A beautifully embossed Christmas card arrived today, sealed in wax with an ancient royal signet ring. Mystified, I carefully opened the envelope hoping to keep the wax seal intact to show my husband the intricate beauty. As I pulled out the translucent parchment and began to read, my hands shook with disbelief. I paused to sit down and halt the flow of salty tears that threatened to run the ink on this priceless letter. I could hear the beating of my heart in the silent room as I resumed reading. The message was truly a tiding of great joy for my family, and a blessing more desirous than anything my heart could have hoped for. To tell you the contents of this note would almost be sacrilegious without great pomp and circumstance attached; yet poetry eludes me and song flies away in the face of this momentous note. So I will just write it bluntly, without the prescribed celebration. Jesus, the Son of God, will be visiting our house on Christmas Day!
There has never been enough money to go around during the holiday season. We always have more year, more month, and more day at the end of each paycheck. We always have more Christmas wishes and guests than our finances can afford, and this year our house will be full again with family and friends, full of love and joy. Each year my heart is filled with the desire to make everyone’s wish list come true and an inability to do so; and now I have the most famous guest of all arriving on December twenty-fifth. How am I to prepare of this? The King of the universe is coming to my humble dwelling. Royalty will be sitting on my old couch. Nothing in this house is clean enough for my Lord. Nothing will ever make my home worthy of such an arrival.
A week is all the time I have to clean, bake, decorate and shop. Only a week to prepare for Immanuel. How have the chosen few from Bible stories of old prepared for this type of visitation? The women during Passover so thoroughly clean their homes that no dust remains even in the darkest corners. Do I have time for that? I must! Jesus can’t enter this house with cobwebs in the eaves and fingerprints on the window panes.
What kind of meal should I prepare? Traditional? Gourmet? Or perhaps something Jewish in flavor? It has to be perfect. Nothing less will do! But I am far from a gourmet chef, so perhaps I should have this momentous meal catered. I better get a cookbook, as well as a restaurant guide, when I go to the store. Who will have the honor of sitting on either side of Him at the dining table? Should I draw straws as each family member enters the dining room? Jesus, of course, will sit at the head of the table. We will request His blessing on our feast, whatever we end up eating. Oh, who will monitor the topics of conversation? What if someone says something wrong? What if somehow we dishonor our Guest?
Finally, what kind of gift should I buy? What does a person wrap up in Christmas red and green for the owner of all the cattle on the hills? What could I possibly give the Give of Life?
So you see my dilemma. I am so honored, yet so unworthy, so unready. I have spent three days spring cleaning my home in the dead of winter. It has never been so sanitary. The carpets are clean, the windows Windexed, an the children’s toys have been wiped down and put in the proper places. Any sign of a mess will result in some form of discipline!
All the customary Christmas decorations are put in place. I wondered if I should put any Santa Clause decorations out, or leave them packed away for next year? Is there anything in my traditional Christmas that would offend my Guest?
I now face the challenge of a lifetime, the mission impossible, the task of finding the perfect present for God’s perfect gift to me. Ironically, I end up at the mall with a mass of humanity also looking for their perfect gifts as well. I wander through the shops and realize how ludicrous it is to search here for a gift for God. What would He want from a mall? A tie? a Sweater? After-shave? How about a monogrammed stationary set? I can just see it now, embossed in gold, “GOD” in the center of the page. Perhaps something from His creation would be more appropriate: a perfect poinsettia or basket of fruit might make a lovely gift. Yet after three days of frantic searching, I still haven’t found anything to wrap up for the King of kings. As I sit at the foot of our Christmas tree, looking at all the other gifts, I weep because of the loss I feel not having something for my Savior.
Christmas morning arrived and the children rushed out happily to ransack their stockings. I was caught up in their smiles and happiness as we sat down to read the Christmas Story from the Bible. As the story unfolded, and the children sat quietly listening to the part where the angel told the shepherds about Jesus’ birth, a quiet rap came from the front door. All became silent as we realized Whom the knock represented. I quickly surveyed the room and the children, as my husband and I made our way to the door. Were we ready to welcome the Birthday Guest into our home? Before I could answer the knock however, my youngest child reached the entry way, threw open the door, and jumped into the arms of Jesus.
My heart stopped as I watched Jesus walk through the door with my child hanging on His arm. This wasn’t how I planned this moment. Was Jesus offended by such a rambunctious and an utterly un-worshipful welcome? I was mortified at what it said about my child’s behavior and my parenting!
The moment of entry seemed to last an eternity, until the shrill squeals of my brood restarted the hand of the clock. I realized that I had been holding my breath, as I sharply exhaled. I then caught a glimpse of Jesus’ face and the delighted twinkle in His eyes, as He reached down to touch each child. How I wanted to weep and repent, dance and laugh, at my foolish heart. I recalled the verse in an instant, that says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not.” I had been so worked up about how to make my home, my children and my life acceptable, that I had forgotten that He only requires my love. Nothing more, but my love. All else had been done for me two thousand years ago on the cross.
He looked at me as He entered the room and held His arms open wide. I walked to Him and embraced Him with every ounce of love and devotion a hug could convey. He wiped the tears from my face and led me to the couch. We sat down and Jesus began to tell us about His Christmas Story. We were mesmerized as the familiar Sunday School lesson was told by the Author Himself. Awestruck, the children hardly moved as they listened to Jesus. The perfect Christmas gift sat on our couch and we worshiped Him.
As other guests arrived, the peace, joy and love that permeated our humble home, filled each heart. No other Christmas will equal the one spent with Jesus as the Honored Guest. Never will I forget how He played with the new train set or teasingly put on the princess crown and feather boa. Always will we remember the laughter over Christmas dinner and the reverent thanks offered to God our Father.
However, my greatest memory was the forgiveness, unconditional acceptance and the love His smiling face, twinkling eyes and warm hug conveyed to me. Merry Christmas my Lord! I am honored to have You in my house each and every day!
Written by Mary Selby for her children Christmas 2003.