Twenty years ago on Christmas Eve, I got off work, went home, and packed my car for the long drive to my parents’ house, where I would spend Christmas with my family. Brandy, my blonde cocker spaniel, jumped into the front seat. As we were about to drive off, Helen, my elderly upstairs neighbor, stopped us. “Wait! I’ve got something for you.” Surprised and a little embarrassed, I apologized that I didn’t have a gift for her. “I didn’t go out to buy something for you, either,” she said, “but I saw this and thought you might enjoy it.” And she handed me a small package.
I received the perfect gift last Christmas—the love of a little child.
On Christmas night, when it seemed that all of the gift-giving and festivities were over, I was tucking four-year-old Jade into bed and praying with her for the night when out of the blue she said, “Daddy, I love you more than all my toys and things!” My heart skipped a beat.
At last! The dishes were all washed, dried, and stacked in the cupboard, and I put the leftover food in the fridge as the last of our visitors’ cars pulled away from our volunteer center and made their way down the street. It was after eleven.
Wearily I trudged down the hallway to my room, where I yanked out the pins that had been holding back my hair and collapsed onto the bed, my mind too tired to remember what came next.
Solange was one of several dozen patients I met while caroling with friends in a hospital one Christmas Eve. Each patient was suffering and hoped for a little love and comfort, but young Solange—in bandages and casts from head to toe—was special. As we sang for her, she began to cry. Soon she was sobbing almost uncontrollably.
“Jesus loves and cares for you,” I reassured her.
The tree is trimmed, turkey defrosting, presents wrapped and under the tree. It was a long list, but I think I remembered everything and everyone. Today I promised myself I would stop for a moment and think about the important things. I would put aside the menu plan and leave the cookbook recipes for a moment to think about Christmas and what it means to me. Of course I find myself remembering family and friends and all that has happened during the past busy year. I think back to all the “presents” Jesus has given me.