Christmas Gift Highlights, and What Really Matters

Warning:  This post starts off pretty geeky, but ends up kind of religious.  If that appeals to you, then by all means, read on.

I love Christmas and I get excited about giving and receiving gifts.  At the same time, I often feel let down after the whole experience. More about why this is at the end.  This year it didn’t feel like there were actually that many presents.  I didn’t unwrap that many things, and some of the ones I did were ones I’d known about or even chose.

But then I realized that actually there’s been quite a few gifts, it’s just that many of them have come in at different times, not simply on Christmas day.  Really, I’ve received a lot, and have much to be thankful for.  For example…

The Flash by Mark Waid, volume 1

img_6697Mark Waid and DC Comics seem to have had some tension between them for several years, so seeing this book published is sort of a big deal.  Waid is the writer who made Wally West my favorite superhero character.  At this stage in comic book history, Wally had become the Flash after the heroic death of his mentor, Barry Allen.  This series focused on how both Barry’s loss and his legacy impacted Wally in his role as one of the world’s premier heros.  It was in many ways a story about Wally growing up, moving from being a womanizer into being settled into family, and realizing that ultimately he best honored his predecessor by exceeding him.

I bought this item myself at a comic shop a few days ago with some Christmas money.  Revisiting this series is like going back to a lot of favorite things from the past in that the craftsmanship is not quite as flawless as one remembers.  Still, aside from a pretty bad and confusing tie-in the DC’s “Eclipso, the Darkness Within” Amer event from years ago, it holds up in its character work and sets the stage for greater things in the already-announced Volume 2!

Sherlock 2: London Case

Recently, I have been getting into the idea of “Escape Rooms”.  These are connected rooms which are themed along some story idea, in which players have a limited amount of time to solve puzzles that will allow them to complete the story and get out of the room.  Most recently, I did one as part of a Christmas gift from my friend Rod.

Sherlock 2, as it was called, at a place called Mystic Clue,  was a pretty cool. We had to listen to messages delivered over a pay phone, and decipher various puzzles and codes in order to stop a plot to blow up London.  There were a number of secret doors and hidden compartments that made things fun.  There was also one puzzle that was harder than it should have been simply because it took us a while to notice these huge colorful buttons that were right next to where we were standing.  Still, in the end we solved the puzzle, which was rated as “hard”, in only 39 minutes!

The Sherlock

My brother and his family sent me this neat little puzzle game, which also had a Sherlock Holmes theme, where you have to figure out how to put these little wooden pegs into a puzzle box so that they’ll all fit.  What’s really fun about this is the way it’s all packaged.


It looks all old-style and forensic-ish, don’t you think?  Like the sort of thing you’d imagine Holmes might have.  Anyway, I’m actually not very good at stuff like this but I’ll enjoy giving them a go. I’ve done the first of 52 challenges so far.  It was an “Elementary” level one.

Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story

I have already written about this, but my family outing to see the new Star Wars movie was thanks in part to some Christmas money that came from my family in America.  As I have already said, we enjoyed the film a lot and definitely had fun going to see it as a family.  I realize some have complained that the movie had too much “fan service” because of the inclusion of extended Darth Vader sequences and other continuity references.  But I say, for goodness’ sake, this is Star Wars, the whole franchise is designed to do nothing else but serve fans (prequel trilogy notwithstanding).

Steak Dinner

Similarly, the family joined up with friends and had a delicious dinner out at a steakhouse restaurant on Christmas Eve.  I found myself hungry for calamari, so I had the Calamari Prime Rib, with extra calamari.  It was delicious, especially the calamari.  Mmmm, calamari.

A New Razor

Because my old was has been dying for a long time.  Cleaner shave, here I come!

A waterproof camera

It’s not a proper “GoPro” but it’s still a waterproof camera that I’m looking forward to giving a go at the beach tomorrow (traditional Boxing Day activity).  I’ve occasionally been in situations over the years where I’ve really lamented not having something like this, so I’m pretty excited about this.

Two New Life Forms

And finally, the biggest gift of the year, one that is for the entire family…two cats!


They are named Basil & Soxie (names we inherited) and they are a bonded pair of rescue cats.  They are still getting used to things around here, but we’re enjoying them a lot.   I really like cats, and after our last one died back in July, w thought it’d be a while before we got another.  But then suddenly, as Christmas was approaching, my wife changed her mind.  And since she generally makes all the pet-related decisions in our household, that was that.  But nobody was objecting.

So far, one of the beasts has killed a baby mouse while the other one got trapped on the roof.  But otherwise, they’re doing all right.

Deep Satisfaction

But, even with all these cool things and fun experiences, I am reminded about how often after the anticipation of new presents has given way to reality, I often feel somewhat disappointed.  It’s not that the gifts are not nice.  Rather, it’s because I realize again that ultimately, even stacks of great things are still just things.  They don’t bring satisfaction to the deep places of my soul.  I know that’s an overwrought way of saying it, but it’s still the truth.  The presents aren’t usually the things in life that really matter.  It’s foolish of me to think they will bring “true happiness”, because they won’t.  Not even cats.

So what is actually important?  Let’s see…

Family – Especially my wife and children.  They are in fact the most important people in my life, I need to remember in my busy-ness to spend time and relate to them as if this were true.  My Christmas morning and evening were spent entirely with them, and that was great.

Calling – I’m a missionary committed to communicating a message of hope and love.  I do this especially through media and film making.  It was over 15 years ago that I was standing in Mongolia working on such a project that I suddenly realized that I was doing stuff I never could have dreamt of or imagined.  And here I still am.  After the Christmas break, I’m back into it.

Community – My life and my calling are not only an individual thing, but are in the context of community – literally hundreds of men and women and children from all over the earth.  They’re not all my best friends, but they are all unique and precious.  And some of them are my best friends.  Today I celebrated Christmas with them, and it was amazing.

Jesus – No matter what else is going on, what is taking my attention, what I’m excited about, the truth is that the most important thing is not the gift but the one who gave it.  A relationship with Jesus–my savior, Lord, friend and king–is where all this begins and ends.  It was him that I was created for, and my truest purpose and deepest satisfaction is found in knowing him and obeying him.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you for the gift of you at Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

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