Jess maintained a white-knuckled grip on the wheel of her speeding sedan. A late December snow-squall had transformed the already frustrating holiday traffic into a fight for survival and she was determined to win.
“Oh, puh-leeease!” she shouted as she swerved to pass a bothersome left-lane cruiser. As if a clumsy clerk at the grocery store and a human stampede at the mall weren’t frustrating enough, the weather was now threatening to make her late for Christmas Eve services at church. Normally, she wouldn’t worry, but this just happened to be the year Jess’ husband, Tim, had decided to skip his family’s traditional drinking marathon to meet her there. Great! she thought, The man finally starts going to church a month ago and I leave him stranded in a throng of smiling strangers.
Her tires chirped on the wet macadam as Jess rounded the turn into the church parking lot. “Five minutes late,” she murmured, “Not bad for the star in a comedy of errors.” She frantically straightened the outfit she’d thrown together in a panic before leaving the house and frowned at her reflection in the vanity mirror. The large snowflakes had flattened her chestnut hair and the makeup she wore did little to cover the obvious tension in her face. She sighed heavily and braced herself for the impatient expression her husband was sure to greet her with.
Initially, she was relieved not to find Tim waiting anxiously at the front door but became alarmed when she failed to find him anywhere. She was walking toward the exit, cell phone in hand, when one of the Deacons stopped her to let her know Tim had called and that he was held up at his brother’s place. Jess struggled to conceal her emotions. She was glad he was okay but her frustration was rapidly returning. Her mad dash had been for naught after all. She half expected him to show up smelling like alcohol; it would be the final stab in what had been a pin cushion of a day.
The music began as Jess found a seat. She tried desperately to lose herself in the celebration but her heart wasn’t in it. She no longer cared if her husband showed up at all. She just wanted Christmas to end as quickly and mercifully as possible.
Jess pretended to listen intently as her Pastor spoke of the second reader’s recent acceptance of Christ. She was half-heartedly clapping for the man taking the stage when she froze. An amplified but familiar voice came from the pulpit microphone “Good evening” he said. Jess managed to move her slackened jaw enough to mouth the word “Tim?”
“Instead of a traditional reading,” he continued, “Pastor Clark has agreed to let me share something a little more personal. I wrote this poem as a testimony to my first Christmas with the Lord, and as a surprise for my wife Jess. It’s called Christmas Presence.”
The beating of Jess’ heart threatened to drown out her husband’s voice as he began reading.
“Another year is winding down and Christmas has arrived.
We’ve shopped and spent and kept the pace, and somehow we’ve survived.
Now as the clamor fades away, we gather to rejoice
And listen not for jingle bells, but for a still, small voice.
Though many keep this festival and celebrate it yearly,
Those are few whose faith is true, and see it’s blessing clearly
The gift we cherish most of all, is not with bow adorned
A price cannot be placed upon, this gift not bought, but born.
For on this night so long ago a miracle occurred.
Our father came into this world, and made flesh of his word.
No lights were strung; no bells were rung, to celebrate his birth
But one bright star did shine the night, our Savior came to earth
If riches are beyond your means, still you own a treasure
A covenant of hope and grace, more than one can measure.
You’ll find this treasure in your heart, not underneath the tree.
It’s god’s first Christmas gift to us, a truth to make us free.
The only presence I desire, this blessed holiday
Is that of our lord, Jesus Christ, within my heart to stay.”
As he finished, the congregation erupted in applause and Jess erupted in tears. Her burdens were lifted. “Thank you” Tim said, before coming to embrace her. “No, thank you!” She replied. “And thank God for the Christmas Presence I’ll never forget!”
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