DEAR SOLOMON, Eve and Adrianne,

Christmas began at a time when the only thing that could save the world was a new beginning.

Christmas began with a child.

This year, as we celebrate the birth of love in its highest form, I celebrate each of you. I pause to reflect on the moment you came into the world, to remember the first time I held you, to look back on the laughter we've shared. But most of all, I pause to thank God for the gift of redemption.

For you see, it was in learning to be a father that I learned to be a man. I grew strong on the nights when I rocked you to sleep. I gained stature each time that I kissed away tears. I found my voice in your bedtime stories, and saw myself in your eyes.

While learning to be your father, I learned that there is no greater gift than new life.

I learned why Christmas began with a child.

In children, we find the best of ourselves. We find innocence, unspoiled by the ways of the world. We find openness, unfettered by hate or bias. We find optimism that puts everything within our reach. In children, we find the very best gift that humankind can give - love.

My children, you have each given me that gift again and again. I watch you grow and I see my life reflected in yours: the mistakes and the triumphs, the strengths and the weaknesses, the hope for the future. I see lessons - the kinds of lessons that have raised me, even as I've endeavored to raise you.

The lessons have come as I've changed diapers in the middle of the night, and seen myself in your helplessness. They've come as I've taken you to school on crisp winter mornings, and marveled at how quickly you've grown. The lessons have come as I've seen your budding talents, and prayed that they would change the world.

But the greatest lesson I've seen in you is the lesson of Christmas. Because Christmas began with a child.

After watching each of you come into the world, I came to understand the excitement of the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born. I came to understand the wisdom of the men who gave gifts that first Christmas morning.

They didn't give to determine whose present was more lavish than the next. They gave gifts as a symbol of gratitude for what the world had been given. They gave because they were thankful for that child.

This Christmas, when you awaken, there will be gifts beneath the tree. The aroma of Christmas dinner will be wafting through the air. A steady stream of family will pour through the house. And like the shepherds of the field, or the wise men from the ends of the earth, they will come in hopes of glimpsing a child. Only this time, that child will be you.

MY CHILDREN, Christmas is a time of joy and wonder.

It's a time of symbol and tradition. It's a time you should enjoy. But the true meaning of Christmas is not in fictional characters or expensive toys. The true meaning of Christmas is the story of a child, the story of birth and redemption, the story of giving, the story of unspeakable love.

This year, as you open your gifts, know that each of you has already given me more than you could imagine. Each day that I wake up as your father is a gift to me. Each moment that we spend together brings me more joy than I deserve. Each time I look at you my heart is filled with pride. And this Christmas, like every Christmas I've spent with you, my heart will be filled once again.

Because for me, for you, and for us, Christmas begins with a child. *

Solomon Jones appears every Saturday. He can be reached at