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Still the greatest gift

A co-worker just asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Actually, he said: “What in the whole wide world would you want for Christmas if you could have anything?”

The first two things that popped into my head weren’t really “things” so I skipped those and went to number 3 — a house.

In the country, within reasonable driving distance to town.

Then number 4 — a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with every extra I can think of, in matte Army green and standard transmission.

The co-worker asked if I would just ride around town in my Jeep and wave to people. Of course, if I could do that for a living, I would.

One of the first answers that came to mind when he posed the question, however, was the desire to be completely debt-free in every aspect of my life. Somebody get Santa on that, please.

Then as I started to write this column, I remembered some of my favorite gifts from the past — presents I’ve received over the years on various occasions (not all of them “special” occasions).

On my seventh birthday, I got a Six Million Dollar Man action figure. About 10 inches tall, this partially-posable masterpiece of plastic had removable “electronics” panels in his arm and chest and could — with the help of a large red lever in its back — ratchet-lift a plastic red and gray V-8 engine. It was awesome.

I also got a board game based on the same television show. For Christmas, I got an Evel Knievel figure with a motorcycle and ramp. It’s was hard to beat turning 7.

A few years ago I was looking for an acoustic guitar. My son and I each had one, but his was in bad shape and we wanted to be able to play together.

As I sat in my office alone one evening, a knock came at the door. The man I greeted was standing there with a beautiful blonde acoustic guitar. He said he had just bought it and didn’t know why — he didn’t need it and didn’t even really want it.

He said as he drove around in his truck, God told him to stop at the next building (my office) and give the guitar to whoever answered the door.

“I don’t know if you play, or know anyone who needs a guitar, but here you go,” and handed the guitar to me. I thanked him profusely and he thanked me for not questioning his story. He said goodbye and left and I don’t even know who he was.

That blonde beauty with dove fretboard inlays is in my room right now waiting for me to put new strings on it when I get home.

But the best gift I have ever received is also the first thing that came to mind that I want for Christmas this year. This gift came in multiple “parts” — in five different years across two decades. The parts are my two sons and my three daughters. I am so very grateful for each one and they bring me continued joy. But I don’t get to see them all the time, and that’s what I want, to see them more often.

One child lives with me, another is visiting from college at the moment, I’ll see another this weekend, and have the final two with me for a couple of weeks after Christmas. My children are my greatest treasures, and I thank God for them.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful wife — my second chance. I grew up in a godly, supportive home, and our family members are very loyal to one another.

Still, the greatest gift, bar none, is the reason I celebrate Christmas. I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year by giving gifts to one another, by sharing meals together, remembering loved ones who are no longer with us, visiting friends and family we don’t get to see often enough.

This weekend we’ll get together with my family to do all of those things, but the highlight for me will come as I look around at all the faces gathered in my parents’ living room, some with phones and cameras held at the ready, no one saying a word, all listening to my father’s still-strong voice reading the story from the gospels that begins, “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about …”

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.