Christmas growing up was often a low-key affair. Nearly of our extended family lived across the country, and the impracticalities of transporting a large family need no explanation. So we stayed home. My siblings and I decorated the tree, and Mom (who loves baking for holidays) kept the banana, pumpkin, and zucchini bread coming.
One of my favorite Christmas memories, though, comes from my dad. My love of country music starts with him, riding in the car together and singing along to the radio. Christmas is no different - country radio celebrates the season too. In fact, Christmas is incomplete for me without three particular CDs my dad bought early in my childhood: "A Travis Tritt Christmas," Trisha Yearwood's "The Sweetest Gift," and especially Garth Brooks' "Beyond the Season."
The latter has a song with particular meaning this year. I'm battling with perfectionism anew as I apply for graduate school and consider looking for a job again. Are my efforts enough? I wonder. Don't my weaknesses disqualify me? If I really wanted this, wouldn't it show more?
Worst, perhaps, I question, do I still get to be happy now if, right now, I'm still just me?
But "The Gift," the song from Garth Brooks' album, lends me hope. It tells the story of a poor little Mexican girl who adopts a bird with a broken wing. It's Christmastime, and all of the people in her neighborhood are bringing elaborate, expensive gifts to the church to honor Christ. All Maria has to offer is a bird, so embarrassed, she waits until midnight to bring it, and then kneels at the altar and weeps for the meagerness of her gift. She hears a voice without knowing the source, and the voice assures her that He would like to see her gift. She opens the little reed cage and the bird flies into the rafters, beautifully singing "the very first nightingale's song."
It made me cry today. I often examine what I have to offer the Savior and question the audacity of giving Him something so small. And yet, "by small things are great things brought to pass." If Maria offered a bedraggled little bird, I can offer a graduate school application, a few how-to articles, and a moderately clean house. It isn't much, but with the love of God at hand, my offering can sing too.
Because of Jesus Christ, the gifts I give Him are enough. Even when I am too prideful and faithless to give, I can find forgiveness for it, and again find His love and glory.
The first Christmas, angels sang, new stars shined, and a new age began - but why? Because our Redeemer had been born. We are now free from death, free from sin, filled with joy, and filled with love.
Because of the Man the baby would grow up to be.