At Christmas in 1983 I was not yet two years old and my younger brother was right at eleven months. My daddy was in the army and our little family of four was stationed in Germany that September. Understanding the futility of the time it would take to ship all we had overseas, my parents sold everything with the plans to purchase a new life in Europe. We therefore arrived with only our clothes. My parents indeed carried through with their plan, but restructuring a new life with a meager military paycheck and little savings over three months left them with only $10.00 by that December. Wishing to provide a Christmas for their babies, my parents squeezed that $10.00 and bought a small tree, one strand of lights, and some wooden ornaments for our first German Christmas. But there were no presents under it; only two small children gazing in wonder at its twinkling lights. We had no Christmas dinner celebration as there wasn’t much food in the pantry anyway, no friends, and no family. My parents felt utterly alone in a very large world during one of the hardest and leanest times in the life of our family. Oh, but God was with us…
Having to work on Christmas Eve, my dad came home late that night bringing an unexpected package with him. When my parents opened it, they found a Christmas miracle: toys, clothes, and everything they wanted to do for us that they thought they couldn’t. Our family at home in Georgia had come together to make sure we had Christmas. But God is an exceedingly abundant caregiver, and He didn’t stop there. Moments after this package arrived, there was a knock at our door. My dad’s battery sergeant showed up with, yet another box awarded specifically to needy military families. The box was full of more toys, canned foods, bread, and a ham. What beautiful timing! To this day my family and I remember this as our best Christmas ever, when God reminded us that we were never alone, that He is Emmanuel.
I wasn’t old enough to understand all that God did that Christmas. I can’t remember it; I only have my parents’ account of it and the wooden ornaments and that still dangle from our family tree. But as I’ve journeyed with God through the past 35 years, I’ve seen Him move and felt His hand in ways that always refer back to that night. It’s not about the presents that came, but the presence that was with us in the midst of our unknown, which is even deeper than that. We know that Emmanuel is not only with us but within us. He knows our every need and our every want—He places them gently in our hearts, for the fulfilled promise of them ushers in God’s glory for everyone to see. This season my family is being reminded that we don’t live on bread alone, but instead on every word and every promise from the mouth of the Father. It may seem like the eleventh hour when His fulfills those promises, but God’s timing is so pure and perfect. When the waiting is torturous, the praying arduous, and the journey feels lonely, remember He is the promise. He is Emmanuel.
Brandi Griffin is wife to Jordan and mom to Lilli. She is a lover of words, glitter, and all things Jesus; she's a worshiper, a make-up artist, painter, and as all things southern must be, a Georgia native and inevitably diehard UGA football fanatic. A bonafide word nerd, Brandi is currently writing her first book, but you can read some of her other work on her blog. Find her here on Instagram.