Do you remember a Christmas that changed you? One that is so extraordinary in some way that as you revisit Christmases past, it pushes and shoves its way to the front of your mind and cries out, "Surely you remember me."
I have one of those.
It is the Christmas I became a mother.
My world changed that year. Christmas changed. I sat and watched my new baby lying on a blue and white gingham blanket monogrammed with his name, Jackson Henry - staring with wonder up at the lights on our tree - and I simply could. not. believe. that he was mine.
Did God know that this gift of my son would pale every other gift I'd ever received? Did He know that I would never be the same? Did He know that soft skin and baby toes and this new kind of love would bind my husband and I together in a way nothing else ever could?
Did He know that it would change Christmas for me? Forever?
Surely He did. He, after all, was the Giver of this most precious gift. And, doesn't the Giver wait in anticipation as the one He loves opens and treasures and discovers?
I learned something that year.
The most meaningful gifts are not things.
But, Sarah - you're a Christian. Did you not know that before?
No, dear friend. I did not.
Christmas in my mind and heart was the exchanging of meaningful things. And, the things represented what was in the heart. An understandable approach, I suppose.
But, the year I birthed my son, God reached into my heart and showed me that material things - exchanged even with the noblest of intentions - will be reduced to dirt on the ground when compared to the joy of mothering a child.
As I travel around town with my four children this Christmas season - I'm often on the receiving end of unfriendly looks and stares and whispered comments: "There are FOUR of them. Ugh. And, they're all BOYS."
Why, yes, dear stranger. They are. They are my Christmas gifts. They are not shiny or perfectly wrapped. They don't sparkle and they can't be turned on and off at will.
But, they will never end up in a garage sale or in a bag for the Goodwill. They - unlike the Tiffany's bracelet I received 10 years ago - will never tarnish in the bottom of a jewelry box.
They are my best gifts. This year. Every year.
The miracle of Christmas began with a new mother holding and loving her new baby.
Seven years ago, it began this way for me, too.