Up Front and Personal

Her Christmas Moment Came Early This Year

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

This year, my Christmas Moment came on Thanksgiving Day.

It was not a typical Thanksgiving. My mom was dining out with my brother and his family four hours away. One son was working and the other was at his future in-laws’ house for the big meal. That left me and my husband in a quiet, lonely house on a dank and dreary day.

I spent most of the day cleaning the house for when the kids came home to celebrate the holiday weekend with us. It was during the dusting that the Moment struck. I took each framed photo off the hutch to clean them individually, and I paused to absorb each one. First, the black and white wedding photos of our parents, their history intertwined with ours, their love responsible for our joy. I held our own wedding photo, almost 30 years old, and the elation of that day was still palpable.

There were the photos from the delivery rooms when each of our children was born, the euphoria of those moments still fresh decades later. The relief I felt at knowing they were healthy remains today. I noticed that our babies’ eyes reflected their grandparents, even the ones they never knew.

I cleaned the sports photos, tons of them – baseball, basketball, football – from elementary school through college. I laughed out loud recalling how our house would smell like a locker room after each game or practice.

There were photos from First Communions, Confirmations, prom dates, graduations, an entire history of the life we have been so fortunate to live. It was our family album.

When I had finished and stepped back to admire their cleanliness, the Christmas Moment came. It comes once a year, when the essence of Christmas rushes into my body, penetrates my being and swells my heart with gratitude. It was unexpected, but there it was: I felt full. Complete. Overflowing.

In that Moment I fell on my knees in thankfulness to my God, who loves me so much He sent His Son to be born in the stench of a stable, the Word made flesh. A God who loves me so much He sent the Prince of Peace to show me wisdom and prudence and compassion, and help me pass those qualities on to my children. A God who loves me so much He allowed His Son to endure the dark humiliation of condemnation, torture and death so that I might know the Father’s love for me, so that I could be redeemed and live my family album.

My abundant blessings made this year’s Christmas Moment truly overwhelming for me. The tears streamed down my cheeks as I thanked the Lord for entering into the messiness of our lives, with all of its challenges, struggles and growing pains.

There was no tree up yet, no decorations, no presents, no lights on the outside of the house. But Christmas came anyway – bam! – right into my heart. Like the Whos down in Who-ville discovered, “it came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.” All it took was a dust rag and a can of Pledge.