One of my favorite Christmas memories happened when I was six years old. It was Christmas Eve, and I was asleep on the top bunk bed that I shared with my little sister in our home in Berlin, Germany. I was pretty excited for Christmas morning to come—so excited that I must not have been sleeping very deeply, because sometime during the night I was awakened by bells jingling. Then I heard the door of our room slowly squeak open. And when the light from the other room landed on my face, I quickly sat up and looked towards the door. What I saw was unbelievable! Standing in the doorway was Santa Claus. I’m not kidding—it was him! He bellowed, “Ho, ho, ho,” and then asked if I would like to follow him into the living room to see the lit-up Christmas tree. I was stunned and totally speechless, but I scampered down the ladder of my bed and followed him to the front room where my mother and older brother were standing by the tree. But as I looked around the room, I didn’t see my dad—how could he be missing this? Mom said he was taking out the trash, but boy was he taking a long time! To this day I feel bad that he never had the chance to meet Santa Claus. Santa asked if I had been a good girl, and I was so happy to report that I had. After making sure he had sampled the cookies and milk we set out for him, I went back to bed and, a few hours later, woke to a joyous Christmas morning.
My husband’s grandfather, Heaton Lunt, had a very different Christmas morning as a young boy living in the colonies of Mexico in the late 1800s. He tells this story in his history: “Christmas came and we had the sheep in a pen under the barn where it was warm, because there was snow on the ground then. I went up real early Christmas morning to see if my sheep were all right. I heard bleating in the stable that sounded very tiny. I went inside and saw that Nelly had two tiny lambs—twins. I ran back to the house as hard as I could … [and] I clapped my hands and said to my mama, ‘I’ve got the best Christmas of any of you: O’ Nelly’s got two little lambs.’ All the kids left their oranges and things on the table, and they ran up to the barn to see those little lambs Nelly had. It was the biggest wonder of anything we ever got on Christmas.”1 Amazingly, the very next year and for years following, new lambs were born to Heaton’s sheep on Christmas morning.
When I first heard this story, my heart and mind were immediately drawn to thoughts of another Lamb born on that very first Christmas day: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Just like Heaton ran to see his new lambs, I imagine the shepherds hastening to see the newborn Son of God. Can you visualize what they must have witnessed in that humble and sacred setting? I envision a loving Joseph attending to his wife, Mary, as they pondered the birth of the promised Messiah. The account of Mary wrapping her tiny baby in swaddling clothes is particularly tender to me.
We recently welcomed a new granddaughter into our family. I watched one day as her mother wrapped her in a soft, warm swaddling blanket and held her close. To swaddle simply means to wrap tightly. Swaddling clothes and blankets have been used throughout history to comfort and sooth and even calm a fussy baby. As I watched our daughter-in-law swaddle her new child, I thought of others who might be in need of a swaddle, even a virtual one. A kind word, a listening ear, or an understanding heart can comfort and soothe the troubled soul of another.
Almost three years ago, our son-in-law experienced a serious medical crisis. In finding answers, he underwent many tests and procedures which ultimately led to him needing heart surgery. As our son-in-law went into surgery, our daughter sent a message to her in-laws to give them an update on their son. From far away in another country where they were serving a mission, her mother-in-law responded with these comforting words: “Sending you heavenly hugs.”
Just a few moments later, a nurse walked by but then stopped. She looked into our daughter’s tear-filled eyes and asked if she would like a blanket, but she declined, saying that she was OK. The nurse left but immediately returned with a warm blanket. She wrapped it tightly around our daughter and said to her, “I feel like you need a heavenly hug.”
The Lamb of God, also known as the Good Shepherd, knows each of His flock. In our moments of need, He often sends earthly angels, like the compassionate nurse to our daughter, to wrap and encircle us in the arms of His love.2 He came to earth to bring peace and goodwill to all men.3 He comforts those who stand in need of comfort and mourns with those who mourn.4
As I consider the many ways the Lord loves and cares for each of us, I feel a desire to do more to share that love with others. I also wish to better recognize the heavenly hugs and swaddles I have received but have been slow to acknowledge.
In a world so much in need of peace, our gentle words, our acts of compassion and kindness can be the means of wrapping another in a warm, swaddling blanket. I have come to understand that the more we act on promptings to serve others, the more heavenly blankets the Lord gives us to share. What promptings have you received? Who do you know that is in need of a heavenly hug? Our personal or virtual touch may make all the difference in the life of a loved one or even a stranger.
I pray as we celebrate the birth of our Savior that we not only feel of His love, compassion, and peace but that we share those blessings with others. As I ponder the gift of the Lamb of God, the babe swaddled and laid in a manger, I echo the words of young Heaton. He is “the biggest wonder of anything we ever got [or will ever get] on Christmas.”5
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.