Christmas Tears

Christmas is a time known for surprises.

My tears unexpected.

As is our custom, we attended a Christmas Eve service. The day before we celebrated with our son’s family at their Church’s service. This night just the two of us visited a nearby church anticipating the joy of this season. No distractions from grandchildren tonight.

I found the service a wonderful blend of traditional carols and newer songs. The antics of the 50-plus member children’s choir brought smiles of reminiscence. What unabashed joy. What complete honesty. How many parents embarrassed by their child’s antics wished they hadn’t insisted on recording the performance?

In the midst of these positive moments I thought, “My parents would enjoy this service.”

With that thought, tears came. My father had died four months ago. My mother five years before that. The very lack of distractions provided the setting for grief. I took the time to worship and met my God. And the tears came.

Gently yet relentlessly the emotional incoming tide engulfed me. I allowed myself to remember my parents. Mom loved Christmas. Everything about Christmas: decorating, cooking, gift-giving, but especially family get-togethers. Those often included Christmas Eve services.

For his part Dad added the wonder to Christmas. He always found a way to surprise us on Christmas morning. When we went to bed Christmas Eve only a handful of gifts (deposited by us kids) adorned the tree skirt. In the morning a veritable gift mountain filled half the living room. (At least that’s what the child me remembers!)

Tears during the service were not simply my missing my parents. They represented a deep gratitude for the gifts my parents gave. As much as I liked unwrapping those gifts Christmas morning, the physical presents were not the ones for which I wept.

My parents presented me with love and presence; they gave of themselves more than they themselves received. They modeled God’s love; released us, their children, to follow God in our own way; of demonstrated hospitality and serving God as partners; and showed us what grandparenting entailed.

Those unexpected Christmas tears also reminded me of all the gifts my Heavenly Father gives. This night the memories revolved around my irreplaceable gift of family. And there are many other gifts God has given me over the years.

All the gifts I recalled that night lead me back to the Gift of the Christmas season. As much love as my parents demonstrated, their love dissipates like morning mist when compared to God’s love in sending Jesus. A birth destined to change history. I know it changed me.

The tears of that Christmas came unexpected and I received them as a gift from my loving Heavenly Father.

Thank you for the gift of Christmas tears: unexpected and profound.

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