Few snapshots compare to the mixture of delight, surprise and joy when a child unwraps his particular version of the Red Ryder BB gun. Such a moment occurred two days ago when our son Carter tore off the wrapping paper to reveal what he most wanted for Christmas: a new football complete with a kicking tee. Shortly thereafter the family present festivities, we laced up our sneakers and tossed the pigskin in the front yard. He practiced backing up, place kicker style, and booted the ball as far as he could. Day 1 of the football/tee era ended well.
Day 2 found Carter and I again in the front yard, tossing and kicking. While the front yard is spacious, it can’t quite contain my foot. Thus, when I wanted to take the ball and tee out for a test flight and see what they could really do, I found myself on the asphalt down the street a ways, priming to kick to a receiving Carter towards the end of our front yard. Wanting to boost confidence and get him to be aggressive, I yelled (I was a ways down the road), “If you can catch my kickoff, you get a snoopy (a candy).” The C-Dawg will willingly abandon his family, his sense of personal hygiene and perhaps his morals for a piece of sugary delight. Thus, motivation soared.
I raised my hand and made like Al Del Greco. I booted a beautiful, soaring kickoff that streaked across the darkening twilight. It sparkled and twirled in the glowing Christmas lights. And it came down like a bomb towards the awaiting C-Dawg. With fire in his eyes, he moved under the pigskin and reached to grab the ball. To say that the ball grabbed him might be a bit more accurate. He used three body parts to secure the ball: his right hand, his left hand . . . and his nose. But he caught the ball. I jumped with joy. “Nice job, C-Dawg. That was the greatest catch ever.” Truly it was. It made Dwight Clark’s end zone grab seem ordinary by comparison. I ran towards him with a smile on my face to discover not a beaming little Lynn Swan, but a budding Sylvester Stallone, doing his best Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed imitation. Blood streamed down his face, drowning his upper lip and chin in a sea of crimson.
My beloved wife, witnessing the scene through the living room window and hearing her son’s screams of terror, flew out the front door to comfort her son and noticed the beaming smile on my face. Her expression said, “How, in the midst of such agony, could you have such joy?” The answer, of course, is the meaning of Christmas.
To celebrate Christmas in this world is essentially to celebrate a glorious catch, even in the middle of utter agony and pain. The Nativity is essentially joy being born in the center of strife. Christ came into this world- a universe rife with toil and misery- and announced hope to a hopeless world.
Thus, to celebrate my son’s glorious reception, though pain-producing for him, is essentially to celebrate Christmas.
Yes, he recovered and enjoyed his snoopy.
And yes, I vow to celebrate Christmas in less painful ways next December.
Merry Christmas from The Write Project.