THE PILLOW DOLL
By: Ginny Luedeman
Celebrating the birth of the Christ child takes many
forms but the message remains the same. It tells of love.
As a young girl, in the church I attended at that time, I played Mary, the mother of Jesus, in a nativity production our Sunday School put on for the congregation one year. I remember thinking that I must have been a particularly good girl to have been chosen for such an important part. A warm feeling filled my heart as I knelt in front of a little manger with a doll in it, representing the baby Jesus.
That was years ago, but I was touched during that simple experience with a sweet sense of love, the very essence of holiness. What I felt on my knees that night had nothing to do with the doll or the manger. I experienced the presence of God and His love, or the Christ. I’ve never forgotten that wonderful feeling.
The Christ is always present, with or without traditional Christmas celebrations. And God’s love for humanity is the greatest gift of all. In First John the Bible says “God is love.” And the New Testament speaks over and over again about this love as wonderful, all-encompassing, born to earth in the beautiful life of Jesus. But this love was not limited to Jesus’ time, or to the event we call Christmas. Every day, each of us has an opportunity to live this love, which Jesus so fully expressed.
Jesus’ life defined Love as no other has--as a love that gives all and includes all. A love that has a timeless healing presence, that comes to light with every kind thought and good deed, with every heart made a little gentler, and every fear tenderly dissolved. Christmas is about fear tenderly dissolved. Christmas is about God’s, Love’s constant appearing in hearts and lives.
One Christmas I learned more about Love. The driveway was lined with twinkling white lights. A big, green Christmas tree glittered in the front room. Multi-colored decorations, collected over the years, adorned the branches with memories of years gone by. A pot of apple cider simmered on the stove.
For a number of years we had invited special friends into our home for the holidays. Each Christmas celebration was unique. We hosted gift exchanges in which numbers were drawn and, based on their number, guests could choose either to pick a gift or to trade with someone else. Most people were laughing by the end of the game, and no one knew what gift they would end up with. Once, everyone brought gag gifts or something outrageous that was really fun. My goal was to put lots of “merry” into everyone’s Christmas. This year would be no different.
The guests began to arrive. One of our friends brought his wife, whom we had never met. She was rather quiet, but seemed comfortable in the group. This year we were having an ornament exchange and sharing stories about our most memorable Christmas gift. Guest by guest we went around the room, laughing and envisioning together the treasured Christmas toy remembered--a Lionel train set, a bicycle, a copy of Elvis Presley’s first album. Toward the end of the sharing, our quiet guest began to tell of her most special Christmas gift.
As I remember the story, she had been raised by her humble, but loving, grandmother, who had been a migrant worker.
One Christmas, her grandmother had nothing to give to her and no money to buy her as a present. Christmas Eve, after she was asleep, her grandmother took the small, soft, worn pillow from her own bed and transformed it into a gift of love. Beginning at the top, in the center, she tied off a handful of the pillow to create a head. Then she twined both extended pieces of the top to form arms. Finally, she wrapped twine around the center creating a waist. Her doll had colored eyes and a mouth, but I can’t remember what they were made of.
Christmas morning, our guest had been delighted to awake to a smiling pillow doll, the most beautiful doll she had ever seen. She said that she’d treasured that doll for many years, until it wore out from being played with so much.
When our guest finished, the room was completely silent for what seemed like a long time. But it was a silence that spoke of something wonderful, for in her telling of the story, the Christ-love her grandmother conveyed in making the little pillow doll had blessed us all. The meaning of Christmas became a reality.
Holiday preparations that year took on a deeper tenderness as I carefully wrapped my grandchildren’s less-modest gifts. As I wrapped, I prayed that the love behind my gifts would speak to their hearts just as it had in the case of the little pillow doll.
I will remember the little doll during my Christmas preparations this year, as I have most years since that party. Again and again she reminds me that the greatest gift of all is love.
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