I’ve had my share of Christmases. Thirty-one, to be exact.
A good many of those have been just like yours. The frantic shopping and array of parties. The hurried family photos and Christmas cards. The road trips, and feasts, and lights, and cookies. Plus a good dose of Christmas plays and concerts.
Many a Christmas, the five of us kiddos would get up early and line up in our PJ’s to parade into the living room in front of the camera for the grand opening of all the stockings and gifts. Practical, timeless gifts from mom and dad. Handmade, love-filled gifts from siblings. You know, the usual.
And every year, we’d read the Christmas story. Luke 2. Until I had it memorized.
In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered . . .
And then came the Christmas we were iced in. I say “iced” in, because it wasn’t snow – it was several inches of ice . . . at our grandparents’ house in the-middle-of-nowhere Arkansas, trees down, power out, and roads blocked. With no cell phones or instant weather alerts in those days, the fifteen of us stranded souls bundled up by the fire, didn’t shower for a couple of days, read stories by candlelight – and enjoyed every unexpected moment we had as family.
And all went to be registered, each to his own town . . .
And then came the Christmas when my little sister was due to arrive. Mom went into labor on Christmas Day, and “my girl” was born two days later via emergency c-section. We spent the entire night in the waiting room praying for our tiny, long-awaited sister to arrive safely. I don’t remember anything else about that Christmas, because that baby was all that mattered to any of us. It was by far the greatest Christmas gift we ever received.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth . . .
And then came the Christmas we spent at the homeless shelter. Not because we didn’t have a home, but because others didn’t. I can still remember the sights and sounds of that room where we served food and cleaned the kitchen and chatted with folks. It was Christmas morning. Christmas morning. And we weren’t in front of the tree opening presents or stuffing our face with holiday goodies. We were in the mess of other people’s lives. In their need. In their hopelessness.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn . . .
And then came the Christmas when our gifts were to be found in scrolls on a tree. And on the scroll was written the name of a person or a cause – a missionary or a ministry – to whom our Christmas gift money had been given.
There was no disappointment, but rather a gratefulness in our hearts. For we had all agreed that we had everything we needed, and what we wanted was to help spread the gospel around the world.
Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people . . .
And with each of these Christmases, Luke 2 came to life.
The shopping routines faded. The plans were never again quite so certain. Traditions were held loosely. And I became rather content to find little under the tree.
For Jesus had come in the form of icy roads, long-awaited babies, homeless men and women, and gifts sent to missionaries, to show me the life-changing power of his Story – the “Christmas” I would never ever forget.
[image credit: unsplash.com]