On Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but Christmas Eve is my father’s birthday. (Happy birthday, Dad!) He was born and raised in Ft. Myers on the Gulf Coast and we spent our summer vacations on a beach near there when I was growing up. I remember riding with my dad on a road trip to South Florida when I was in college. As we drove down I-75, I remarked to him that I was disappointed there aren’t the kinds of beautiful seashells on the beaches that I used to find when I was little. I speculated that it must be due to all the tourists collecting them to the point of extinction. I looked over at my dad and I saw him grinning like the Cheshire Cat, then he broke into a loud and boisterous laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I asked a little miffed, sensing that the joke might be on me. Once he regained his composure, he explained that those beautiful seashells were not native to Florida. Every year he stopped at a shell shop on the way to the beach and bought exquisite shells from all over the world to drop in the sand for my brother and me to find. As we grew older he stopped doing it, figuring we were too savvy to be fooled by his rouse. I can’t tell you how hurt and disappointed I was at first, like a child who learns there’s no Santa.
After much reflection I’ve decided my father’s deceit was really a sign of his love (and his bizarre sense of humor!). He loved us enough to go through the trouble of buying those fancy shells and secretly planting them on the beach, so my brother and I would have the joy of finding them.
When Mary wrapped the first Christmas present ever, it was a gift dropped into history. But this was no rouse, no elaborate hoax. Jesus looked, acted, and smelled like any other newborn human baby. But like the seashells he was something different, something special. In fact, he was the Savior of the world. My earthly father led me to believe something special was ordinary. But our heavenly Father gave us something ordinary that turned out to be very special. Now it’s up to us to believe.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).