A baby, face red and damp with sleep, dozes in his mother's arms.
His older brother, in a Santa hat, squishes down on the small spot left on her knee.
Her eyes are heavy; they almost close during Silent Night. Two long weeks of shopping, wrapping and cooking with two young children in tow has worn down her edges. She is soft in the glow of candles. Around her the Christmas Eve congregation sings lustily of peace and the birth of Christ, but the young mother dreams of just one night of uninterrupted sleep.
Her baby's hands are chubby and small. I long to reach over and touch them. I remember how perfect a baby's fingers are, like silk, like joy, like love.
He stirs and opens his sleepy eyes. The old man behind smiles at the tyke. The baby smiles back. The young mother kisses his forehead, kisses his cheek, touches him with her loving fingers and her soul.
This is Christmas.
This crowded country church.
This is Christmas and this is why I love it.
To all my friends far and near, may happiness and peace find your heart this Christmas.
And may you find love, the greatest gift of all.