One of the things I love most about Christmas is visiting family and friends, and one of the things I love most about visiting family and friends is seeing how folks decorate for the season. In my family (and I’ll refrain from naming names to protect the guilty), some go “all out” with multiple Christmas trees, countless strings of lights—both inside and out—colorful ribbons and bows, garland, and even decorative figurines that sing and dance when you walk by. Others of us tend to be a bit more reserved.
Despite our decorating differences, we all have something in common—an assortment of Christmas ornaments that tell a history of who we are as a family. Some of these ornaments were crafted by little hands years ago out of paper and popsicle sticks; some were bought during overseas travel; and some were given to us as gifts to mark a special occasion, a hobby, or an important milestone. Whatever the case, these ornaments seem to represent those things that matter most to us.
Each year, my wife, children, and I unpack these irreplaceable keepsake items with great care, and seek the perfect place to display them on our Christmas tree. We love to reminisce about where they came from, who made them and when, and what they mean to us. It’s always an enriching time.
Once we finish decorating the Christmas tree, my wife Laynette and I have three very special ornaments we unwrap together. These three colorful glass globes are not displayed on our tree, but rather are hung in a place of honor on our fireplace mantel from three stocking hangers shaped in the letters “J” “O” “Y.” These ornaments represent the three children we lost to miscarriage between the births of our daughter and our son.
I distinctly recall the excitement we shared as we watched the “tap, tap, tap” heartbeat of these precious young ones on the ultrasound monitor, only to feel the overwhelming despair of having lost each of them just a short time later. Why this occurred remains a mystery to me, but I do know that it has had a profound impact on our lives. The loss of these little ones has enabled Laynette and me to more fully grasp how fragile and fleeting life can be. It has allowed us to love each other and our daughter and our son more richly. And it has helped us to more deeply appreciate the miracle of Christmas—the birth of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.
God must have felt great joy and excitement when the tiny heart of His one and only Son began beating in rhythm inside the womb of the young Virgin Mary months before that first Christmas morning in Bethlehem. At the same time, I imagine the Heavenly Father’s heart was heavy, knowing the fate that awaited His Son years later on the Cross. For in 33 years, Jesus Christ would lovingly and willingly take the iniquities of the world upon Himself and serve as the atoning sacrifice for all of our sins in order to reconcile to God those who would believe in Him. Probably the best known verse of the Bible, John 3:16, speaks to this when it says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the centerpiece of God’s perfect plan for all of humanity from the beginning of time, and it offers hope, love, and everlasting life with God.
What an amazing gift, and what a reason to celebrate this Christmas!
As I reflect on these things, I grow in anticipation more and more for the day I will meet my Lord and Savior in person. I suspect when I do, three little ones will be at His side holding hands and welcoming me into the heavenly realms. Until that time, I will cherish my family; I will cherish the amazing gift of life; and I will cherish those three Christmas ornaments hanging on our mantel for all they represent.
All of us at the North Carolina Family Policy Council wish you great joy this Christmas season and pray that you will have a very blessed New Year!
John Rustin is president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council.