The Gift 🎄

by Rosemary Davis

Michelle Sanderson finished putting on the final touches of her classroom holiday decorations. Each child’s personalized stocking was hung around the classroom on a shiny, red tinsel garland. Candy canes, snowmen, reindeer and, of course, Santa Claus covered the doorway and walls, their bright red and green colors adorned with twinkling white lights. She was sure her third graders would love it when they walked in on Monday.

Michelle’s students kept her going. Life was exciting and new for them, filled with a kind of magic only children could feel. They were still eager to learn, and Michelle did her best to teach them. But she was tired of her lonely, small-town life in Idaho where time stood still and current events never troubled their existence. Although the world swirled around them in chaos and rapid change, they remained an anomaly of peaceful seclusion and sameness. Maybe that’s why she medicated herself every Friday with the rest of the staff at Mickey’s Pub. It was a merry-go-round, a sad, broken record, and she was tired of it. And now with the holiday season here, the alcohol would flow freely, and they would exchange silly gifts and share hollow laughter; then, someone new would become the butt of their jokes, adding to their list of school buffoons.

Her husband, Jon, never understood her unhappiness. He was a contractor and had built her a beautiful house nestled in the forest of the Rocky Mountains. It had everything the both of them had ever dreamed of, yet it never satisfied them. As Michelle became increasingly unhappy, Jon’s temper became worse. The children Michelle taught year after year became a sore reminder of the children she would never be able to have. She and Jon argued about everything, but especially about adopting­ children. Michelle always lost.

She glanced up at the clock. Six-thirty. Everyone was at Mickey’s for sure by now. Jon never came home before eight o’clock anymore, so she might as well join the gang. With a sigh, she picked up her bag of papers, folders and books, and left the now darkened elementary school.

As Michelle neared her car, she spotted a large box with a red ribbon and bow sitting next to the driver’s side door of her SUV. It was wrapped in plain, white paper. Now who’s that from? she thought, a kaleidoscope of faces appearing and disappearing in her mind. Michelle never outgrew her penchant for gifts, so she hurried to the car.

Michelle bent down and looked at the box. “To Michelle” the simple, homemade tag read. Michelle smiled slightly and reached for the box. I wonder what it is, she thought to herself. She hoped it wasn’t as heavy as it looked.

Before her hands touched the sides of the package, she stopped, hands in midair. Was she imagining it, or did the box tremble ever so slightly? She waited, staring intently at it, unsure about what to do. And then it happened. She heard a muffled cry coming from the inside of it. The sound was unmistakably human.

Michelle quickly grabbed the lid of the box and lifted it off. To her amazement lay a newborn baby, tightly wrapped in a baby blanket, eyes closed. It cried softly as the cold winter air permeated its protective enclosure.

“You poor thing!” Michelle said. She carefully lifted the baby into her arms and cradled it. She was sure it was a little boy, maybe only a few days old. He didn’t look hungry or cold, so the mother must have just dropped him off and then left quickly. She had no idea who the mother was or why she had left her baby for Michelle, but it didn’t matter. Her only thought was for the baby’s welfare.

As Michelle pulled at the edges of the blanket to see if the baby were warmly clothed, a small, white square of paper floated to the icy ground below. She bent down and retrieved it, mouthing the words as she read, “Please to accept my son Jesus.”

Michelle’s eyes welled up. She looked at the boy and gave him a gentle, protective hug. He opened his eyes and seemed to smile at her. Delighted, she gave him a kiss.

“I can’t keep you,” she said sadly to the infant, blinking away the tears that had pooled in her eyes. “I want to, you know. I’ve always wanted a beautiful little boy like you.”

The baby began to cry, so she quickly placed him back in the box and into the car. She turned the heater to high and gently pulled out of the parking lot. Jesus needed nourishment, and the next store was ten minutes away down the lonely, country highway. She hoped the general store would have baby bottles and formula.

“That’s a good-looking baby you have there,” said a pleasant voice from behind Michelle.

Michelle turned from the display of baby foods and diapers to look into the kind eyes of Josh Bowman.

“Oh, thank you,” she said reticently, eyeing the middle-aged man briefly. She drew the baby close to her.

“What’s his name?” Josh persisted.

“Jesus, that is, Hay-Sus,” she said, adding the Spanish pronunciation.

Josh smiled, looking at the chubby, olive-brown face protruding from the baby blanket. “I take it he’s not yours.”

“Well, no, I’m just watching him,” she admitted. She turned back to peruse the shelf items.

“Yep, I’m partial to the name Jesus, especially at Christmastime.”

“I see,” said Michelle absentmindedly as she studied the baby formulas.

“Where are my manners?” Josh said. “I’m Josh Bowman, pastor of Grace Church down the highway.”

“Hi,” replied Michelle, finally looking up. “Michelle Sanderson.”
“Pleasure.” He watched as she struggled to read the containers on the lower shelf and then asked, “Can I help you find anything? You seem to have your hands full.”

Michelle glanced down in embarrassment, realizing how completely inept she must seem to him. “Well, to tell the truth, I’m not sure what I’m looking for. There are so many different types of baby formula, and I have no idea what type of bottle is best for him.”

“Ah,” said Josh, beginning to take in the implications of her situation. “Plan on keeping the baby for a while?”

Michelle paused. Why did he think I might keep him? She turned and searched his eyes. They seemed trustworthy and understanding.

After a moment she replied weakly, “Just for a little while.”

She wished she could tell this stranger that despite all logic she planned to keep little Jesus; that he was a miracle sent to her just when she needed him; that she was planning to give her husband an ultimatum anyways; that life had cheated her of happiness long enough. But all she could say was, “His mother asked me to keep him.”

“I see,” he said, studying her. He then added, “Babies are a blessing, but they’re a lot of work, not to mention expense.”

Michelle quickly turned her gaze back to the baby products and pretended to study them. He was right. She had told herself in the car that Jon would never accept the baby and that the life of a single mom would be too difficult for her. Besides, Jesus wasn’t really hers, not legally, and she would never be able to adopt him on her own. Yet her heart had already formed an attachment to him, and she didn’t want to let him go.

“You know,” said Josh, seeming to read her mind, “Jesus of the Bible sometimes inches into our heart like this little fella. God gave the world the greatest gift He ever could—His son Jesus. All we have to do is repent of our sins and accept His gift of salvation in faith.

Josh’s last words resounded over and over in Michelle’s mind. Accept His gift. Accept…salvation. Accept…

Please to accept my son Jesus, the note had said.

There it was, the connection. She looked from Josh to the baby, her thoughts churning up a wave of emotion. It all fit now—the celebration of Christ’s birth, this little Jesus, the hole in her heart that needed filling. None of what had happened this evening was an accident. God was showing her that Jesus Christ was the answer. He’d always been the answer. She just had to open her heart and receive His gift.

Josh took his place behind the pulpit and opened his notes for his sermon. It was hard to believe that another year had passed by and they were celebrating Christ’s birth once again. He glanced down at the front row and smiled broadly at Michelle and Jon Sanderson. What a joy they were to him and a wondrous reminder of God’s supernatural love.

“Today we come to celebrate God’s gift to the world,” Josh began. “It was and is a paradoxical gift, a multi-faceted, divine gift of contradiction. It’s a gift of life destined for death on the cross. It’s a gift of peace that brings a two-edged sword of truth. It’s a gift of light and hope that also carries the penalty of eternal darkness for those who reject it. But most of all, it’s the highest possible gift of sacrificial love known to man. John 3:16 states, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life…’”

Michelle felt the baby in her womb kicking and pushing as if to say, “I’m here! I have life!” She gently touched her abdomen and then smiled as she leaned her head on Jon’s shoulder. Not only was Christ’s birth a miracle of love, but Jon’s miraculous salvation, the return of little Jesus to his mother along with his mother’s amazing redemption, and, most wonderously, her own seemingly impossible pregnancy were indeed monumental, miraculous gifts of life and love from Christ.

“…and,” Josh continued, “that is why this child is called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Rosemary Davis is a retired educator and curriculum writer who has self-published a suspense novel entitled Death in the Skies. In addition to her novel, her poetry has been published in Piano Magazine, and she writes unpublished Christian articles which are used as sermons in various denominations.

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