...was a bit of a blur.
I chalk it up to jet lag. And 3 hours of sleep per night for several nights in a row.
Honestly, Christmas had nothing of the Christmas 'feel' this year. I think it had a lot to do with being in China and every other time I have been in China it has been the middle of the summer. Everything was so similar to our other trips that seeing Christmas trees and wreaths and hearing Christmas music just wasn't enough to evoke the typical holiday feelings.
Also, might have had something to do with the absence of Christmas cookies. Ahem.
That is not to say that my mind was not occupied with the unbelievable truth of what Christmas is.
God sending His Son to imperfect, human parents to be raised. God using the miracle of adoption (Joseph of Jesus) to raise the God-King who would in turn die so that I could be adopted and given new life and an inheritance I could never earn, but yet have had lavished upon me. The I-can't-get-my-mind-around-this truth that before I was created, He had planned for me to be in His family and worked to get me there. The parallels to what we were walking with Sophie...and have walked with Lily, Luke, and Joshua...were just far too obvious.
God with us. with me!
He was so very present. That is not to say He isn't always present...I've experienced having to trust that when I do not feel Him or see Him as I did for a time after Luke's death. But, this time...these 2+ weeks, He let me feel His breath and hear His song over me. He let my heart know Emmanuel.
I read Lynn Austin's Return to Me while I was in China. It is historical fiction about the prophet Zechariah and the first wave of exiles to return to Jerusalem from Babylon. I had forgotten the Christmas devotional I wanted to bring (Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift) to keep my heart focused on Christmas those 17 days. But as I read, a message of Zechariah struck me as perfect for Christmas, perfect for where Jesus and I were together in China. God with us.
I also couldn't help but be moved that this year, as well as 17 years ago, He gave me the gift of a daughter.
Emma is my Christmas baby. 17 years ago at 7:00 pm on Christmas Day, Emma Noelle was born. Every time I say her name, I hear Emmanuel. This year, I had both Emma Noelle and Sophie Joy to remind me of God's great goodness to me in this month of gifts.
And even as I watched my gifts open their gifts, my sight shifted to Heaven where Luke is in the presence of His Father. 3 years ago on December 26, Luke got the gift of leaving his tent behind and being clothed with the immortal. I imagine him running, jumping, dancing with Jesus. And, this year especially, I was able to cherish the gift of knowing how loved Luke was not only by us, but also by those who cared for him in China more of whom we got to meet personally this time in China.
Christmas this year had many of the same trappings: birthday presents, Christmas gifts, grandparents, coffee cake, pictures, video calls with Aaron and Tiffany and Grandma and Grandpa, Emma singing a solo at church Christmas Eve as we celebrated with friends and family Jesus' birth.
But in so many other ways, it was totally different.
And, I was blessed by the difference.