I don’t remember ever having a more wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than this year! Both made my personal hall of fame of memories. More than just being recent, they were meaningful and touching. Time with my wife and children was exquisite, the best ever. Christmas Eve, however, was different from any other for a few reasons. The difference was in how the day started and ended, and that seemed to set the stage for everything else.
The traditional Christmas Eve for the McConkies has always involved a full-itinerary-procession to visit the homes of various extended family. Circumstances being different this year, we found ourselves looking at a day without any of our usual plans. So instead, we welcomed some close family friends of ours into our home to exchange some gifts in the morning. What a blessing!
The first exchange was an enjoyable conversation. It was gift enough, yet other presents were given too – packages wrapped in festive paper, carefully tied with beautiful ribbon. The presents could have been anything, a tissue box for that matter, and it would have meant a lot to me. Just as much as the contents inside the wrapping, it was the ribbon that stood out. Without any words, the ribbon, the attention to detail, and the way it was tied, all seemed to say, “Thank you for being my friend.” I could tell the gift meant a lot before it was opened. It was beautiful. I was deeply grateful for the expression of the gift, as well as the gifts given without any wrappings.
That night, following a newly begun tradition of Christmas Eve dinner at home, we were visited by some guests that we hadn’t expected. I was doing my best to uphold my Dad’s long-held tradition of wrapping final presents on Christmas Eve when I was interrupted by my daughter’s observation that we had carolers. I went to the front door, preceded by my family, and watched as a crowd of friends stood around our porch singing Christmas carols to us. These were not just any voices, mind you. It was the combined voices of nearly forty Samoans singing from their hearts. If you have not heard a Polynesian choir before, you have not yet been to heaven. For a moment, I stood in heaven and began to cry. Tears streamed down my face as I looked into the eyes of my friends. There was so much warmth in their music. I felt their friendship, and the value they placed on it.
Again and again I thought of a line from one of my favorite Christmas songs. “Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.” Oh, how I wish I could gather around each of my family and friends who are dear to me so they could feel what I felt that Christmas Eve.
In both instances, there were no strings attached to the gifts, not unless you count the carefully tied ribbon that said much without any words. Each gift was given straight from the heart without expectation of anything in return. If anything was tied, it was my heart knit to the givers of the gift. When presents are presented with love, they stop being things and become memories and meaning. Those are the gifts I value most.
This year, as my own personal prayers have been answered, I have recognized these beautiful gifts as joint gifts from God. I thank Him for the family and friends he has given me. I thank Him for their love and kindness. Every gift that is given without strings or conditions, regardless of the giver, seems to more closely tie the giver and the receiver with the most beautiful ribbon.