“What do you think it is?” Susanna’s bright eyes widened in anticipation. My squinty eyes focused on the tiny box wrapped in newspaper. “An elephant,” I replied very confidently, “pink to be exact.” Susanna stared for a moment as if figuring just how an elephant could possibly fit into such a small space, and then burst into fits of giggles.
“You girls back away from the tree, now.” Momma stood in the doorway wiping her hands on a dishrag. “Besides, cookies are ready. Come help me.”
“You’re loony.” Susanna whispered and nudged me with her elbow before running ahead into the warm, fragrant kitchen. Christmas baking was a favorite holiday activity and Mamma always had plenty for us to do. Tonight was Christmas Eve and we were icing the sugar cookies. Then we would open our gifts!
“Hey, you two rascals.” Susanna ran into Poppa’s welcoming embrace. I hesitated to cross the space between us and stared at his lifeless legs. My mind went back to that snowy day. Poppa had warned me about the snow, but I didn’t listen.
“It’s okay, Emma.” Poppa said the words slowly and I knew there was a depth of meaning to them, but my heart just couldn’t accept them. How could he still love me? Poppa brushed away a tear as I gave in to his hug.
With cookies in hand, dripping with frosting and extra sprinkles, Susanna and I led Momma and Poppa in his wheelchair to our little Christmas tree. Susanna handed me the little package we had laughed about earlier and Mamma handed Susanna another one wrapped in newspaper.
“Emma, would you get Poppa the Bible?” I placed the heavy Bible on Poppa’s lap and he quickly turned to Luke. I had always loved Poppa’s voice reading the story of Jesus’ birth. As he read the story again this year, though, something different stirred in me. Did baby Jesus know he was born to die? Why would he choose to die for something he didn’t do? Why would he choose to die for me?
As Poppa prayed, I prayed my own prayer. “Lord Jesus, I’ve prayed to accept your gift of salvation, but I don’t understand how to let it sink into my heart. Why did you die for me? I do so many stubborn things that hurt people. I don’t deserve your gift at all. In Jesus’ name…” Poppa and I closed our prayers in unison, “Amen.”
“Present time?” Poppa asked as his brow lifted over gleaming eyes. Susanna tore into her present and pulled out her beloved doll.
“Sam, you’re not lost! Oh, you are so beautiful.” Sam was now wearing a new dress and shoes. A new shiny ribbon held her clean, brushed hair. She truly did look like a new doll.
“Emma, it’s your turn.” I opened my present only to find a piece of paper. I tried to hide my disappointment behind a smile. With understanding in her eyes, Momma gently whispered, “Read it to yourself.” I opened the letter and began to read. Tears started to flow as the words healed my heart.
“Just as nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ, so nothing can ever separate you from my love. I love you, Emma and it is not because of the many wonderful things you do or even the stubborn or willful things you do. I love you because of who you are, my beautiful, precious daughter sent from heaven. I would have gladly given my life for you that day. That truck only took my legs. If I hadn’t pushed you to the ditch, it would have taken you. Because of that day, I understand in a deeper way my Jesus’ love for me. Thank you, sweet Emma.” Now I understood too.
I ran to Poppa and lost myself in his forgiving, loving embrace. “Thank you, Poppa. Thank you for giving me Jesus for Christmas.”
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