Sun., Dec. 24, 2017
Luke 2:7 – And she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
It’s just a toy Winnebago camper, circa early 1970’s. But nephew Ben thought he’d won the jackpot.
When I was 5- or 6-years-old, all I wanted for Christmas was a Barbie camper. Apparently, they were terribly expensive. Instead, my Mom bought me this Winnebago camper for $10-11. I remember opening it on Christmas morning, still in my pajama’s. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, and it was the only gift I received that year, but it was a camper.
This camper has brought years and years of joy and happiness to our Deaton family. I grew up in an old farmhouse with hardwood floors. I can still hear the sound of the camper’s wheels being pushed across the floor. Full-size Barbie’s didn’t fit inside the camper. But we could sit on top of the camper and ride it. Not only did my sister’s and I play hard with the Winnebago, later, it was the favorite toy for my niece and nephews to play with. After my parents moved to town, they rode it down main street. Inside the house, they would make a circle through the dining room, living room and kitchen, going from carpet, hardwood floors and linoleum with each pass.
It’s been played hard. The rear window is missing. The bumpers have hit way too many walls. But it’s mere presence drums up a whole bunch of fun memories.
For the last several years, presents with my Deaton family have taken on a whole new twist. (I explain this more in https://simplewordsoffaith.com/2016/12/13/were-they-practical-gifts/) I wrap up items from my parents, grandparents and long-standing family traditions. With each gift, I include an accompanying story, sharing a little history of this item. Each year, there are highly sought after presents: my Dad’s dog tags from when he was in the service, a photo book from when he was stationed in Germany. Since we began this tradition, my niece and nephews have been asking when the Winnebago camper would be included. Everyone knew this would be a highly sought-after item.
This was the year.
Last week, I went through boxes of items from my Mom’s and pulled out 22 items, wrapped them and the accompanying stories. Then, I went and found my beloved Winnebago camper and wrapped her up. When I shared with Rick that the camper was part of the Deaton gift exchange, he asked me if I really wanted to let it go. I felt it was time to let another family continue the joy of this very special item.
It was clear my niece and nephews were anticipating the Winnebago. There had been advance plotting and planning for who would end up with the camper. Naturally, being the biggest box, it was the first gift opened by great-nephew Dane. He was cautioned that while it was his for the moment, it wouldn’t be his for long as stealing gifts are part of the exchange.
Quite honestly, there were lots of super cool items in this year’s Deaton gift exchange. My grandfather’s high school diploma from 1925. The honorary FFA Chapter Farmer plaque my Dad received. A copy of the sale catalog from when my parents disperse our registered Holstein herd in 1987. My Dad’s 4-H record books. The well-worn Uno cards were busted out for another game. Not so popular? The Easter basket from the 1960’s. The head silhouette of my sister Debbie. Even her husband, Keith, didn’t select this. Niece Jenny was stuck with Debbie’s framed head from third grade.
The last person who selected a gift was my nephew Ben’s wife, Jackie. Yep, she picked the Winnebago for her husband Ben, which let to flurry of last minute gift steals and exchanges. No doubt, Ben was one happy camper last night as he loaded the beloved Winnebago into their vehicle to take home. For him, this was the best Christmas gift he could have received.
As much joy and laughter we experienced at our Deaton family Christmas yesterday and as many cool memories the Winnebago camper eludes, let’s not forget THE single greatest gift of Christmas ever: the birth of Jesus. As we gather with family and friends today and tomorrow; as we sit in worship tonight with lit candles and sing “Silent Night,” I pray we can be very thankful we have a God who loves us so much that he sent his only son into this world for all our benefit. This is the reason why we celebrate. This is the reason we exchange gifts. This is the reason we even have a Christmas. It’s a gift even more special than the Winnebago camper.
From all the Deaton clan, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.
Lord God – Words can’t express the deep gratitude for the gift of your Son, Jesus, into this world. I pray we see your love as the reason for the season. Amen.
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