Last night, I fell asleep reading on the couch. Around one o’clock, one of the small, furry creatures that lives with me jumped on my chest and woke me up long enough that I thought about finding my bed, but not long enough for me to actually haul my carcass up the stairs. The dog, in fact, snuggled into a small empty spot behind the crook of my knees, and we both fell back to sleep.
When dawn started to brighten the windows in the living room, I once again awoke. Lying there, with the stockings on the mantle in view, I started to think about past Christmases we’ve shared as a family.
My church’s Christmas Eve service is less pageant and more fellowship. Last night, someone asked if a few people would like to share a favorite Christmas memory. In my current decaffeinated state, my brain isn’t working as frantically as it once did. I’m an introvert anyway. I couldn’t come up with anything at the time. As I prayed and watched the dawn break this morning, I did remember one of my favorite Christmas moments with my son, Jacob. I won’t go into every serendipitous occurrence that brought us to this point, but I’ll never forget six-year-old Jake cracking a smile of pure, spontaneous joy and crying, “This is the best Christmas ever!”
Outside, shapes started to emerge from the dark and the fog—a frosty white Christmas is a gift in itself—and as I listened to the sound of my family starting to stir, I thought about how happy Jake’s joy made me that Christmas morning. There are few gifts more precious to a parent than seeing your children overtaken by joy. Nothing compares.
I’ve had a beautiful life, but it’s not been without struggle, pain, tragedy and trauma. My main theme over the past decade has often been one of perseverance… in life, in faith. I don’t expect this life or this relationship with the Uncreated Creator to ever get any easier. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling an almost overwhelming gratitude, and as the apostle Paul wrote to the earliest Christians in his letter to the Philippians, a journey with God that is filled with gratitude is also the road that leads to peace and joy.
One of the names for God is Everlasting Father. Gratitude—for what has been, for what will be—thankfulness that leads to joy is a gift I can give my Father. His joy is my joy. Mine is His. He in me, me in Him. It always comes back to the eternal, the everlasting. He is the most loving, most merciful, the kindest of fathers, giving only good gifts. No matter what, I want to give Him my joy. On every beautiful day, every normal one and in the darkest hours—Christmas day and every day—as long as He is my father, as long as I am His child…best day ever!