Christmas Eve 2011
I truly had no idea how much was packed into those 5 syllables. Those two words we had been planning for, praying about, and eagerly anticipating for weeks now.
I loaded up all 20 people into our 8 seater van, climbed up into the driver’s seat to take everyone home after this special Christmas Eve night at the hospital maternity ward…and the tears began running down my cheeks. Before I could even start the engine and back the van out of the hospital parking lot, the weight…the magnitude of this night came pressing down into my soul. I could not stop thinking, could not stop feeling, could not stop remembering…the touches, the smiles, the tears, the sobs, the gratitude, the beauty, the ugly, the joy, the sad. I could not seem to get the faces out of my mind.
The faces of these women. These precious mothers.
When we first arrived at the maternity ward, there were fewer mothers than we expected. I was surprised, but the nurses had sent many of the mothers home for Christmas – the ones who were at least healed enough to make it home. The ones still remaining…they were the needy ones. The ones who truly and so desperately needed a Merry Christmas. Who desperately needed a smile. A hug. And yes, maybe a tear shed, too. Maybe some sympathy. Some understanding. Someone to care.
These mothers. Some of them alone. Spending this Christmas in the hospital by themselves. After having lost a firstborn baby girl. After losing a third born baby boy. After a miscarriage. With their newborn in an incubator. Thinking. Grieving. Many of them with no one. Many of them hungry.
These were the mothers who were left to spend their Christmas in the maternity ward. The Lord knew. He always does. The Lord knew who would be there, who needed gifts, who needed extra love. So, because there were fewer women, we were able to spend more precious individual time talking, praying…loving on each one.
All that I seemed to be able to do was hug them, cry with them, smile, laugh, weep – all of it. My emotions just seemed to pour forth. So many mothers, all with their own personal story. I wanted to know them all. I wanted to pray for each one. While listening to their little voices share about their babies and life as the tears streamed down their cheeks, I wanted to just wrap them in my arms and be able to hug all of the pain, the hurt, the heartache away.
I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t…
but I knew Who could.
For this special Christmas event, I took all of the children with me…and then a few more. In the midst of craziness with mothers, nurses, gift bags, babies, people everywhere…I watched my daughter. I watched her follow her Mommy everywhere she went. She watched Mommy cry; she watched Mommy pray; she watched Mommy give. And as she watched Mommy, Mommy watched her.
Her little face lit up each time she said those precious special words, “Merry Christmas”. Each time she walked over with her biggest smile on her face while wearing her cute Christmas red dress from “Jaja”…and so sweetly handed over the gift goodie bag. I watched as she leaned in so gently to kiss the newborn baby’s head. All the while, I pray that she is learning. And not just learning “Christmas”…but learning Jesus. Christmas is Jesus. Christmas is God. Christmas is giving. Yes, I have grown up my entire life hearing it, learning it, living it….and thankfully watching it lived out by my own parents and so many around me. I have given before…but this time is different. This Christmas is different…I have very many little eyes watching me as their example.
It is now my turn. Now, it’s my turn to be the example. Now it is my turn to show my own children what Christmas is really all about. It’s about a baby named Jesus. It’s about God’s gift to the world. And now, as His children…as His hands and feet…we give God’s gift to others. We show His love to one another. We give His precious love to these mothers and babies. God gave His most precious gift to me at Christmas. I should give mine to Him.
Of course, that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s the cliché I have heard for many years, by so many people, told to so many children…but it still rings true. And God really seemed to be pounding it home in my heart as I prepared for this “Hospital Christmas”. As I pondered what that really is – what is my most precious gift? What can I truly give to God that is so precious to me? That is as precious as Jesus Christ, God’s One and Only Son, was to Him? What in the world do I have to give to Him? What do I have as a gift as precious for Him? God gave away His most precious gift, His most treasured possession. That is what He gave to me.
So…what must I give to Him?
I have heard many people say, “Give Him your heart. God give your heart.” But that still doesn’t seem like enough. I have given Him my heart. Already. He has it. He knows it. So, what now? As I thought about it, as I thought about giving Him my most precious gift. My most treasured possession. Just as He gave to me. I asked myself, “What is most precious to me? What is that gift, that possession?”
It’s Jesus. that’s what it is. My most precious gift, my most treasured possession. Yes, it is Jesus. So…I must give Jesus to Jesus. I must give Jesus, my most treasured possession, to God. How? If that is what I must give God in return for giving me His most treasured possession, my greatest love in the world, how do I do it?
Jesus whispered to my soul, “You must give Me away. Give My love away. Give your love back to Me, but not in the way you think. By loving others, you love Me. Yes, you love Me. You have already given your heart, soul, mind, and strength to Me. I already have your love. So, now…to love Me more, to show Me more love: Pour My love out of yourself and into the lives of others. Love my children for me. Be My hands and feet. Give them Me.”
In awe, my soul quietly asks, “Who but You, Jesus? Who but You could give Yourself to me, so that I can give You away to others? Who but You, could fill me with Your love, that I may pour it into the hearts and souls of others…and then fill me up to overflowing again? Who but You?”
These are the questions I ask. The answer is: Only He, Only He could let Himself be my most precious gift so that when I give Him away - He just fills me with more of Himself. Only then is He given back to me ten fold. Only He could be that wonderful and design it that beautifully. Only He could craft Himself in such a way so that when I give Him away - I only receive more of Him, more of His love. That when I pour Him out - He fills me up again to overflowing. Only He…only Jesus.
Jesus is my most precious gift. I gave Him away that night.
I kept remembering the moments. Not seeing the baby on the bed beside this mother, I figured the grandmother had taken the baby for bathing, so as I knelt down beside her bed, I asked the normal, usual questions, “Where is your baby? Is it a boy or a girl?”
Something inside of me broke. The happiness of the woman on the bed beside her. The sweet baby boy on the other bed – other mothers’ Christmas presents. Happy and healthy.
As this mother lies on the bed. Her baby gone from her. No Christmas gift. No Christmas baby. No excitement. Only loss and heartache.
I see the tear roll down her cheek. And mine come flowing quickly. She misses her baby girl. Her first born child. Who is now being rocked in heaven by the very Baby Jesus whose birth we will celebrate in fine fashion tomorrow. But sometimes that is of very little comfort at a time like this, when the pain seems too much to bear. And sometimes the only words of hope I can offer are, “Jesus loves you. And I do too.” The “I’m praying for you”, and “Your baby is in heaven now, and it will be ok”…those words sound so empty even to my own ears.
But I can only hope that maybe somehow through the smile. Through the watery smile that I am attempting through the flowing tears and held back sobs. Through the “Merry Christmas”, the hug, the sympathy, the understanding, the care. Through all of it, but most of all…through the love. That through it all she will see Jesus. Through the love in my eyes that I can only hope she sees and feels. That she will know the love that can only come from the precious Savior who was laid in a manger. His love. That is the most precious gift. My Jesus. Her Jesus. Our Jesus. Given for us…given for us so that we might give Him away. Given into our lives so that we might give Him away into the lives of others. That we might let His love and life pour from us into another. That through it all this is what she sees.
Christmas. What Christmas is really all about. Jesus came for the lost and dying and needy.
He came for me. That was me.
He came for the world. That is all of us without Him.
As I touched each precious face and held them in my hands, the love was almost overwhelming.
I want them to grow to know that Jesus was a servant. Jesus was a giver. And that is what He calls us to be…His servants. His givers. Givers of Himself…of His gospel. And handing those small gift bags, giving those hugs, smiling into those faces….blessed me more than I believe I could ever bless anyone else. I walked out of the maternity ward behind all of my children, family and friends, and the dam of held back tears broke. I believe the weight of it all truly hit me. I held my 9 month old daughter as I leaned against a pole outside the maternity ward. “Lord, what is this? My heart is breaking. I feel like I gave, but Lord, it feels like I gave so little. So little. What is sugar and soap? What is an baby outfit and salt? What is a Christmas meal? Lord, they need so much - so much more than I can give.”
“Amy. You gave them Me. You gave them Me. And I am absolutely 100% all that they will ever need. I am the Healer. The great Physician. But more than that…I am the Life. I am the Living Water - these who drink from Me will truly never thirst again. You gave them living water. You gave them the Bread of Life - you showed them the Way. What more could they ask for, Amy? What more could they ask for?”
I backed the van out of that parking lot and headed home.
Jesus. My most precious gift, my most treasured possession.