The Joyful Work of Remembering God’s Gift

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Matthew Smith turkey square

It’s December 25, 2009. My son is just over a month old in his blue booties, the ones I bought this summer in Italy when I went to Lake Como for a writer’s conference.

And I feel like Hannah. Aiden is my miracle child, the one we’ve been praying for the past few years, the one we’d been prayed over for on national television by a pastor whose own mother had been told she couldn’t have children.

He is my Samuel, and I’ve been dedicating him back to the Lord ever since the 32-hour delivery and the sleepless nights and the learning to latch and the hormones.

The other day we went to pick out a tree, a blue spruce. My mother-in-law was with us and Aiden asleep in the car seat. And I gently picked him up and held him close as I smelled the evergreen, remembering Christmases past—opening those tiny little cereal boxes because we ate homemade granola every other day of the year, Mum’s red felt stockings stuffed full of chocolates and pencils and deodorant and soaps; the little red boots by our pillows overflowing with sesame crackers and chocolate kisses; jumping on our parents’ bed at six thirty in the morning and waiting for Dad to light up the tree before we stepped into the living room, aglow with presents piled high and a real tree decorated with childhood ornaments.

Years later, Mum is now sick with brain cancer and I’m in charge of the turkey; Dad stuffs the little red boots the night before and quickly wraps stocking stuffers in pieces of used wrapping paper, and it’s all the more beautiful for the wear and tear, and the exhausted effort, and I want my son to know the deep-rooted pleasures of Christmas—what it means to walk into a room aglow with Christmas lights and the love of Jesus.

Because we do the Gift Catalogue too. We do Operation Christmas Child, but Christmas to me is a chance to give to those close, as well; to see eyes light up as they tear paper and find a shiny new toy, just for them. I want to give generously to those far and near, and I want to delight in the smells of the Yuletide—turkey, stuffing, cinnamon buns, evergreen trees—while knowing that all of this is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

We were always poor growing up, so Christmas was extravagant. We were pastor’s kids who knew the nativity story inside and out, but come December 25th, we knew it with our bodies and souls: We saw it in the generosity of our parents, in the effort to pull together a beautiful feast, in the drawing close of family and adopted relatives, in the fact that Dad could be home with us instead of out there, visiting others. It was all, a gift.

I hold my son close. It’s Christmas Day and Mum is asleep in her blue La-Z-Boy and Dad is reading the Christmas story. We’re all gathered, with our spouses, and Mum and Dad have a fake Christmas tree now and I’m the one who’s baking pies but when we gather like this, we remember. And we celebrate God’s gift to us—not just in the crèche or in the pages of Scripture, but transfigured amongst us: Jesus, year-round, the gift that was born and died and rose again, the ever resurrecting Lily of the Valley.

We sing "Away in a Manger" and outside, snow is gently falling. It’s Christmas, and the angels are amongst us.

May you know, son, the holiness of a life unfolding beneath the Star of Bethlehem.


Emily Wierenga is wife to a math-teacher husband; mother and foster mother to four boys; an artist and columnist; and author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, and A Promise in Pieces (Spring 2014). Visit or find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Image by Matthew Smith. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.