2 April, 2023

A Block of Wood: A Reflection on Christmas, Expectations, and Gratitude

by | 25 December, 2022 | 0 comments

It sometimes takes years before a person fully appreciates a Christmas gift. Team Expansion’s Carla Williams explains. Merry Christmas! 


By Carla Williams 

I don’t know what I was expecting. What lofty Christmas dreams did 3-year-old me cherish in my heart that would make the giant, handmade, wooden kitchen my grandfather lovingly built for weeks in his spare time seem like garbage on Christmas morning?  

What was it about the tiny knobs, functioning doors, and child-size sink that made me plummet into despair? Is it that I had to share the magical gift with my little sister? Had I seen a shiny store version in a commercial that made this homemade gift seem unacceptable? Did I have my heart set on the wrong gift entirely? 

I’m sure my parents were mortified as I burst into tears, all lessons of gratitude and appreciation abandoned. I’m sure my sister was confused about her own feelings at seeing my decidedly ugly response to something so beautiful. I’m sure my grandfather’s heart was broken after the time he had spent carefully and thoughtfully crafting a masterpiece. 

In that moment, I didn’t know the joy the gift would bring me. I had no idea how it would inspire creativity, provide memories with my sister, or lead me to gratitude for years to come. In my limited perspective, through angry tears, I only saw a block of wood. 

I can’t help but wonder if that’s what the manger looked like from the outside. It wasn’t a throne of power. It wasn’t a treasure chest filled with riches. It wasn’t a mighty ship carrying warriors to Israel’s rescue. But also, in all the ways that really mattered, it was.  

When my grandfather took a block of wood and lovingly crafted it into the perfect gift, he was thinking of me. He knew my heart and he knew what I needed from him. I didn’t appreciate it at that moment, but now I know there couldn’t have been a more perfect expression of his love. His gift was a piece of himself. 

When God sent us Jesus, He knew our hearts. He knew our need for joy, hope, peace, community, redemption, healing, and salvation. Jesus was the perfect representation of His love. He knew we needed Him.  

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m sure thankful for what I got. 

Carla Williams lives in Louisville, Ky., with her husband and three kids. She and her husband serve with Team Expansion. 


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