~ About 2,000 years ago~
He’s absolutely perfect.
Looking down at the sleeping one cradled in my arms, I placed my hand on the tiny bundle, and I watched it rise and fall with each of his breaths.
“Are you awake, Dearest? We have visitors.” My beloved’s whisper broke through the spell that had held me enraptured. I looked up to meet his gaze.
“But, Joseph…” He came closer and bent down, wiping the drops of sweat from my brow with the edge of his cloak.
“It’s alright, Mary. They were sent here by the angel – to see the little one.” He kissed the top of the baby’s downy head, and I could see that he would let no harm come to us this night – or ever.
I nodded my agreement, and Joseph turned back toward the entrance of where we were staying. It wasn’t much, but it was cozy. A peaceful place to rest after our long journey – a haven for my new little family. I looked back down. My little family, I thought as I nuzzled his cheek to mine.
I could see the silhouettes of the shepherds enter our room. They came close and knelt down right there on the dirt floor. I looked into the faces of the ones before me, and I realized that they didn’t seem to notice my presence. Their gazes were fixed on our precious gift.
One young man leaned his head against the staff that he was holding, glimmering eyes full of wonder and hope. I saw tears well up in the eyes of one of the older men. As he blinked, they spilled over and onto his wrinkled cheek. Each one of them knelt and watched.
I’m not sure how long we stayed like that, adoring this tiny treasure as he slept, but as he let out a sigh, he stretched up a little arm above his head. His lashes began to flutter and then opened to see the world. His dark eyes, as deep as the night sky, met mine. Standing behind the shepherds, Joseph had the proud look of a new father as he watched over us. I shifted my arms and held the baby up a bit higher so the men could see him even better. I caught a few smiles behind the bearded faces of our visitors.
The shepherds rose one-by-one and came closer. They put their fingers to their lips, and gently touched the swaddled little one in my arms before fading back into the night. The oldest of the men was the last to go. Traces of a tear still glistened down his cheek. He, too, touched the tips of his fingers to his lips, and reached out toward us. The baby caught hold of the shepherd, and wrapped his tiny, perfect little hand around the rough and weathered man’s dusty finger. The old and the new. The soiled and the pure. Heaven and earth…touching at last.
As the old man turned to join the others on their journey into the night, I could hear their low voices in a chorus of praise.
I closed my eyes, held my breath, and willed myself to always remember this moment. I never want to forget our visitors that night. I want to hold on to my beautiful baby boy, the coziness of being with my little family, and the way that my heart feels like it could burst with joy! I will treasure these memories always…
Ten years ago this December, I was 9 months pregnant with my oldest son, Camden. I treasured that Christmas with the anticipation of my baby’s birth. I remember rubbing my belly and telling my Camden how much he was loved. A couple of weeks later he was born with a massive cone-head, a bruise on his nose, and crazy Troll Doll hair, but he was mine…and he was perfect.
My Aiden arrived a little over eight years ago. I remember that he smelled like grapes or raisins when he was little. He had terrible tummy aches when he was a baby, during his first Christmas, so I spent many hours holding him up on my shoulder, nuzzling his curly hair with my cheek. His big eyes intently studied the lights on our Christmas tree.
Quinn’s first Christmas found me as a newly separated mother. I had watched my marriage crumble, and I was doing everything in my power to try to save it. This was a bittersweet time – a time mourning loss, the birth of a tiny hope, and the joy that my three little boys brought to my life.
The next Christmas found me as a single mother. I scrimped and saved my pennies to provide gifts for my children. I took them to see Christmas lights, we picked out a tree together, and we made a birthday cake to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
My Beloved was with us for the next Christmas, and we made so many memories together – our new little family. He hung Christmas lights outside our house, we went to a Christmas tree farm, we opened presents in our pajamas, and we toasted each other with sparkling grape juice.
So many memories…so many moments where I wanted to capture the look on their faces and the feeling of those that I love around me. Just like Mary, I want to tuck these precious memories deep into my heart…and treasure them always.
What about you? What are some of the memories of Christmases past that you have pondered and kept in the treasury of your heart? My hope is that this Christmas season will give each of you many more of those special times with the ones that you love. Hold on to them, drink them in, and never let go.
*Photo credit – the first and fourth photos are courtesy of NZ Portraits by Joanne.
My Beloved and I got a little more than we bargained for when I went to visit him in Mississippi...