What will you remember about Christmas? Will it be… stockings by the fireplace, pretty packages with colorful bows wrapped and waiting under the tree, stress from spending too much money, cookies and candies and children, empty chairs at the dinner table, decorations and blinking Christmas trees, making Samaritan Purse shoeboxes, families celebrating together, special church services, being alone, parties and plays, homeless shelters packed, shopping, cooking favorite foods for family, spending time in prayer, standing in long lines, sitting by the fireplace with a good book, or helping people in need?
Families are gathered, the prayers are said, the food is eaten, the gifts are opened, the tree is naked, the children are restless, the parents and grandparents are exhausted, the darkness settles and Christmas lights twinkle for the last time this year, loved ones hug and head home, sadness settles for this special day is almost gone. So, what will you remember about Christmas?
I will remember the blessing of spending this first Christmas without James with my beautiful blended family. Even though we know he is happily celebrating in Heaven, we still miss him (as you miss your loved ones who have gone on before you)! Sharing the gift God gave James and me last year stirs within my healing heart. This beauty of this story keeps me focused on the true meaning of Christmas and magnifies the joy of helping others.
Last year, James and I enjoyed a quiet Christmas morning together at home. We were not feeling well, but thought our colds would soon get better. After cuddling and coffee by the fireplace, we were off to visit our children. What a wonderful time we had watching our grandchildren playing with their gifts, eating breakfast cooked by our children, and seeing the fruit of our labor (raising our children in Christ-centered homes) thriving in their hearts and homes. We agreed this special gift was the crowning joy of growing old.
Our last stop was at the home of a local family in need of a helping hand. I met the mother of this extended family when she came to Tim’s Gift seeking help. She shared needs for her family from a heart that flowed with His sweet spirit. The first time we prayed together, I told her how I was deeply touched by her Christian witness and compassion to help her extended family. Her reply warms my heart every time my mind replays it. Her family conditions were difficult for her to handle as were the tremendous needs of ten children she was caring for in her home. She softly said, “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
James stopped in front of their home. I started to open my door when James put his hand on mine and said, “Baby, you stay right here in this car. I can handle this. You feel worse than I do, and I don’t want you out in the cold.”
So, I listened to him and stayed in the car. Sitting back in my seat, I looked in the side view mirror and watched my sweet, kind husband sharing Christmas and grinning from ear to ear. He handed ten stockings to precious little children squealing with delight while the adults graciously accepted gifts of food and other items that would make their holiday a little brighter. Then, James gave them great big hugs and wished them a Merry Christmas. I watched and wiped tears of joy as he gave the mother a hug. God tugged on my heart. The feeling had deeper meaning than I could comprehend at the time. It seemed that He was saying, “Remember this moment Becky…this is Christmas.”
The lady tapped on my window as James made his way back to our car. She told us how much she appreciated us coming on Christmas Day bearing gifts that would help her family. She reached inside and gave me a hug. As we drove away, I watched them waving and yelling good bye and thank you until we were out of sight. I sat silently as God was dealing with my heart in a way I did not understand. Then, James squeezed my hand and talked about how good it felt to see those happy children holding out their hands and being so thankful for gifts they received.
James kissed my hand and said, “That felt so good, Baby. This is really Christmas!” I told him how much I loved him and thanked God for bringing us together. His reply warmed my heart with powerful, precious words he always told Sarah and had engraved on their tombstone when she passed away. And when God opened our hearts to love again and I would tell him many times every day, “I love you, James.” He always said, “I love you more!”
This Christmas, I understand why God kept me in my seat when we visited that precious family last year. He was giving me a gift that would keep on giving…even after James was gone.
I can still see James’ smiling face and feel his love in my heart…and that makes it Christmas every day of the year.
What will you remember about Christmas? Whatever situations or circumstances we face as we celebrate Christmas and prepare for a new year, let us live out loud in love, honoring our Lord, cherishing our loved ones, and enjoying every day. Merry Christmas!
Becky Spell Vann is a long-time columnist for the Sampson Independent’s Faith & Family section and owner of the outreach ministry Tim’s Gift.