I hope your holidays have been a special time with family and friends. This time of year brings joy and connection, but it can also be a time of sorrow as we remember loved ones who are missing from our holiday gatherings.
Today, I honor the memory of my dear friend Hilda Isley who went to be with our Lord on Saturday. Hilda adopted our little family as part of her own, and we shared many happy moments around her kitchen table. Time and time again, she would say, “You know you’re part of the family.” We did know, and we always felt the warm embrace of her motherly love.
As I ponder the beauty of such maternal love, I am reminded of a little Christmas story that I know Hilda would have treasured. I hope it will also bring a smile to your face this morning.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12, 14 – NIV
Kids love stuffed animals, and my son Jonathan was no exception. He had a room full of the cuddly characters, but a little brown monkey wearing a bright red t-shirt claimed the coveted status of best buddy.
Curious George arrived at our house when Jonathan was six months old. My husband Eric and I had begun reading to Jonathan within weeks of his birth. We knew he couldn’t comprehend the stories, but we read anyway, knowing that the cadence of our voices would provide comfort and hopefully promote a love of reading.
Having adored Curious George stories as a child, I picked up several of the series to add to our growing library. As Jonathan grew, so did his love for reading. Nap time and bedtime were all about stories, and Curious George was one of our favorites.
So when I happened upon the stuffed little brown monkey seated on a shelf at the bookstore, I not only bought the books, but the star of the story too. It was love at first sight. From the moment he pulled the doll from the package, Jonathan latched on to Curious George, and he didn’t let go.
George went everywhere with Jonathan, serving as #1 playmate and bedtime buddy, but he was also the source of a family holiday crisis.
It happened the weekend of our family Christmas gathering in South Carolina. After work on a December Friday, Eric and I rushed to load the car for the four hour drive to my parent’s home.
Thankfully, two year old Jonathan soon dozed off in his car seat, and we cruised down the road in amiable silence. We were about thirty minutes from my folk’s house when I peered in the back seat to check on our sleeping son.
Something didn’t look quite right. I looked closer at Jonathan’s slumped figure, frowning as I scanned the back seat. Twisting around further in my seat, I searched the floor. Where was George?
Since George was Jonathan’s constant companion, the mischievous monkey could readily be found sharing my toddler’s car seat. Looking again at the back seat, I frowned, “Where is George?”
Then it hit me like a load of bricks. I remembered seeing George laying on the bed next to Jonathan’s suitcase, but I didn’t recall picking him up. Usually, he was snuggled under Jonathan’s arm when I tucked him in the car seat, but come to think of it, I didn’t remember seeing George when I strapped my little fellow in for the ride.
With a sick feeling in my gut, I came face to face with the awful truth. We had left George at home.
Sucking in a hard breath, I turned in panic to my unsuspecting husband and whispered the horrible news. “We FORGOT George!”
The terrified look on Eric’s face told me he understood the gravity of the situation. Jonathan would never go to sleep tonight without George, and we were way too far down the road to turn back now. It was going to be a miserable weekend.
Taking a deep breath, I tried not to panic, forcing myself to think of options. Hearing Jonathan stir in the back seat, I formulated a plan, saying a little prayer that it would work.
“Hey buddy, you awake?”
Jonathan mumbled a drowsy, “Uh-huh.”
I looked at Eric for moral support, and then dived in head first.
“Jonathan, did you know that Grandma has a Christmas Bear that lives at her house?”
Making eye contact, I nodded emphatically. “Yeah, she does. He’s red and blue, and he sits in a chair beside her Christmas tree.”
Jonathan made affirming noises as he watched me closely, waiting for me to continue.
“But you know what’s sad? The Christmas Bear doesn’t have a little boy to love him. He is all alone with no little boy to play with or sleep with at night.”
I let the words hang in the air before continuing. Jonathan’s expressive face held a sad frown as he considered the state of the Christmas Bear. Seeing my opportunity, I forged ahead.
“Jonathan, while we’re at Grandma’s house this weekend, do you think that you could love on the Christmas Bear? Maybe you could play with him? Maybe he could even sleep with you? Oh, that would be so nice. The Christmas Bear would love that!”
His soft brown eyes grew wide as he began to nod in affirmation. The look he offered was deadly serious, a toy soldier signing up for duty. “I can love da Christmas Bear. I can love him!”
“Oh buddy, that will be so nice. That will make his Christmas so special! The Christmas Bear will love being your friend this weekend. Oh, that will just be so nice.”
I have had many looks from my dear husband over the course of our lives together, but I have never experienced a look of deeper admiration than I did sitting there in that car that evening. The amazed look in his hazel eyes spoke volumes. He was duly impressed with my clever sales pitch.
The plan worked like a charm. When we arrived at my parent’s house, Jonathan tugged on his Grandma’s hand, “Grandma, where da Christmas Bear?”
A bit confused for a moment, she cast a questioning look my way, to which I mouthed silently, “We FORGOT George!”
In true Grandma fashion, she rapidly surmised the situation and fell into step with my quickly hatched plan. Taking Jonathan by the hand, they headed for the Christmas tree to introduce the bright red Christmas Bear to his new best friend.
That bear certainly shared some Christmas magic, because Jonathan never mentioned George the whole weekend. He and the bright red bear were perfect pals, and our Christmas get together proceeded without a hitch.
Love saved the day, the love of a little boy for a lonesome Christmas Bear, the love of a mother for her precious son. Many years have come and gone since that Christmas crisis, but one thing is for certain. That was my best Mommy moment!
Love still saves the day, the Perfect Love of God. Love is the gift of Christmas. No matter where we travel, no matter the heights of our joy or the depths of our sorrow, God’s gift of love goes with us. It is a love that lasts forever.
Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us with an unfailing love. Help us cling to Your love as we meet the challenges of this earthly life. Remind us anew that Your Perfect Love will be with us forever.