Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas gifts

December 14, 2008: 

It is the first Christmas I’ve ever been apart from my family. I am in Bogota, Colombia. I became the mother of a 3 year old just two months ago. I live in a cold rainy city of 8 and 1/2 million, and now, at Christmas, I am alone.

Yes, on Christmas Eve, I will join the families at the farm, but this morning - they left. After all the Christmas parties and preparations, all the end of the year programs that stressed and wore on us all, they’re gone - every person I really called “friend.” The three Americans, the three young, single, English-speaking coworkers with whom I lived and laughed, had flown out together, never to return.

My child is sick. We just spent a day having a visit with the real mother, a mother who took his Christmas present to give to his baby sister. He did not say good-bye to our friends, to “Driana,” who laughed and played with him, nor to Rrrrryon,” who fixed his toys, not even to “Tylon,” his hero and my right hand; no, my child did not say good bye, only slept and cried.

And as I watched them walk into the boarding area at the airport, I cried with him. I laughed through my tears when our English friend asked if I was going home, then added, “on a bus?” but I cried through the bus ride. I cry tonight as my little one cannot sleep unless I sit and rock him. 

I cry out to my Jesus. And tonight, to the tune of a squeaky chair in a dark room, interrupted only the roar of traffic shaking the house, He answers. Not out loud, mind you, but He answers. Tonight the little hot sweaty head on my shoulder, the little arms clutching my neck, become a hug from Jesus, who feels my every weakness (Hebrews 4:15).

December 18, 2013:

It started at church, this wish. Our friendly church child (we have many children, but this one is the friendly one), asked cheerily, “What do you want for Christmas, Miss Rebecca?”

I couldn’t think of one thing to tell him. It’s too complicated to explain the things I want, and they’re too hard for someone else to get for me. They’re not necessarily big or expensive, but I guess with age comes a bit of pickiness. So I said, “Nothing, really.”

I figured it out tonight. Tonight was the 9th night in a row in which I’ve had to leave an event alone. Everyone else leaves talking to their families about all the things that happened, or headed home to take care of someone who’s waiting. And I leave. Leave to contemplate the changes thrust upon me. I hate change.

I lived in Latin America for a year. In Latin America, everyone hugs and kisses for greetings and farewells, including greetings and farewells two or three times a day if one should meet and depart on multiple occasions. And I worked with Latin children who crawl up in your lap and run by to hug you at random.

I’m glad I’m a teacher of a sweet and affectionate little class, because when I don’t have bus duty, 3/4 of them walk by and give me a hug on their way out of the classroom.

I have bus duty this week.

All I want for Christmas.... is a hug.


December 20, 2013

I stopped by the daycare on my way home. I meant only to pick up a couple of things, but I knelt for a moment to pull a little one off a table, and as I did so, Valeria came to me. She always greets me, but today, arms around my neck, head on my shoulder, she refused to let go. 

As I stood and lifted her with me, the staff told me she’d been needing extra attention all day. Perhaps she wasn’t feeling well, but no one was sure. I had nothing pressing, so I sat and held Valeria.

Thirty minutes later, I realized - I’d had my hug from Jesus, yet again. Through a very small child, the Comforter had come (John 14:16).


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14.

He put on skin and moved into the neighborhood. The mystery of God becoming man is just that - a mystery - and even more so when we think that He became a baby. A child. No wonder He loved children. No wonder He said WE should be as children in coming to Him. And no wonder we cry Abba, Father, in times of need (Gal. 4:6).

I can’t quite put into words the gift I was given in these Christmas moments, but I know this. He sent me a hug through an innocent child, just as He sent His Son the Innocent Lamb in the flesh. A gift of human hands is a hug, but a gift for all human hearts is Jesus, the Jesus we know through His Word.