My first memory of Christmas includes dreaming of the gifts I would receive, it includes the memory of eagerly wanting to be summoned to the Principal’s office at school- that meant I had received a Christmas gift, gifted by our local Police Department who had collected gifts for children in need. That year our holidays had been hit by loss and celebrating was not in my family’s plan. So this awaited, longed-for gift meant I’d have something to open that year. Our family went through the motions of the season and we went through that Christmas waiting.
As Christmas came around, each year thereafter, celebration seemed to stand still. The emotional slumber that had plagued us that first Christmas had snowballed into a deeper valley. Yet, we went into each season in expectation and as the weather changed, lights adorned the streets, and Christmas celebrations played on, we held on and hoped, completed our wish lists for Santa, and marveled at the TV screen every time the new must-have toys flashed before us. The reality was that my mother’s resources could not stretch enough to include gifts for four children, that her heart could not quite get to a state of celebration. I suppose I hurt and was disappointed at wanting things I could not have. I guess you could say I silently grew complacent in yearning and dismissed my wants as wonder was buried under our reality.
“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
Our Savior’s birth gives us a glimpse of a beautiful, humble scene, lacking in decoration and gifts, of Him lying in a manger, with only His earthly parents present and some farm animals as guests. He was not dressed in royal garments, or lay in the fanciest, trendiest bassinet. His parents, tired and cold, and most-likely uncomfortable, tended to Him. And as I look closer at that scene in the manger, what might have seemed a lowly place, lacking in attention and devoid of importance, what I began to sense was a peaceful scene of togetherness through hardship, rest after trial, and healing in love.
At some point my mother began to put her white Christmas tree up again and she started to make plans for Christmas Eve dinner. She partook in making tamales for Christmas with my grandmother every year, and, with her recipe in hand, my mother soon took it up as her own tradition. And so each year, at Christmas time, she wrapped and wrapped, and tended to a pot filled with neatly-folded, carefully-stuffed corn husks. And we, her children, friends, and family, have unwrapped and unwrapped, warm, mouth-watering, delicious tamales, year after year.
My gift, as I’ve faced and weathered different seasons, is a realization of what my Savior has done for me. The spirit of giving and receiving transformed as the years passed by, as seasons unfolded, as I married and started my own family and looked back, closely, at my Savior’s birth, in that manger. He was their gift and invited them, in the midst of the unlikely circumstances, to rest, to heal, and bask in love.
I pray this season brings all these gifts to you as we focus on His love, His gift for us all.