In the days leading up to Christmas I found myself curious. About the best gifts or surprises people had received for Christmas. I mean beyond those deep, profound, spiritual gifts of faith in Christ, joy, God-given peace, or the healing of a broken relationship. I mean stuff. Under the tree. Wrapped up (or not).
A couple of gifts stand out in my memory. One was an o-gauge railroad set. I was in first grade. I walked into the living room of our apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, beneath the Christmas tree there was this red, yellow and silver Santa Fe engine with rolling stock. It was a pretty special moment!
The second gift I remember most clearly is a very simple, GE-stereo made out of dark green plastic. With that came a membership in the Capitol Record Club. Which was a big deal for a teenager stuck in northwest Alaska where the only AM station played country and western music -long before C & W was cool.
For the last several years I have wanted to buy a very simple train set. Something that could be easily set-up. Maybe placed under the Christmas tree.
The day after Christmas my oldest son and I headed out to an area box store to get some wrenches. While we were looking over the tools I noticed a red sign that said 50% OFF CHRISTMAS ITEMS & TOYS. I have a collection of toys at home and in my office. So I walked over and found myself standing next to several boxes containing Lionel 0-gauge train sets. I looked at the boxes...studied the description of the train sets. I looked up at the sign announcing 50% off.
I don't mean to be blasphemous or anything, but it was like this shaft of light poured down on me and that Lionel train set. I'm not sure but I could almost swear I heard choirs of sales associates singing, "I've Been Working on the Railroad."
So I picked up the box, checked out, and returned home. When I walked into the house I asked my wife, Sharon, to close her eyes. I'd gone out looking for a wrench and came home with an o-gauge Chicago & North Western railroad set.
It's nothing fancy. It's nothing complicated. But my 16-month old granddaughter enjoys running it with me. Our faces light up when the train goes by and Ella presses the button that makes the whistle blow. Bryan, our oldest son, and I were chattering like kids as we reviewed a catalogue of high-end model railroad stuff.
Sometimes you go out looking for one thing and you come back with a whole lot more than you ever bargained for. So much more than you ever thought you'd find...or have.
Deep, eternal, life-changing joy is always a God-given gift. Which is almost always connected to knowing...being loved by...Jesus. In addition to this, though, there are these delightful, little joy moments that make our eyes light up in good ways. A deeply discounted 0-gauge railroad set, for example. Where the cars light up and smoke rings come out of the stack on the locomotive.
It's fun having fun.
I think "lighting up" at the little, good things in life is one sign that we're fully alive.