Presence and Accounted For

Presence and Accounted For

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Presence and Accounted For

Every gift had been wrapped, each recipe prepared, and all the ornaments hung. I had seen to every detail; I knew I hadn’t overlooked a thing. And now, with my three anxious children tucked in bed at last, I leaned back in my favorite recliner—satisfied—to survey our perfect, shimmering tree.

I admired the gay packages arranged meticulously underneath. Thanks to my early planning and a little extra money this year, Christmas was going to be wonderful. I couldn’t wait to see my children’s faces when they tore into their presents the next morning, discovering all of the new clothes and great toys I had bought for them.

I began a mental accounting of the treasures tucked inside each package: the Dallas Cowboys jacket for Brandon, the Fisher Price castle for Jared, the Victorian dollhouse for Brittany . . .

Basking in the glow of twinkling lights and my own thoughts, I barely noticed Jared sneak into the room. My normal reaction would be to jump up and rush him back to bed. Languidly curious this time, I chose to sit still and watch, hoping he wouldn’t notice my presence.

I needn’t have worried.

Jared was a five-year-old with a mission. The glimmering tree illuminated his small figure as he made his way straight to the nativity beneath it. Sinking to his knees, he held out a paper and whispered, “See, Jesus, I drew this picture for you.”

Not wanting to miss a word, I held my breath and leaned forward.

“On the left side, that’s me.” Jared’s finger traced a path across the page. “On the right side, that’s you.” He pointed. “In the middle is my heart.” He smiled sweetly. “I’m giving it to you.”

With tenderness, Jared placed the picture beneath the tree.

“Merry Christmas, Jesus,” he said and scurried back to bed.

My throat tightened, and my eyes filled. All the sparkling decorations and all the shiny wrappings in the room suddenly dulled in comparison to Jared’s innocent crayon drawing. It took my small child’s gift of love to remind me that only Jesus can make Christmas wonderful this year. And he always does.

Vickie Ryan Koehler

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