One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was one that I initially did not recognize.
At nine years old all I wanted was a pet rabbit. In my mind, rabbits were the perfect pet. They were soft, and could easily be picked up and cuddled—a stark contrast to my dog, who could not be picked up and did not appreciate being swarmed by the arms of children.
That year I begged for a bunny for Christmas. I prayed for a bunny (loudly, so my parents would hear too). I even left notes reminding my parents of what a great idea this was, as it would after require me to up the ante in my level of responsibility.
The funny thing was, I don’t think I ever actually anticipated receiving said gift. Christmas morning I may have had some level of disappointment when everything was unwrapped and nothing had a twitching nose or smelled of alfalfa, but I understood. I knew it was a big ask, and despite a strong campaign, I had anticipated a “maybe next year” response.
When all the gifts were unwrapped, my Mom asked me to check under the tree one more time. Sure enough there was one small box, maybe 1″ × 2″, and it was for me. I ripped the paper, flung open the box and was shocked to see… two cotton balls glued together with a few random pieces of construction paper attached.
I had no idea what it was. I smiled at my parents and politely thanked them for this arts and crafts anomaly. My Mom asked me if I knew what it was. I did not, but looking at my mother’s face I had the distinct impression that I should know, so I did what every child does in this situation: I lied.
“Yes, I know what it is.” I said, trying to sound confident. At nine, I should easily have anticipated the next question, but somehow it came out of nowhere.
“What is it?”
Yep, I was stumped. I remember being distinctly aware that I was taking too long to answer the question and that in the process I was giving myself away. “It’s a craft.” I concluded.
Thankfully, my mom came to my rescue and told me it was a bunny. Either my Mom was inspired by Picasso, or the glued on eyes, nose, etc., had shifted dramatically during the wrapping. Regardless, I thanked Mom for her efforts and set down the little box.
Oh, those parents of mine! I had asked for a bunny, and I had received a bunny—though certainly not the live, long-eared furry one that I was hoping for.
My dad then asked me what I had wanted for Christmas.
“I wanted a bunny,” and now feeling the need to clarify, I added “a live one though.”
“You know Jennie, rabbits are pretty wiggly and very hard to wrap. But, why don’t you look in the closet?” Mom suggested.
I ran to the closet and there was a rabbit cage with a bow on it. Finally understanding, I jumped and screamed and flailed my limbs in utter glee. The next day we went to a rabbit breeder and I picked out Bunnie, a faithful, floppy eared friend for many years to come.
Looking back, I wonder how often I do this with God. Am I holding a box of cotton balls and politely thanking God for them, when he is shaking his head, laughing and saying, “That’s not the gift I had in mind for you! Hear child, come receive this much greater gift!”
Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
This Christmas, as we nibble on cookies, take in the glow of advent candles and Christmas lights, sing carols at the top our lungs, and wrap gift after gift after gift, I hope we all have a chance to reflect on the gifts that God has given us. Seen and unseen. Known and unknown. Discovered and yet to be discovered.
Jen Jandavs-Hedlin has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade and is passionate about helping authors to share their stories. She enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and organizing her home into boxes and containers. Jen lives in Winnipeg with her husband, and their canine companion, Montgomery.