The kids and I sat around the Christmas tree, loaded with presents from my mom who just can’t help herself and we look at each gift trying to guess what they are. My daughter and I don’t like surprises but over the years I have *tried* to accept that surprises can be a good thing and I pray that my daughter will get there too.
My son is holding up gifts and asking what each one is including the ones that aren’t his. Finally he says “it’s so weird how I can’t wait to know but I don’t want the surprise to be ruined either!” I smile at him as he picks up his hockey stick and starts to toss the ball around with the dog. The dog gets one up on him by finding another ball and so the double-puck hockey game begins.
Buddy backs up trying to prepare for where the ball will go next and he sits on baby Jesus laying there in the manger. I say “Buddy get your butt off Jesus!” my daughter freaks out that I am talking about “that guy” again and my son is laughing so hard that when the dog finally moves he picks up the little Jesus and he says “sorry”.
Then he begins to talk as he tosses that ball around some more. Asking about Jesus and guessing that at least one animal in that “stinkin barn” must’ve licked the face of the Christ-child. My mind wanders away from the scene in front of me and to that space of time all those years ago and I wonder to myself if the baby Jesus was as powerful as the Man. Did the mothers who ooh’d and awe’d over this special baby receive healing when they cradled Him or kissed His chubby cheeks? Did those animals that knew no better and reached in and touched him fill up with this new Master’s love and grace?
I am brought back to reality when my daughter says she doesn’t believe in God and she would rather go to Hell anyway. I see the damage that the past has done to her and her fear of anything good happening to her so instead she expects the worst because then anything better is a bonus. My heart breaks just a little more and yet I understand exactly where she comes from and how she feels. I want to hold her in my arms and whisper to her that she will always be loved. I want her to realize that God’s love is eternal and real. I want to be able to wipe her tear stained cheeks and pull her out of the deep that she has planted herself in and yet I know that I can only pray for her because I have been exactly where she is, stuck in a hole of black.
My son announces through slap-shots against the wall that he is going to Heaven because He believes that Jesus is our Saviour and the only way to eternal salvation. My ten year old boy says “why would I want eternal damnation when I could have eternal SALVATION” and it all makes sense to this mama who looks over at the angry daughter and prays.
She begins to giggle at her dog and gets excited about Christmas and I see glimmers of hope and deep down I know that she will be okay. I realize maybe for the first time that getting her the physical stuff that she wants isn’t going to help her heal. No hamster in the world can replicate God’s great love. So I hold my nearly empty mug of hot cocoa and for the first time in months I feel peace. God is with us. Immanuel. Right there in our messy, hockey filled living room with the TV showing the game and the kids playing and the dogs barking and yes, He is right there in the here and now changing our ugly into beautiful and like water into wine the hopeless is given grace and the room fills with hope.