My younger daughter was being particular for Christmas: Mandarin skin cream from Aesop, a small facial boutique shop on Lido Isle. I don’t frequent this location very often and on this afternoon, it was marked by Christmas busyness. I made a quick decision to not park in the pay parking structure because the entry line was too long. After a change of lanes, I kept driving and was pleasantly surprised by open spaces of parking right across the street! Quelle providence de Dieu!
My joy was stolen as I walked through the parking lot and saw the sign: if you left your car and crossed the street it would be towed. I thought about moving my car, but because traffic was still wild, I kept my parking spot and opted for the omission to the law. While Aesop was indeed across the street, I could also shop at the Marina stores on that side.
I set off on a walk a-bout, passing Z Pizza and California Grill. I knew Newport Pharmacy was worth inquiry, and to my prediction, it did not disappoint! It was decked with Christmas from corner to ceiling. I wandered through the creative themes—an ocean Christmas here, a blue and white Christmas over there, a traditional Christmas and a plaid Christmas. I left with one purchase: a singular dark blue and white glazed ceramic ball with a red velvet ribbon.
I continued my walk along the streets of Lido Isle and stoped in Aesop for the Mandarin skin cream. I headed back across the street, feeling confident my car would not be towed as I held in my hands purchases from both sides of the street. But before reaching my car, I ducked into Marine Shop for a few additional gifts. I’d never been inside before and quickly discovered it offered everything needed for a life at sea: sunhats, Sperry boat shoes, sunglasses, and clothing with SP50. I found a blue tumbler and two deck blankets, perfect gifts for those I had in mind! One blanket had grey whales, the other was dark blue with an array of sea creatures. Had there been time, I would have embroidered the recipients’ names on each blanket, perhaps even stitching an octopus in the corner of the dark blue one. Alas, it was December 23rd and I had to let my creativity go.
The following night, I served as a lector at our Christmas Eve service. After first helping children of the parish walk baby Jesus and a little lamb down to the creche sitting before the altar during the opening hymn, I circled back around for the second reading, Titus 2:11-14.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”
I love saying Jesus’ name aloud from the lectern on Christmas Eve, in particular, when his name is mentioned as Savior. “He it is who gave himself for us.” The giving of gifts echoes the nature of God’s heart. To be so filled with love, that we search for the perfect gift for those we love. Even if it means risking parking citations. It’s no matter if they are small presents or big presents; it is all about the heart. At Christmas, we share love through the generosity of our hearts.
“Joy to the World, the Lord has come.” Christmas is the most joyous feast day of the year for me. At Easter, I am mesmerized by the empty tomb after an emotional wrought passion week. The first shock of death evolves into the second shock of life. But with Christmas, the gentle babe in the manger is just that gentle. The Nativity is tender. We gather around to see the miracle of birth and new life. We gather around gazing at the manger to see God’s ultimate gift, Jesus Christ our Savior lying on a bed of hay. We celebrate the gift that God loved us so much, that God chose to come into the world in a way in which every single person has experienced, to be born from a human mother. God’s gift of life and love.