I tried to wake up as fast as possible, before everyone else in our home in the suburbs of Sacramento. If I were to beat every single person in waking up, it would be this day. As soon as I got out of my room I see everyone already waiting for me. We all gathered by the Christmas tree with the presents underneath the ornaments. Our wooden floor was completely empty until the frenzy began. This was everything we looked forward to the past few months. The excitement was found in the mystery and the expectation. If we had a Christmas tradition growing up, it would have to be the presents.
One of my favorite movies of all-time is “(500) Days of Summer” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. This film is a great depiction of the cycle of love mixed into the cycle of life filled with raw emotion. There was a scene that I find so compelling where Tom Hansen, played by JGL, is fed up with his job as a card writer for a greeting card company. He basically says that people use these cards as a way to tell people how they feel even though they can’t put the words together themselves. Similarly, the presents that we give are sometimes tokens of thanks and love that we often can’t say with our lips. Presents are peculiar because although they are materials, they can also be healing. These gifts offer us the ability to let people know that we love them in a physical way when we don’t have the words or they can also be a clear sign that we know someone’s wants and needs.
It still remains my favorite holiday of the year. Christmas is a hopeful excuse to bring your focus back to what really matters in life. Sure, the gifts are great but those things are just stuff. Not saying that receiving stuff is a bad thing, the only thing that can be bad is when you lose sight of the source. I love Christmas because it is used as a day to draw us in to God, but in doing so it draws us to each other.
I find it so fascinating that a name for the Savior of the world is “Immanuel”, which means ‘God with us’. I am fascinated by the concept of “us”. It is beautiful to believe that God has always wanted us to not just commune with Him, but also with us all together. One of the reasons why gifts are so important to my family is because they bring us together, even if it is only for a few minutes.
Truly, I must admit that my family is pretty good at giving gifts. I look forward to updating my wardrobe or helping my family out with theirs. Sometimes we get more helpful gifts like gadgets, massagers, or anything else you can get at Brookstone. But I must say, the greatest gift that I have ever received was not a material at all.
I never really believed in miracles. Well, I really did not believe in anything. Growing up, my faith was diminishing quickly. My friend had once told me that religion was something that people created to explain things before science and I took on that same belief. I found myself coasting through life until my mom one day got really sick and ended up being in the emergency room, then after she was transferred to the intensive care unit, or ICU. That whole time, with exception to a few brief moments, she was in a drug-induced coma. For the first time, I wanted to believe.
My memory is a little cloudy, but there was this one night when I was laying on my side hopeless in my twin size bed. Even a glimmer of hope was so far away. Yea, I was hopeless. I was in bed hopeless and I decided to pray.
The lyrics to the Sam Smith song, “Pray” are so real but also so very relatable. Honestly, they depict the battle for hope far better than most Christian songs.
You won’t find me in church (no)
reading the Bible (no)
I am still here and I’m still your disciple
I’m down on my knees, I’m beggin’ you, please
I’m broken, alone, and afraid
I’m not a saint, I’m more of a sinner
I don’t wanna lose, but I fear for the winners
When I try to explain, the words run away
That’s why I am stood here today
And I’m gonna pray (Lord), pray (Lord), maybe I’ll pray
Pray for a glimmer of hope
Maybe I’ll pray (Lord), pray (Lord), maybe I’ll pray
I’ve never believed, and you know, that I’m gonna pray
I remember I was 15 years old, trying to make sense out of my mother’s suffering. I couldn’t find the answers, but I just prayed. I prayed and I just talked to God, I told him “This doesn’t make sense to me. Why would you do this? Why would you do this to such a good person like my mom? Why would you do this to me and my family?” Crying out, I said, “I don’t even know if you exist, so show me you’re out there.” That would be my glimmer of hope.
Some of my most miraculous prayers have been the times when I was most desperate. My mom was on life-support and could not do anything on her own. She wasn’t even conscious. Until one day, it was Christmas Eve. For whatever reason my mom was awake. When I went to see her in the ICU she was fully conscious, but not functional. She could see us and communicate, although limited. Looking back every moment was beautiful. It was almost like the dead came alive. That was my Christmas Miracle and that will always be the best gift that I could ever receive for Christmas. There is nothing better than being able to say goodbye. She ended up being awake for 3 straight days until her health declined again and then her struggle was finally over.
I know it’s weird to say, but after my mom lost her life I gained mine. A glimmer of hope was all I needed and I finally believed in a God who listens. Maybe He doesn’t do all the amazing things that you ask Him to, but all I know is that He does listen and if you really want to seek Him, He will find you. God gave me a miracle that Christmas and that was the gift of a goodbye. In my eyes, God’s hand was all over it. I think He was trying to help me pay attention to what truly matters. He didn’t want me, my mom, or anyone else in my family to celebrate Christmas alone. Immanuel means “God with us.” We were never meant to live this life alone. Christmas is the time where God moves us in to Him, but also pushes us to move closer to each other because that is what truly matters. Not presents but presence.