My California Aunt was always a lock for a great Christmas present.
When you’re a kid you know every gift under the tree NOT from Santa or mom and dad is a gamble. There’s just no way to know what you’re going to get.
You put in your time with Santa and your parents to ensure you got cool gear from them. You went through it all.
Dragged to the mall to shuffle around stores with your chin buried into your chest, staring at your moon boots trying to figure out exactly when and from where that squeak emanates with each step. The next three hours would be to you like slow water drip torture as your parents exercise their ‘expertise’ in the psychology of intelligence gathering.
“Hey, didn’t your friend Christian get one of these for his birthday this summer? This is pretty cool, don’t you think Luke?”
“Christian is a dork, mom. He likes dorky toys. Everything he has is dorky. I don’t want to be a dork.”
And then there was the standing in line for the Santa wannabe. What a drag. Didn’t all those hyperactive ankle biters know that this wasn’t the REAL Santa? He just reports back to the guy at the North Pole. A lame hoop, no doubt, but one through which every kid must jump.
But none of your other family members had any clue what to buy you. It was a roller coaster of anticipation and disappointment. On occasion there was a nice looking shirt – but it was still a shirt. It’s just hard for distant relatives to hit a homerun when they aren’t around you for most of the year.
Except for my California Aunt. How well she knew me was irrelevant – she was just cool. Probably because she lived in California, which in and of itself was awesome to a kid from Minnesota. In my mind I was certain that she hung out in all the cool places and did all the cool things that California people did.
It was confirmed every Christmas when I got spectacular presents from her. One year she gave me an authentic Dragon Kite – purchased in China Town! No one else in my class had ever even heard of a Dragon Kite – and didn’t even know there was a China Town in California! When you get a present so cool you have to explain to your friends its coolness, you know you have arrived.
But then one year, with great anticipation, I tore open the package she sent with my name on it. Inside was a strange sight to behold. It was colorful. It had stripes. It was big. What on earth was it?
The tag read ‘Zubaz.’
I had never heard of Zubaz. I had never seen Zubaz. No I knew had. They appeared to be some type pf pants but looked absolutely ridiculous. These things were comically large, big enough for me and a friend, and frankly painful to look at. What happened? My California Aunt’s Christmas present, an epic fail? It couldn’t be!
Later that day my family was in the midst of the obligatory ‘thank you’ phone calls to everyone who had bought us presents. My sister, was thrilled with the hot-pink leggings my Aunt bought for her, untwisted herself from the 22 foot long phone cord and handed me the receiver. My California Aunt was on the other end.
“Do you like the Zubaz?”
“Um, I guess.”
“Everyone out here’s wearing them. It’s the latest craze!”
“Yeah. You can’t turn around without seeing someone wearing Zubaz.”
We shared the standard pleasantries and hung up the phone. I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t. These things looked terrible. My mom washed them and cut the tag off as if they were going into the regular school rotation.
That was not happening. Not on my watch. I stuffed them into a box in the back of my closet and went on with my life. Back at school, I made no mention of them in the ‘what did you get for Christmas’ conversations.
Then one day my world was turned upside down. I overheard someone in my class say ‘I’m saving up my money for a pair of Zubaz.’ I was stunned. As casually as possible I joined the conversation. Not having cable tv at home I was a bit out of the loop when it came to rock stars, athletes and the like.
‘I want to get Legion of Doom Zubaz.’
‘I want to get Chicago Bears Zubaz.’
‘I want to get Hammer Zubaz.'
I couldn’t believe my ears. Excitement, regret and the realization that I had a treasure tucked away in my closet all built up inside me. I sprinted from the bus stop to my house, tore through my closet and found the hidden gem.
The next day at school I was rockin the bright teal and striped Christmas present I had hidden for over a month. Everyone was impressed and jealous. Everyone wanted to know where I got them – you couldn’t find any yet in Minnesota.
“Oh these? I’ve had these for a while. Just haven’t worn them to school because I didn’t think you were ready for something so rad…’
I’m not going to pretend this post is anything other than it is. It is an invitation to you to return to church. Most everyone in our area has had some exposure to Jesus. Most everyone has celebrated his birth every year for decades. But so many have tucked the gift of a savior away in their closets because they just didn’t think Christianity was cool, useful or relevant.
But maybe you just weren’t ready. Maybe it was lost on you at the time because of where you were in life or because of your age. But tucked away in your closet is an incredibly relevant God who longs to know you and be your friend. He has insight into your life right now. He has meaning and purpose for you right now.
You might have it all, or you might have nothing. Your life might be cruising along just the way you always imagined, or it might be off the tracks entirely. Regardless, that feeling you have of lacking something or of needing something more is the gift that you have tucked away in your closet. The gift that was perfect, just what you needed even when you didn’t know it.