“7:00 AM? Really? OK…we can do that, I guess.” The moms had voted an early morning time to open their Christmas presents at the Zechariah House. I knew the MissionCorps would have a late night Christmas Eve. We went to midnight Mass and still had “elf-work” to do afterward. On top of all this, I have always found it difficult to get out of bed, but it was well worth the sacrifice.
Earlier on Christmas Eve, I gave one of the moms a ride to an appointment and during our conversation on the ride, she told me that she had not had a Christmas in many years. It broke my heart to know it had been so long. This explained a lot, because this mom, we will call her Nicole, had been so enthusiastic about Christmas coming. In fact, she was the one who suggested the 7:00AM time for opening presents. I realize, too, that her situation is not unique. Even if they have family around, some moms have their first Christmas in a while at Maggie’s Place; sometimes Christmas presents were too much, or at a certain age they had become too “old” for Christmas.
On Christmas morning, we started opening gifts, and of course, Nicole was waiting downstairs for us to unlock the door to the “Christmas” room. We had separated the gifts into piles for the different moms and their baby so the mamas sat by their pile and unwrapped the gifts one-by-one and looked over everything carefully. The gifts and generosity of the donors really touched them. They have told me several times how grateful they are. Perhaps the cutest moment came when the oldest baby, who is five months, was able to grab and rip at the wrapping paper by himself. The look of pride on his mother’s face was so beautiful.
This left me wondering if we were giving them a “first” Christmas in something else. After all the gifts are open, what do we leave our moms with? The Christmas gifts had brought pleasure, which is beautiful. This “pleasure” though, like all temporary things, passes. It is a taste of the eternal happiness of the gift of Christ—the real meaning of Christmas—which all of us want. We try to celebrate Christ as the center here at Maggie’s Place by putting up nativity sets, lighting advent candles at community night, and more. It is both a challenge and gift to share but worth the gift at the end.
After the gifts, the moms went to spend time with friends or relatives. I am so glad I got out of bed to see the moms opening the presents. Christmas is not a question of Santa for these moms—I don’t know if many of them ever believed in the story of Santa anyway, but it is about making this day special for them as adults and reminding them that they are loved deeply. Hopefully, this pleasure of Christmas will lead us all to seek the eternal happiness which satisfies.
By Jessica Trevail, MissionCorps member at The Zechariah House in Ohio