Our First Christmas


Christmas was coming, and it was obvious that my wife and I, who were newlyweds, were not going to have any money to buy a Christmas tree, ornaments, decorations, or a fine dinner.

We had started with no home, no jobs, and very little money. But God helped us. We found a small apartment, and I started looking for a job. I hadn’t finished my degree, so I took various sales jobs. My income was modest, just enough to pay for food and rent. I would leave home early; sometimes I would come back successful, sometimes not. If I was not, I would feel defeated, but my wife, who was pregnant, would greet me with a smile. Then the difficulties would seem less challenging.

In Mexico, Christmas Eve is celebrated even more than Christmas Day. When I was single, I celebrated by eating codfish and a salad that included beets, oranges, and peanuts. But this Christmas Eve we didn’t know what we would be having for dinner. We had a little money and a small gas stove fueled by a borrowed tank of gas. We didn’t have a refrigerator or furniture for the living room or dining room—just a little wooden table my grandmother had given me and a couple of chairs we had received from a friend.

As I thought about our situation, I became depressed. But I remembered that God never forsakes us, and I humbled myself like a child and went to Him in prayer.

My prayer was answered. I had peace in my heart and felt that all would be well. I opened the trunk of my car, and in one corner I found a small piece of dried fish. I remembered that several months before, I had helped my father move some fish, and this piece must have been left behind. Because of the salt it hadn’t gone bad.

I showed it to my wife, and she said she would cook it. We went to buy tomatoes and other ingredients. We washed the fish and soaked it to get the salt out.

That night, by the light of a small bulb, we sat at our little unpainted wooden table and remembered the birth of Jesus Christ and how He was born with even less than we had. We enjoyed the most delicious dinner I had ever eaten and went to bed early. The next morning we stayed in bed and watched Christmas movies. It was a very happy day. In our poverty the spirit of Christmas brightened our little home and gave us hope and courage.

In January our daughter was born, bringing more happiness into our home.

Many Christmases have come and gone since then, and we no longer lack decorations or a Christmas tree or the fragrance of pine. We have had many fine dinners with succulent dishes. But I cherish most the memory of our first Christmas together. It was the poorest in material things but the richest in things spiritual and eternal: just the two of us with our unborn daughter and the spirit of Christmas.

[photos] Photographs by Christina Smith