“The Gift of Christmas,” Dec. 8, 2020

What gift are you hoping to get this Christmas? And what gift are you hoping to give?

My husband and I share a big blended family that includes five adult children, their “others” and eight grandchildren, ages 10 years to 20 months. Like most families, we love to exchange gifts. For me, the hard part isn’t shopping. It’s finding out what all those people want.

The little people are easy. I don’t ask them what they want. It might be something their parents wouldn’t want them to have. Like the BB gun I asked my dad for when I was 10, but never got, because my mother swore I’d shoot my eye out.

Rather than ask the grandkids what they want for Christmas, I ask their parents, who know not only what the kids want, but what they, as parents, are willing to let them have.

The grown kids’ gifts are harder to pin down. Even if they know what they want, they never seem to want to tell me.

I’ll say, “You know we’re going to give you a Christmas gift. Do you want to get what you want, or try to exchange it later?”

Then they’ll say, “Mom, what do you want us to give you?”

And I’ll smile sweetly and say, “I don’t want or need anything. Just tell me what you want!”

This goes on for days until one of us says something like, “Fine, I want socks.” And the other says, “Fine, I want socks, too.”

Our family is big on socks.

Given a choice, I always prefer to give memories: A road trip together. A night out for the parents while Nana watches the kids. Tickets to a game or a concert they’ll never forget.

Great memories make great gifts. But they’re hard to come up with when you’re under house arrest in a quarantine lockdown for a pandemic.

My husband and I usually give each other a shared gift. This year it’s glider, to replace one we broke after years of sitting on it watching sunsets together.

By far the hardest gift for me to give is my brother’s. Not because he’s picky. Far from it. But because we live far apart and things I send him often get stolen off his porch.

Joe is blind and suffers from cerebral palsy. To walk, he needs braces and a walker. He lives alone in low-income housing, having lost his wife, the love of his life, to cancer.

“Sister,” he said, when I called him today, “you don’t need to get me anything. I’m fine.”

“I know you’re fine,” I said. “Fine and stubborn. But I’m getting you a Christmas gift so just tell me what you want.”

“OK, how ‘bout some food? Maybe some pickled eggs like you sent last year. Mmm, mmm! You know how I like to eat.”

“Yes,” I said, grinning, “I do.”

Our mother made pickled eggs for Christmas. I wouldn’t touch them. Joe couldn’t get his fill. Now, more than the taste they leave on his lips, he loves the memories they stir in his heart.

My next call was to a very kind woman in the office at Joe’s complex. Last year, after his gifts were stolen off his porch, she said if I’d send his packages in care of the office, she’d be happy to take them to him.

I wanted to make sure she was still there and willing to help. She was, and I thanked her.

So I ordered pickled eggs and a basket full of boxes of sausage and cheese and cookies and such. Joe will have fun figuring out what’s inside each box.

If I could give one gift to us all—to you and Joe and every soul in our weary world—it would be a Christmas like all the best ones we can remember, and all the best ones that are yet to come, free of fear and despair, full of peace and hope and joy.

Christmas is born like a baby in a manger, not in the past or future, but always here and now, when we hunger for its gift and make room for it in our hearts.

May the life-giving spirit of Christmas come soon to us all.


  1. Shirley Collins says

    Dear Sharon,
    My husband, Dick just finished reading your novel to me. He reads a chapter or more from the Bible, then several chapters from the book we have chosen. Your novel was beyond compare! It was hard to read sometimes; because of the content. We neither one grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it was very rewarding to us to hear of how much love, peace, joy and hope there was displayed during those times. It would be interesting to us to know if your novel was all fiction, or if some, if not all of it was in real life from when you grew up. Of course, you would have been too young to have lived in those days, but maybe some of your novel portrayed some of your life. Honestly, Sharon, we couldn’t wait till the next evening, when we would hear more of what would happen next. The most exciting part, to me, was (the way the story ended)! I would love it if you would continue this novel into a story that would tell how all the characters continued to spend their lives. Thank you for sharing and please don’t let this be your last novel. We want to know more about the lives of the people you wrote about!

  2. Linda OBrien says

    This year I asked relatives to “give” me a donation to the local food bank. I want for nothing “maybe a long hug from my grandchildren “ this year. I shall miss our family traditions this year, but I will FaceTime them and make the best of it.

  3. Kate Sciacca says

    Feeling pretty good… wrapped the gifts for all but three of the 28 “immediate” family members… now it’s time to think of gifts for my sibs and their spouses… always a tough one. And one of these days I’m determined to give MYSELF the gift of sitting down with a fine book that arrived a couple weeks back – looking forward to it 🙂

  4. Elaine mccaffery says

    Merry Christmas Sharon to you and your family. I love your memories, always makes me remember my own. Bless you for all your columns and blogs. I love reading every week. I’m hoping to get your new book. I’m sure it will be a great read.

  5. Janet Mann says

    Thank you for this post. As usual, it was right on. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours.

  6. Merry Christmas, Sharon!!!!! Our grandbabies give us lists that their parents edit!!!!! One of the things I put on my list was your new book!!!!!! I know my sweet kids will get it for me and I can’t wait to read it!!!!! I hope you and your family have a Blessed Christmas~remembering that day long ago when our Savior was the most precious gift of all!!!!!

  7. RoxieAnn Rossiter says

    Tears of joy and sadness when I read this weeks article. What a joy to give gifts and to watch the recipient’s face. This year, for the very first year in my memory(I’m 70), we won’t be gathering as a family. Everyone is playing it safe and staying within their bubble. Keeping that in mind, two weeks ago I packaged gifts for my nephews, nieces, sister-in-law and brother and delivered them to their porch or the post office. It gave us great joy to share and to hear their thank you’s.

  8. This one brought me to tears. Thank you for always writing what needs to be felt.

  9. Shirley Thacker says

    I wish for you a box of rest and relaxation- time to sit and enjoy those sunsets. I wish everyone peace, joy, contentment, and a whole lot of hope for the new year!

  10. Merry Christmas and happy, healthy 2021. Celebrate Jesus…the reason for the season.

  11. Jeanie Reed says

    Merry Christmas to you and all of your loved ones! I’m a single, retired teacher, and for years I’ve given my kids and their Littles themed gifts. Like all PJs one year. Or all books. Or all snacks. It’s hard to find the same genre for people from 1 to 44. They have an even harder time buying for me. Not only do I have everything I need, I have a plethora of things from living so long and from inheriting from my parents and an aunt (who had no kids, so I became her substitute kid). This year, I asked for a day, one day, from each of them. I probably won’t actually hold the just turned one year old hostage for a full 24 hours. Nor will insist upon that much time from my oncologist son in law who never has even an extra minute. I can hardly wait to look back at this time next year to see what each special day brought!

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