By the time I reached home it was well past midnight. Mary's brother had arrived from London and in deference I had left them alone to share the last few minutes together. Jenna had been put to bed and Keri, not knowing when I would return, had sadly laid the Christmas packages under the tree. I sat down in the rocker in front of the illuminated Christmas tree and lay my head in my hands. Somewhere between the angel and Mary's house I had figured it out.I share this now with you now in prayer. I pray that I may, and that all parents may, truly savor their children's childhood. Bask in it. Wallow in it. Soak it up. Our children are a gift from God and they are on loan. God-willing they will grow up into adults with hands that do not fold so easily within our own. We never know how long we may have with them. Don't rush it. Don't hurry it. For goodness sake, do all that you can to slow it down, for this phase will be gone too soon. Savor all of the joy that comes from parenthood.
The first gift of Christmas. It just came. It came to my heart. The first gift of Christmas was love. A parent's love. Pure as the first snows of Christmas. For God so loved His children that He sent His son, that we might someday return to Him. I understood what Mary had been trying to teach me. I stood up and walked up the stairs where my little girl lay sleeping. I picked up her warm little body and, cradling her tightly in my arms, brought her back down to the den. My tears fell on her hair. My little girl. My precious little girl. How foolish I'd been to let her childhood, her fleeting, precious childhood slip away. Forever. In my young mind everything was so permanent and lasting. My little girl would be my little girl forever. But time would prove me wrong. Someday she'd grow up. Someday she'd be gone and I would be left with the memory of giggles and secrets I might have known.
Jenna took a deep breath and snuggled close for warmth. I held her little body tightly against mine. This was what it meant to be a father, to know that one day I would turn around and my little girl would be gone. To look upon the sleeping little girl and to die a little inside. For one precious, fleeting moment, to hold the child in my arms, and would that time stood still.
But none of that mattered now. Not now. Not tonight. Tonight Jenna was mine and no one could take this Christmas Eve away from me but me. How wise Mary had been. Mary, who knew the pain of a father sending his son away on the first Christmas morn, knowing full well the path that lay ahead. Mary understood Christmas. The tears in the Bible showed that. Mary loved with the pure, sweet love of a mother, a love so deep that it becomes the allegory for all other love. She knew that in my quest for success in this world I had been trading diamonds for stones. She knew, and she loved me enough to help me see. Mary had given me the greatest gift of Christmas. My daughter's childhood.