It should’ve been our worst Christmas ever.
Adam and I were both working minimum wage jobs, just scraping by. We had no money for an elaborate Christmas. No time for baking Christmas cookies with the children. No plans to spend a week with family. We didn’t have any family close by.
Not like last year, I thought with a woeful grin. Last year, Adam had been working two jobs, and my stay-at-home job brought it quite a bit of money as well. We’d also only had one child instead of two. I’d spent two days baking cookies, and we’d gone caroling at the houses of friends and family. The snow had fallen down around the large house we lived in, creating the perfect holiday picture.
Except last year, Adam and I had been on the brink of divorce.
I pushed the memories from my head and hurried to the front door, shivering as I fought with the key. Stupid copy. That’s what happens with rentals, I guess. Twenty copies later and the key hardly fits.
The freezing rain dripped around me. No snow in Alabama, but it got cold.
“Go, go, go.” I ushered my toddler into the house and bumped in after him, baby on my hip. Christmas Eve. At least Adam and I didn’t have to work tomorrow.
“Look, Mommy!” Kenneth held up the plate of cookies he’d carefully carried in from the car. “We made cookies for Santa!”
I smiled and kissed his red nose. I was grateful that the daycare he attended celebrated Christian holidays. What with all the indignation about religion being taught in schools, at least I got to pick a daycare that believed in Christmas.
The baby squirmed in my arms and I put him down. I kept one eye on him and removed jackets, trying not to pay too much attention to the state of the house. That’s what happens when both parents work. Toys scattered the living room floor. The tree, which was missing the stand, leaned sideways against the large window. Dishes piled up in the sink, and cat food trailed from the kitty bowl to the bag.
Baby Ben couldn’t walk yet. That didn’t keep him from wiggling his way to the tree, pulling at the different ornaments.
There were no presents under the tree. But I knew where they were. Stuffed in various niches in my closet. A rush of excitement pushed through me, warming my fingers and toes. I could hardly wait for Adam to get home. It was Christmas Eve.
I set about making dinner while I waited, humming in anticipation. I hadn’t planned anything for Christmas dinner. We would have a lovely brunch after presents and spend the rest of the day lounging. We didn’t have the money or the need for a large feast. I laughed to myself. Christmas Eve dinner: macaroni and cheese.
The door opened behind me, and I turned around as Kenneth yelled, “Daddy!”
“Adam.” A smile spread across my face.
My husband scooped Kenneth up and wrapped me in a hug at the same time. “Hi.”
The love that poured between us reminded me that we had made a decision, not even a year ago, to save our marriage. The result, though not entirely unexpected, was that we gave up many financial securities, including jobs and homes. A total change of scene. New priorities. But it had worked.
Kenneth wiggled away and Ben pulled at Adam.
“Well!” Adam boomed. “It’s Christmas Eve! What have you got planned, Mama?”
I disappeared into our bedroom and came out with four presents, one for each of us. I placed them under the tree, allowing my small family a moment to admire them. “First, we’re going to eat dinner. Then, I have a list of Christmas songs to sing.” Carols. Nothing brought the Christmas spirit like a carol. “Then, we’re going to read the scriptures. And finally…we’ll see what gifts the Wisemen left for us under the tree.”
I felt Adam’s arm go around me and he nuzzled my neck. “I knew you had a plan.”
The only part of the evening that went without a hitch was dinner. Ben wasn’t interested in the carols, though he sure enjoyed trying to rip pages out of the scriptures. Kenneth sang along with a few songs, then pulled out a car and began to drive it around our lop-sided tree. Adam scooted closer to me and I huddled next to him, enjoying his body warmth.
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
I closed my eyes, listening to the deep, melodic tone of my husband’s voice as he read from Luke. The birth of our Savior. Kenneth’s voice buzzed in the background, making car noises. Ben opened a cupboard and began pulling out all the spices. My babies. Jesus had been a baby once. How Mary must’ve loved him.
I opened my eyes and studied my husband. Adam was an imperfect man. And I was an imperfect woman. But thanks to that little baby, our Savior, these two imperfect people had managed to come together and form a family. Thanks to that baby, this family had healed and was whole.
My eyes got misty and I shook my head. Adam looked at me. “You okay?”
The tears leaked out the sides of my eyes. I couldn’t contain them. Gratitude overflowed in my heart. What more could I possibly want for Christmas than this beautiful family around me? I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so happy. The birth of Jesus Christ, more than 2,000 years earlier, had saved us. It had saved my family.
I snuggled closer. “I love you. Merry Christmas.”
Adam closed the scriptures and held me, his brown eyes tender. “Merry Christmas, Kelly.”