Unexpected gifts There are Christmas miracles and then there are good parents. I have seen both and generally I prefer good parents, if I must choose. Every Christmas is a miracle, but not every parent is good. My parents were excellent and so Christmas was not just miraculous, but also fun. At some point Dan and I realized that getting presents for Christmas depended, in part, on the size of the Christmas bonus from the Church. Dad was a working hard kind of pastor and the churches where he worked were as generous as they could be, but we were sometimes Austen-genteel poverty and never Osteen gratuitous wealth. Dad and Mom did a good bit of shopping just a few days before Christmas. My Dad liked to point out that we should not “over expect” and I never recall wanting more than I knew we could afford. Some years, Mom and Dad would warn us, were lean. Dad and Mom worked hard to help folks every year, yet if the economy was struggling, folks could not give as they wished. We got it and did not over expect and so learned to love the whatever of Christmas. Until she died, my Granny Reynolds bought us undergarments every year, same kind, though the changing sizes marked the passing years. This was not an exciting gift, but we laughed about and so looked forward to getting that package. I wish Granny was around to buy some underwear for Christmas this year. Anyway, we knew that there were lean years and super-abundant years and that this had nothing to do with how hard Dad and Mom worked. We waited in hope that the last Christmas offering might take us in the more super-abundant direction! Don’t judge us too harshly: we were kids. One year things had not just been lean, but very lean. We were jolly, but suspected that our ambitions would have to be tempered. There would be less than usual under the tree and so there was. I recall getting up, going downstairs, full of eagerness to finally see prizes Mom and Dad had found. Presents were opened and were quite wonderful, but not particularly fun. A lean Christmas for a kid can lead to a less than stellar Christmas afternoon with nothing new to do. Eventually everything was opened and we were happy. Tight times? Yes, but the jollification was just the same. Mom and Dad had done the best they could and, after all, Christmas was not about presents. Like most people, we liked gifts, but somehow Mom and Dad had convinced us that fun was better than fun stuff. Thank God. We were mucking about with what there was when Dad asked Mom if they had not, perhaps, missed something. Had we opened all the gifts? We perked up. What? This was new. Our Christmas morning ritual was more set than a pre-Vatican II Catholic liturgy. We did what we did and what we did was timeless, until now. Mom and Dad went upstairs and brought down a new Vic 20 computer for both of us. We were gobsmacked: a computer with color. We spent the afternoon typing in a program that created a tank game. There was no way to save it, but you could play it. It worked. It was real. We were owners of a computer. But mostly, the thrill was the unexpected super-abundance. I have never loved a computer as much as that machine. Eventually, I owned a tape drive that would save the program so I did not have to type it in every time I wished to play. There were cartridge games and eventually we bought those as well. We were living Star Trek. We each had our own computer. In our era, this was like having someone tell us we could have our own starship. Mom and Dad always bought thoughtful gifts and we were often suprised, but nothing ever topped that year for the shock of it. We were happy, genuinely good, and then we were even happier. That is how I have found God to be. God is good. We get more than what we deserve generally, but we know roughly what that will be. We do not over expect, but then it happens. God dumps super-abundant awesome goodness into our lives: grace, mercy, and joy. We are fine, happy even, with the way things are and then God surprises us with more. That’s life. Thanks Mom and Dad.