It started with an angel –
It started with a star –
It started with a stable –
Astrologers who'd traveled far.
It started with some shepherds
Amazed to find the story true – A baby in a manger bed
Was God right here for me and you.

The candles in the window –
The carols in the snow –
The gifts that say, "I love you" –
The starlight's gentle glow –
The fire that warms my spirit –
Our laughing baby boy --
I want to thank You, Jesus –
For everything that brings me joy.

It's a time for singing –
It's a time for friends –
It's a time for wrapping packages to send –
It's a time for hugging
Everyone you meet –
It's a time for baking all their favorite treats –
It's a time for secrets
No one knows but you –
It's a time for children –
A time for toys
But mostly it's a time for joy!

Lyric:  Gloria Gaither
Music:  William J. Gaither, Michael Sykes, and Woody Wright
Copyright © 2004 by Gaither Music Company, Mal 'N Al Music, and Would He Write Songs.  All rights reserved. 

Christmas is a time for giving, for bringing provisions and resources that not only will delight a loved one, but will be useful in some unexpected way in the future.  It is a time for lavish exceptions to practical rules.

We often give clothes a child will grow into, toys children have only dreamed of having, or some treasure that may be even more meaningful as the child matures – like a precious heirloom or a piece of poetry or art created by a grandparent the young person never knew.

Little did Mary and Joseph know when the wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh how those seemingly impractical gifts would one day serve them.  Perhaps these stargazers were even wiser than we think, seeing a coming need for travel money, perfume to use as barter, and embalming spices for a premature interment.

At our house, there is an old Irish custom that came to me from my grandmother on the Sickal side and, I suppose, from all the Mahoneys before her.  We race to be the first to yell "Christmas gift!" when we visit one another's houses on Christmas morning.  With the advent of technology, this has turned into a telephone happening for our family.  At each of our houses, the phone will ring early Christmas morning.  We know by now to waste no time saying "Hello."  We grab the phone and shout "Christmas gift!"  The one answering the call almost always wins, since the caller can't predict exactly which ring will bring the response.

My kids call the cousins – my sister's grown girls – who all are, as of now, living in Kansas with their own families.  "Christmas gift!" we yell across the miles, pulling them and their little ones in close to hearth and home with our ancient greeting. 

Jesus; it's Jesus, the greeting reminds us.  He is the Gift.  He is Christmas.  Let's start this day remembering the Gift that truly goes on giving.

Then comes the coffee, the juice, and the Story.  The other gifts can't be opened until the Story of the real Christmas Gift is read from Luke 2.  No makeup, no showers or hairdos, still in pajamas, we are shockingly, disarmingly real to one another as the familiar words are read.  If we wanted to, we all could say the words from memory.  (I learned and delivered them in church when I was four.)  But we all listen, instead, while the Christmas tree laden with familiar ornaments and lights reminds us of the truth behind the symbols.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:  and they were sore afraid.  (Luke 2:8-9 KJV)