I confess, I wasn’t feeling very . . . festive in the days leading up to Christmas. A big life change that would have taken us back to the Dallas area suddenly disappeared, leaving me looking at a future in Austin with a husband working an all-consuming job. Needless to say, it didn’t feel like a very Merry Christmas to me. Especially as I wrapped for someone else a present I would have loved to receive from my husband. But we were foregoing gifts this year in lieu of a trip.
Still, in the midst of my pity party, a piece of my heart hoped. Not really for the thing itself, but for the gesture. For the part of the giving that says, “I see you. I love you. We’re in this together.” Yet as the days drew near and we boarded an airplane with the minimum amount of luggage we could manage, I knew there wouldn’t be a last minute surprise. There simply wasn’t room for him to smuggle the gift in his tightly packed suitcase. And that was fine. I know my husband loves me, even in those moments when my feelings attempt to tell me differently.
Then it was Christmas morning, and I knew, in spite of everything, it would be okay. In fact, it would be better than okay. Stripped of all the trappings, I woke thinking of Jesus and all He’s done for me, the meaning of Christmas that can’t be dimmed or diminished, even when waking up in a hotel room without a tree or decorations or any of our children.
As usual when we travel, my husband left coffee on the bedside table before heading to the lobby to read the paper. I stumbled from bed to find my phone, plugged in across the room. On top of it were some small drawstring bags. My mouth dropped open. He’d gotten me something. It wasn’t the thing I had coveted the past few weeks, but he hadn’t forgotten, either. The tears started then. I eased open the first bag and turned it upside down. As the silver necklace dropped out of the bag and pooled into my hand, I cried harder. Weeks ago we’d been at the mall–something very rare for us. We’d wandered into Brighton, where I’d looked, once again, for earrings to replace the ones I loved and lost a few years ago. Ones that matched a heart necklace. If I remember right, my husband was on his phone most of our time in that store. And we left empty-handed. But apparently he’d heard. He hadn’t forgotten. And he’d taken time out of his incredibly busy schedule to make another trip to the mall–in December!–to pick out a new necklace and earrings. They weren’t the gift for his assistant that I had coveted. They were better. For they were personal. They were just for me.
As I sat in that hotel room on Christmas morning, crying tears of guilt and shame for my recent attitude and tears of joy in the tangible evidence that my husband sees and loves me, I knew I was also crying for the gift the Lord gave me this Christmas. The gift of knowing that He sees and knows me, too. That no matter the circumstance, He is with me. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe this–or would have stopped believing if there had been no gift. The gift simply underscored what I had already chosen to cling to, in spite of my disappointment. And I’ll continue to remember the Lord’s faithfulness every single time I put that jewelry on. The Lord’s faithfulness–and my husband’s.
And so 2017 will go down in my memory as one of the best. Not for the family gathered or the actual gift received, but for the reminder that Christmas is Jesus. And Jesus is the gift that goes with me every single day of the year.