My parents split just as I was scraping the surface of adolescence. They decided to alternate who had my brothers and me on holidays. Christmas was always my favorite. I loved the traditions – riding around looking at Christmas lights, baking cookies, cutting down a tree, decorating, listening to Christmas music, shopping, gifts, Santa and all. I didn’t mind the commercialism one bit.
The first Christmas my dad had us kids was hard. It was the first year we didn’t wake up on Christmas morning in our childhood home. The year had been filled with change and transition for all of us and I just wanted to maintain what little sense of stability was left – being in my home. As any overly emotional teenage girl would, I had a dramatic meltdown. I said some pretty ugly things to my dad to let him know I was miserable, in case there was any shadow of doubt. My brothers and I shared a room filled with air mattresses that night and I cried myself to sleep wishing I was in my own bed.
Something happened between that night and Christmas morning. I dreamt of a star shining on a manger and a voice (that I could only assume was God) spoke, “Behold the Savior of the world, sleeping in a manger”. I woke up the next morning and ran out to hug my dad and tell him how sorry I was. I told him that God had reminded me of Jesus and how He spent the night in a manger because there was no room for Him at the inn. If a manger was good enough for the King of Kings, who was I to be crying over a warm bed?
I realized how selfish I had been and I had a change of heart. My dad thought it was strange, but he didn’t dare question it because he had known the alternative was worse. I know it may seem far-fetched and sure, you could chalk it up to just a dream. All I know is that I went to bed miserable and I woke up obnoxiously happy. I felt like Cindy Lou Who from the Grinch. I didn’t care about the gifts or where I was anymore. To me, there was no doubt I had experienced the special wonder of Christmas.
At this point in my life, I knew about Jesus but I didn’t yet have a relationship with Him. I grew up a “Chreaster”. You know, that term used to describe those families who go to church two times a year – on Christmas and Easter. That was my family and I’m not so sure we were devout Chreaster’s either. Honestly, I think I learned the basics about Jesus through listening to my Dolly Parton Christmas album.
It would still be many years after that Christmas morning until I had a relationship with Jesus, but it’s particularly special to me now that I do. I think back to that Christmas every year. It’s helped me to ask myself this question: Do I have room for Jesus? Room in my schedule? Room in my circumstance? Room in my heart?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the season that I miss the reason. This day celebrates the day God sent His Son into the world to be with us. Jesus left His home to be in a world that didn’t have room for Him, so He could make room for us in His Kingdom. He knew what His exit from this world held before He made His entrance. Yet, He still decided to trade His throne for a manger and came wrapped in flesh and blood anyway.
Jesus is the gift. What greater reason to celebrate is there?