The spirit of Christmas is found in every one of God’s gifts; each one reflects or points to the ultimate gift of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. Everyone has those holiday traditions that remind us of this, but one of my favorites happens every year when my mom is decorating the tree and gets to unwrap her favorite ornament.

My parents met when they attended Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They started dating when they were sixteen and have been married for 28 years. One of their earliest memories as a couple was the 1987 Christmas dance, where they decorated an ornament with their names, “Andy + Stephanie”. For the past 34 years, my mom has held her breath as she unwraps this special ornament and hopes to find it intact. I wasn’t able to be there when she decorated the tree this year, but I can bet you anything she said, “Moment of truth . . . ” to anyone who might have been listening. She does it nearly every year.

The ornament has remained steadfast, but not nearly as much as the couple whose names are written on it. Their marriage isn’t perfect, no one’s is, but no child could ask for a better example of a relationship built on compromise and sacrifice. I know what true love is because I see it in my dad’s eyes every time my mom makes his favorite meal. I hear it every time my mom laughs as she’s hugging my dad. Our family has faced many hardships and heartaches, but our parents’ sacrificial love, a reflection of the same love Christ gives, has kept us strong.

Marriage is one of the first of God’s gifts to mankind, a gift we find in Genesis 2. God declares that “[i]t is not good that the man should be alone”, so He creates Eve to be Adam’s helper and partner in life. (Genesis 2:18) This partnership was not designed merely for Man’s happiness, but also for provision and oneness. Their differences were specifically designed to complement and uplift one another. It is important to remember this, especially when these differences can create conflict rather than happiness. Yet, these differences also provide opportunities for the sacrificial actions necessary in a healthy marriage, actions that reflect Christ in the beautiful gift of marriage. Every sacrifice one makes for his or her spouse mirrors Christ’s sacrificial love for us. 

Christmas is a time to celebrate the many gifts God has given to us, gifts like marriage and family. Yet, we also remember that our most important gift is found in the manger and on the cross. I am reminded of the anticipation of Advent every time my mom holds her breath as she unwraps her favorite ornament and the joy of the shepherds and angels every time she finds it intact. May we also hold both anticipation and joy in our hearts as we await the coming Christ!