddy, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up!’. I think about the first Christmas when he will discover that he has a particular favorite holiday treat and asks for it to be on the menu. I envision the first time that he will want to get his mother a special gift and we seek it out together and spring it on her on Christmas morning. I dream about the Christmas when Benji first realizes that it is more blessed to give than to receive, when he first knows that the family around him is more valuable than the gifts before him. But, more than all of that, I think about the first time when, though appreciating family and friends and giving and receiving, he will truly know the real meaning of Christmas. When we will read Luke chapter 2 and he will appreciate the significance of Jesus being born, of God becoming incarnate, of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us! Still, most importantly, I dream of the day when my son will not only know of the birth of God’s Son in a manger, but of the birth of God’s Son in his heart!
This dreaming on this father’s first Christmas, got me thinking about what the Father’s first Christmas must have been like. He set the stage for His Son’s first Christmas with the angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth on a hillside, with shepherds coming to worship at the manger, and with an ordained star leading wise men bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, from the beginning of time the Father (as well as the Son) knew that the heralding cries of the angels would give way to the harrowing shouts of a murderous throng, that the kneeling of the shepherds would give way to the beating of the guards, that the gifts received from the wise by Christ at His birth would by far be overshadowed by the gift He gave to the foolish at His death. Still, knowing all of this, though He could have stopped it, the Father allowed that first Christmas to take place. Why? Because He thought not only of Jesus’ first Christmas in a manger, but of the first Christmas when His only begotten Son would be born in the hearts of other sons and daughters of God!