We've unwrapped and we've feasted. Our Christmas day is almost over. I can hear the kids laughing in the other room...with no signs of stopping or heading for bed. It has been a wonderful Christmas. The only thing missing was my long winter nap...maybe tomorrow.
Before I leave this holiday, however, I thought I would post my Christmas letter from this year. I sent this out with my cards (some of you have already read it). Just for the record, this holiday means so much more to me than the tinsel and the gifts. I am more grateful for my Savior's grace than I can adequately say, but this is my attempt:
Dear Loved Ones,
Every year I think it’s going to be different. I think, “This year I’m going to write a happy, sugary letter about our magical trip to Disneyland where everything was perfect, even my hair.” But it is not this year. I know you’re all starting to think I just have a bad attitude, and you can imagine the objections voiced by David (bless him), but we are a family acquainted with grief, and through our extremities we have come to know our Savior a little more this year. I offer these two stories as testimony to the things we have learned in much harder and wrenching ways than these…
In December, the elementary school has “Holiday House,” where the kids can bring their money and buy presents for their families. One of our kids announced at dinner one Monday night that her class was going to Holiday House in the morning and she didn’t have any money. David offered to give her some. The next morning she called from the school because she had forgotten her money, and asked me to bring it to her. Are you keeping score? David gave her money. I brought it to school. We are kind and beneficent parents. When I arrived at the school in my pajamas and two-day-old makeup (another point for us…look at that sacrifice!), she was upset (yes, there were tears) and frustrated (yes, there was yelling) and put-out (yes, there was complete meltdown) that I was making her late for class.
Where was the kiss? the hug? the “You’re the best, Mom!”? or even the smile?
I mean, look at the score! I have given my whole life for this girl. I was violently ill for a good three weeks just creating her mouth, which was now screaming at me. To say nothing of the ensuing years I have spent attending to all her needs. And now she’s upset because I gave her ten dollars? Surely, I did not deserve this kind of treatment. I could not even look at her. I had to turn my head and wait for her to slam the door.
One day this fall, as I was driving Caleb home from swimming, the discussion turned serious. As the tears slid down his earnest cheeks he explained how he had been having some strange dreams. And then he said, with a heart brimming with heavy burden, “Mom, I think maybe Heavenly Father is trying to tell me something, but I don’t know what it is. I’m worried I can’t understand what He’s telling me.”
My heart broke as I looked at the load my son carries, the ache in his heart to be as perfect as he can, the earnestness with which he has always lived his life. He has lived his ten years with intent, on a mission, like he has something to do and so he better just get about doing it. His guilelessness was my undoing. And I wept for my boy that has a head full of such serious thoughts.
As my heart throbbed and my throat burned, I remembered another boy who came to earth with a heavy mission to fulfill. I saw a little more clearly, what that really cost him. He gave up his whole life, not just his life. And I thought of His mother and wondered about her grief as she watched him grow to manhood with the weight of the entire world on his slender shoulders. With her weight as well. And I wondered how she could stand it.
Look at the score. He came to earth, born with the burden of eternity already on him, bound by his word and his covenant to save us all. And yet, He never looked at the score, never counted the cost, gave everything without requiring anything in return.
As I drove away from my daughter that Tuesday morning, my heart ached and I sobbed all the way home, realizing that I had not treated her as Christ would have, that I could not manage to treat my own precious daughter with true kindness, with true beneficence. My sacrifice was a stingy sham, only an imitation of the real thing. I was awestruck, again, at how Christ does it. How he could make such a complete sacrifice, and then never turn his back when we forget, when we make mistakes, when we are angry about the way He gives his gifts. He never resents us or turns His head. I found this unfathomable. I went home and knelt down and prayed for forgiveness, again. And He graciously granted it, again.
“O to grace, how great the debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!”
This is why we kneel and worship Him at this Christmas season and always. Because no matter our reaction, his response is always love. I imagine his little newborn heart beating away, already heavy because of what was to come. Not because of destiny, but because of His choice. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and a boy also. We give glory and humble praise to Him who knows how to love us and succor us and save us even when we don’t deserve it, and whose kindness and beneficence are real and everlasting.
With love and wonder at His love,
David, April, Caleb, Olivia, Savannah, and Ethan