It was not, unfortunately, in a spectacular, theatrical display of cross-country travel and thwarting would-be robbers with Christmas decor, Home Alone style.
It was the year that I was feigning a detached indifference; a casual shrug of the shoulder if someone asked how school was going, a practiced pout and perfected eye-roll at my much younger and so therefore clearly less sophisticated cousins, despite my secret desire to join in their games.
Our family tradition involved us sitting in a wide circle around the perimeter of my grandparents living room, each with a neatly stacked pile of presents bearing our names on brightly colored gift tags.
The gift I looked forward to the most on Christmas Day was the one from my grandparents. My grandmother had a knack for knowing just what would suit me, especially at a tender time where I felt unsure and unmoored, only just discovering who I was myself.
That year, none of the tags on the gifts in front of me bore her handwriting. I casually searched through the stack once, twice, three times on the pretense of carefully rearranging the crisply wrapped boxes. I glanced surreptitiously at my cousin’s gifts, trying to suss out if perhaps one meant for me had inadvertently gotten mixed in with their loot.
As the piles of presents dwindled and each of my cousins gleefully brandished their beloved grandparent gift, I excused myself to the bathroom on four separate occasions so that no one would see me cry.
This has not changed, I still do not like anyone to witness my vulnerability streaking a salty path down my face.
When nothing was left but torn bits of wrapping paper and carelessly discarded bows that echoed the state of my emotions, my grandmother declared that there was one more present, too big to be wrapped.
I knew that it was my redemption, that I had not gone unremembered. And then it was walked out and placed directly to my left, in front of my little sister.
I bit my lip until it bled to keep my eyes from spilling out my sadness.
There is no better ending to this story. There was no secret, hidden present for me that day. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays and huge families, I had simply been forgotten.
I cried myself to sleep on the edge of the egg-crate foam palate I shared with my cousins, rolled out on the living room floor in front of the tinsel draped tree.
It confirmed to my delicate heart what the halls of junior high had begun to whisper: that I was forgettable; unseen and insignificant.
I waited one whole week before I worked up the fortitude to confide in my mother, who promptly assured me that my gift was just delayed by some mailman somewhere. She delivered a sparkling silver necklace fairly soon thereafter, although I always suspected it was a hasty order on the heels of my admission.
But it didn’t heal where I felt wounded because it wasn’t the gift that I needed, not really.
It was a reassurance that I was not forgotten.
It is not just a symbol but a promise that we are not forgotten.
That we are remembered and that we are redeemed.
I learned this deep in the soul on a cold winter day in a neonatal intensive care unit, standing pressed up against a glass partition and waiting to find out if my newborn daughter’s heart still beat on the other side.
“The day that looks least likely to hold a life preserver is precisely the one that delivered me into grace.
I do not have any great theological arguments or purposed parables to convince the doubter. I do not have a beautiful moment of revelation punctuated by a perfect peace and an impossibly miraculous series of events to point to as proof positive. Everything I have is utterly intangible, a knowing that was still and small and aching. I knew that if everything else changed, God would not. That in the middle of this crushing chaos, spinning senseless with heartache, this would be constant and I would cling to it and it would not fail me.
That if all else were lost, I would have this hope as an anchor.” – Excerpted from Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected
We are lonely but we are not alone.
We are hiding, shoulders pulled inward and eyes downcast, but we are not unseen.
Because there is Christmas.
And so we have the immovable hope of a promise that has come to pass, that we are not forgotten.
“Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:10-13
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” -John 3;16
This post is part of my free advent series, An Anchored Advent. Join me here to have short, heartfelt daily devotions filled with hope and humor delivered straight to your inbox this holiday season.