Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Did you ever receive a gift that was marked “Don’t Open Till Christmas?” Back home at Route 4, I think all the gifts under our tree always had that tag. And it was probably a good idea given our impatient nature! But, I always thought that was a cruel trick. I mean, it was torture to a ten-year-old farm boy to see a box with your name on it, but you couldn’t open it till the time was right. And no matter how much we picked it up, shook it, or smelled of it, we’d still be guessing as to its contents.  

Some of us even resorted to beggin’ and pleadin’. ‘But, Mother, what if it’s something that I can use to help you around the house? Or something that will help me do my chores better?’ What a silly-willy idea that was! I would have known right away by the shape of the gift if it had been a new chopping ax with a shiny and sharp blade. Or a new ‘desk’ for learning my lessons better at the woodshed.

We’d even play ‘what-if’ games trying to guess what was in each other’s box. That long-awaited and hoped-for Red Ryder bb gun. Or maybe a shiny new Red Wagon. The reasoning here was that I could haul more stove wood than I could tote if I had a Red Wagon. Or maybe it was a new pair of Red Camel work boots to replace the ones with cardboard in the soles that were worn-out and passed down the ‘brother line.’ Or maybe a new Schwinn bicycle that actually had fenders and handle bar grips and a chain that didn’t break every time you rode it.

And no matter how much we begged Mother for just a hint or a clue, she’d always say very sweetly, “Son, a surprise wouldn’t be a surprise if you already know what it is.” Wish I had a nickel for every time I heard that.

Looking back down the dirt road of my memory, I’ve concluded that the “Do Not Open Till Christmas” tag was not a cruel trick. Instead, I believe it was a way of keeping hope alive. In the coldest, darkest, bleakest days of winter on a farm in the 50’s, you just couldn’t look at or shake a box with that tag without thinking ‘I hope it’s this or I hope it’s that.’ In this insta-matic, automatic, traumatic world we live in today, I don’t see that tag much anymore. But hope does indeed spring eternal in a box marked ‘Don’t Open Till Christmas.’ And it is that very hope that sustains us in our darkest hour until we can open the Gift of Life!  

That having been said, you can imagine my surprise when the brown truck unloaded a box at our house the other day marked with these words in big red letters – PERISHABLE! OPEN IMMEDIATELY! And we did exactly as instructed. Country boys and girls don’t have to be called twice to come to supper!

Some wonderful friends had sent us a chocolate-filled, pecan-topped, caramel-laced pound cake from Savannah, Georgia! I am so glad that the box wasn’t marked ‘Don’t Open Till Christmas!’ The aroma alone would have driven us from our home! That would have been classified as cruel and inhumane. When it’s finished, I’ll probably lick the box it came in!

But as I enjoy another slice (OK, another HUNK) of this delight with my woodshed coffee this morning, I’m reminded of a couple more things to be thankful for. First, for Christian friends who practice so very well the God-given gift of generosity. And secondly, for gifts that can be opened immediately to bless the lives of others.

Let’s play a little game of ‘What If.’ What if the brown truck pulled up to your place and unloaded a box with your name on it. No ribbons and bows and pretty paper. Just a plain box. And this box is so big that the guy in brown had to use hand trucks to roll it in. And before he sped away, what if the guy in brown told you that inside this box is a very special gift. What if it’s something that you can use to be a difference-maker? To touch and change lives wherever and whenever you share it. What if you were given this kind of gift? Would you share it?

That’s exactly the kind of gift we all received on that Christmas morn so long ago in that little town of Bethlehem. Jesus is the one true Gift that keeps on giving. The Gift that deserves to be opened immediately and shared with everyone around us. And the more we share our Gift, the more blessed we become. Blessed to be a blessing. That’s what Christmas is all about.

But the calendar says that Christmas is over. What now? What do we do when the last box has been unwrapped? Having been given the ‘Gift that keeps on giving,’ the Spirit of Christmas doesn’t end here on December 26th. Once Jesus comes to live at our house, He supplies a never-ending bundle of gifts that we can share every day throughout the year. Gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Gifts as sweet as our Christmas pound cake.

Would you like a slice?