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The Greatest Gift

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Year after year I'd find myself laying there, eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling, begging for sleep to come. But sleep was elusive, like a friend who refused to be found. The more I wanted it, the harder it was to find. So each year, on this particular night, I'd experience the simultaneous feelings of excitement and frustration. So eager for the morning but unable to escape the night. This ... was Christmas Eve.The anticipation for Christmas morning was always one of the most exciting moments of the year for me. We'd frequently gather with our extended family and on those occasions, when December 24th arrived, I'd find myself laying in a room with my older sister and cousins as we tried to fall asleep. So many years I felt like I was the last one to drift off to sleep.  And I'd marvel at their ability to get their eyes to close when I couldn't. I was jealous because I knew Christmas morning would come so much quicker for them than it would be for me. Inevitably, exhaustion would eventually arrive and lead me to the sleep I longed to find.  We'd all wake up that next morning and be forced to wait in the hallway before we were granted permission to be released into the living room. As much as it killed me in the moment, I loved that feeling of joyful anticipation. Once we were allowed into the living room each of us would naturally land in our designated spots to see the gifts that miraculously appeared near the chimney overnight. We'd sit and look through the gifts and stockings and bask in the feeling of realized anticipation. If I'm honest, those childhood moments were filled with such excitement and anticipation because of the gifts. I mean what child doesn't enjoy getting new toys, bikes and games?  I can look back on these memories and run through a catalogue of several gifts that stand out above the rest. There are certain gifts that were just so exciting to receive.  I have so many memories that make me laugh or smile as a result of the emotions those gifts brought on Christmas morning. But if I were to stop and think of the "best gift" I've ever received, I don't know what I'd say. I'd have no idea which one to choose.  That's a hard question to answer isn't it? What's the best gift you've ever received? Interestingly, when I really stop to think about that question, my mind doesn't gravitate to anything that was left under a stocking on Christmas morning. Ironically, I don't think of a toy, bike or game. I don't even know if I think about Christmas.  When I think about the best gift I've ever received, I think of people. I think of my children who we prayed so hard for when we were trying to start a family. I think of my incredible wife and how lucky I am to have her in my life. I think about my parents and my sister and extended family. I think about so many people.And on this year, as I approach my first holiday season without my dad, I can't help but think of him. While our relationship was far from perfect, when I consider the question of "greatest gifts" I have no doubt that he was one of them. The reason being that even in the midst of all the twists and turns our lives experienced, I never once questioned his love for me. Didn't matter the season or circumstances, I knew he loved me. And now that I'm 40 and have experienced more life along the way, I'm better able to recognize that the love of a father is one of the greatest gifts we can ever receive.And I realize that for many, our relationships with our earthly fathers are far from perfect. But my hope is that as we enter into the Advent season we can stop and realize that the arrival of this infant Jesus, points us to a heavenly Father. When we meet sleepless nights, may the hope of the manger and the declaration of peace on earth draw every human heart to our Father above. May the birth of a Savior remind us that we can go through all seasons and circumstances and never have to question our Father's love. And I assure you ... that is without question the greatest gift we have ever received! - Jerimiah Smith, Pastor 

Posted by Jerimiah Smith