A Simple Christmas

I am having a hard time getting everything done this Christmas season. The tree is up, but there are no ornaments on it. The presents (for the most part) are purchased, but none are wrapped. Goods for baking lie on the kitchen counter waiting to be mixed and made into something yummy and sweet for those we love. And yet, here I sit, staring at the baby Jesus in the middle of the nativity scene scattered across the mantle, accomplishing nothing.

You see, I was sooooo ready to get decorated for Christmas as soon as Halloween was over! I had my shopping list made, recipes clipped out of magazines, online shopping carts full, but my sweet husband and babies are staunch believers that you can NOT start Christmas before Thanksgiving, so I waited. And waited. And waited. The week of Thanksgiving came, and we packed up and headed to Honduras for a medical mission trip for a few days. People walked for miles with their little ones in tow and waited in line for hours for free Tylenol and vitamins, for used clothes, and for a bar of soap. With tears in their eyes, they thanked us sincerely for coming. My son and his Honduran buddy Brian played with sticks and rocks and played chase around the make-shift clinic. We rode in trucks with supplies packed on the back for hours to a remote village, crossing a river four times that makes the village inaccessible by motor vehicle in the rainy season. They were so excited we came that they shot firecrackers when we arrived to signal the villagers. Those people literally ran to get in line. We saw 375 people (men, women, and children) in two days.

But my mind keeps drifting to a particular little 18-month-old girl. She came with her mother and arrived at 5:30am for the clinic that started at 8:ooam. They had walked over two miles to get there. We tried to separate the lines into those that were sick and those who just wanted preventative medicines. She got into the wrong line. After Mom realized her mistake, she got back in line and waited hours. Her baby girl was one of the very last patients of the day. Lying in her mother’s arms, little Melanie was nearly unresponsive. She had been sick for over a month. Back at the beginning of November, a local clinic had told them to go to the public hospital in Tegucigalpa, but they had no money for the bus. It costs $5 American to take the two hour bus ride, and they just didn’t have it. There were other children for whom she had to care and feed. There has been a severe outbreak of Dengue fever in the area, and it’s probably what was causing little Melanie to be so sick. There was nothing we could do in our dirt-floor “pop up” clinic. We gave them money and a bag of snacks and supplies and had one of our local friends drive them to the nearest bus stop with instructions to go straight to the hospital. There is no 911. There is no real ambulance service, not that anyone can afford anyway. There is no turning the faucet on and running some clean, cool water on a rag to wipe her feverish skin. We did all we could do for her at that time. Her Mama cried tears of fear mixed with gratitude. Maybe Melanie had a chance to survive.

I don’t know the outcome. I don’t know if she survived. I don’t know if she is hopefully back home with her family, playing and healthy. I may never know. And it has me thinking about another young mother who had no one to help her on a cold winter’s night as her baby was born on a dirt floor.

Jesus was born on Christmas day. He is the Son of God, and yet, he came to suffer all the same things we do as flesh and blood humans. He knows if Melanie is home and healthy. He knows how to comfort her family if she didn’t recover. He knows how your heart yearns to see your loved one again this Christmas season. He knows the pain you feel from the betrayal from someone who was supposed to love you. Jesus knows.

I guess all the Christmas “fluff” lost its luster for me this year. Even my children, six and eight years old, don’t seem to care that none of our traditional holiday fare is in its place. I think we all feel Christmas a little heavier and a whole lot more meaningfully this year. Jesus is the real reason for this beautiful season. Jesus, who was born with no creature comforts, is who we celebrate. His life was one of love and service to others. May we all find hope and peace this holiday season knowing that no matter what this life brings—good or bad, life or loss, sickness or health, happiness or sorrow—that Jesus knows, and he will love you through it all. And because of him, this life is not all there is; we can have eternal hope and life in Him! Merry Christmas, friends!