Christmas Eve is always one of the busiest nights of the year in our home. Early in the evening (around 5 pm) people start arriving and it seems like they never stop. Not that we would want them to – it takes a lot of people to eat all of the food we have around, it takes a lot of talent to put on an epic talent show, it takes a lot of actors to put on the annual Christmas play and it takes a lot of grandchildren to open all of the Christmas pajamas disguised as presents that grandma and grandpa brought with them. There is always a lot of noise and excitement – after all Santa will be here in just a little while – but there is always some time to reflect on why we are celebrating. Sometimes this comes in the presentation of the nativity, complete with costumes and narration and sometimes in the form of a special musical event.
This year however another major event occurred that would remind me not only of why we were all celebrating but why we are all here. Elder Kyle Allen left on his mission May 23, 2012 exactly seven months and a day from Christmas Eve. He had told us in his e-mails that came earlier in the month that he would call that evening – all the way from Hong Kong – at around 7 pm our time. He would call on Staci’s phone, making it the most important piece of electronic equipment in the house. He didn’t call right at that time causing the mother who hadn’t spoken to him since he left the airport in Los Angeles a great deal of anxiety. Nothing else about the evening could happen until Kyle called. No Talent Show, no Christmas Play, no opening of presents. Nothing else seemed important until once again we were all together. Nothing else mattered until I could hear my baby boy’s voice on that particular holy night with all of his sisters and their families there too.
Then it happened. Almost two hours after the agreed upon time, Staci’s phone rang and it was an unknown long distance calling card call. Quickly and without much encouragement our whole family retreated to Staci’s room where we might have a chance to dwell on every single word out of this missionary’s mouth, whether is was in English or Chinese. If I had tried to get them all in the same room for some other purpose it would have been like trying to contain smoke with a net. It wouldn’t have happened. Kyle has four married sisters, a teenaged sister and six nieces and nephews. Not the biggest family ever but still a lot of people to get into one room on a busy and exciting night like Christmas Eve. Still for this occasion, for this purpose, all of them gathered without a word from anyone as if drawn by some force, bringing us all together.
We talked for the better part of an hour until the it was clear the time on Kyle’s phone card had run out. We all took a turn on the speakerphone to ask questions, hear about his experiences and be amazed at his Chinese. My parents came in too for a time as did my brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews. When it was all over instead of the sadness I expected, I felt the most amazing feeling I had ever felt. I felt a sense of completeness, like I had just experienced the reason for Christ’s birth, His life and His Atonement. He went through all of that so that we could be together. Forever. That after the separations of time and space and life and death that go along with mortal life, we can be together again. I want that for myself and for my family. I want that for the rest of the world – including the people of Hong Kong. I am so very grateful for that experience and for a Christmas Eve this year that was truly “a little bit of heaven on earth.”