I’m up early this morning, working my coworkers shift. 5:45 came incredibly early, but now that I’m sitting here in the dark with only the monitor to light the room, I’m feeling calm and peaceful.

I’ve got my husband in the next room, my dog at my feet, and the lingering feelings of a first Christmas with my new family. I was incredibly blessed by the gifts I received last night from my in-laws. When I was opening up gifts from people that I’ve known less than a year and I see that they were gifts picked with me in mind, because they are oh-so-me, it feels really good. I have got a new mother and father that have a completely different dynamic than what I’m accustomed to in their relationship with their children and with each other, but who offer so much more to my life. I have got two new big brothers that I’m not quite close to yet, but feel like we’re growing each time we see each other. And I’ve got two sister in laws. Two sisters. I’ve never had sisters and while it has been somewhat complicated figuring out how that type of relationship is supposed to work, the rewards have been great. And I have 3 nephews, who are so happy, so full of life and energy, who love each other right now because they have to….but will love each other by their own will as they grow and form that family bond that I myself have come to know and love. I have a new family, and it feels so good. There is so much to gain and learn from my new family, and I hope I have as much to give.

I am so excited to be leaving this week to see my family in Maryland. I have plans to see both sides of my family and it’s going to be wonderful. Before my wedding, anyone can tell you, my family meant so very much to me. I have close bonds with each of my cousins and I just don’t believe that my family is the average family. After my wedding? I feel even closer to them. I was so surprised that at least 30 of my family members came down to North Carolina for my wedding. They payed for hotel rooms, bought pretty dresses, packed up their new born children and drove the 5 or more hours to get down here just.for.me. I can’t wait to see them and spend time with them. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it’s a special time.
So on Christmas Eve, the very first Christmas Eve with my brand new husband….Merry Christmas.

The Second Christmas

Mary looked up from the muddy water at the river’s edge and watched, smiling, as her young son struggled to keep his balance. His chubby legs wobbled and his dimpled arms beat at the air as he strained to take each step. She laughed aloud as the little boy finally lost his balance and plopped down on the dusty path. For a moment he looked as though he might cry, but then a bright orange poppy caught his eye. He crawled over to examine it more closely.
Mary turned back to her washing, dunking and squeezing it rhythmically in the flowing stream. Soon Jesus toddled back to the water and sat down awkwardly next to her. “And what are you about today, my little one?” Mary asked the wide-eyed child. Giggling in reply, he splashed his bare toes in the lapping water and tossed handfuls of sand into the air.
Mary wrung out the clothes and tossed them into a basket, then sat down to rest for a moment beside the stream. She studied her son as he played, his dark curls bouncing with each movement.
Tomorrow her little Jesus would be a year old. How different, she thought, this year would be from the last. Since then the little family of three had fled from their homeland into the unfamiliarity of Egypt. Mary wondered how long their stay would be. She yearned for the faces of her family. She longed to show them her firstborn son, to hear them praise his beauty and his infant accomplishments. She sighed, lost in her thoughts.
Sensing his mother’s unrest, the little boy nestled against her. Pulling himself up by her sleeve, he placed a grubby hand against his mother’s cheek. Instinctively, Mary took the child in her arms, loosened her garment, and began to nurse him. As he settled against her, she hummed a quiet lullaby.
Her mind still had trouble reconciling all the contradictions of this little one. He was the Son of God, yet he depended on her for life. He was a miracle, yet so like any other child. He looked as others did, but he carried the beauty of holiness within him. How could this little hand, now so tightly curled around her fingers, have formed mankind? She studied the tiny lips that could not yet speak a word. How could they have ordered the universe into being, separated light from darkness and sea from land?
Satisfied, the child wriggled around in his mother’s lap and babbled in contentment. Mary began to sing the song placed in her heart when the angel visited her almost two years earlier.
The baby grew still and listened quietly to her clear voice mingling with the soft Egyptian breeze: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior…”
As she sang, a strange thing began to happen. A look of comprehension began to fill the baby’s dark eyes. His expression became intent, and his tiny mouth smiled.
When the song was finished, the two of them sat silently, caught up in a unique design of love–a love of mother and son, both human and divine, temporal and eternal. Then Mary quickly leaned and kissed the boy. He laughed and returned her kiss with a hug. Swinging him onto her lap she balanced laundry with her free arm and stood. Slowly she started up the path to their village.
This year there would be no adoring shepherds or angel choirs: no blazing star would mark the passage of her son’s first year. For now he was just another child, cherished just as any other. Her heart could not look beyond that now.
“Blessed birthday, Jesus, ” she whispered, and he clapped his chubby hands with glee.

—Pamela Kennedy, Ideals Christmas