Here it is… Christmas Eve. The run-up to the last big holiday of the year.
And it truly is a big one, especially if you’re a kid. They usually begin making their list a bit before Thanksgiving. Some even sooner.
I remember being a little girl and one of the biggest pre-Christmas events – that thing that signaled that Christmas was near, it was really happening, and we hadn’t missed it – was the arrival of the Sears catalogue.
The thing was thicker than a New York City phone book, and once you got past all the dumb stuff, like clothes and tools, it was page after page of toys, toys, TOYS!
My three brothers and I would fight over who got to hold it first. Once we had settled in place, however, we were wide-eyed and fixated on every item, every page, and I do not envy my parents, who from the day the catalogue arrives until Christmas Eve each year, would have to hear every day our entire list for Santa Claus.
Think about it: Four kids, and pretty much everything we saw on every page, every toy ad on television, “I want that! I want that! OH – Mama, I want THAT!”
Back then, our wants far exceeded the ability of our parents to provide, but somehow, every Christmas morning, as my brothers and I piled out of our beds and rushed to the living room, Santa had come, and there was plenty.
In those pre-dawn hours, it always seemed to me that everything shined. The tree, the presents left by Santa, everything had a diamond-like glow. It was as close to magic as anything I’d known in my little life.
I don’t remember ever being disappointed, even though I never received everything I wanted. I was content.
When my son was small I tried very hard to recreate those magical Christmas mornings. I wanted to do everything exactly the way my parents had done it.
Some presents were wrapped (the boring stuff, like clothes, and maybe a smaller toy or two). The big things, those things I knew he’d really get a kick out of, “Santa” brought, and after I got Casey in bed and was sure he was asleep (overcoming his excitement and achieving that often required I lay down with him and snuggle him until he was calm enough to drift off), those things would be arranged under the tree, to be discovered when he awoke.
I did this (minus the snuggling part) until he was 16 years old. At that point, I was kind of doing it more for me than him.
I was always so blessed that my sweet boy would tell me every Christmas morning, “Mama, tell Santa I said ‘Thank you.’ “
Now, my son is a man, moved out and on his own. My brothers aren’t just dads, but granddads, and our core unit is pretty sizable (I have over 20 nephews and nieces).
That entire unit will descend on my parents’ home today for dinner and to exchange gifts. This is the tradition that began once my brothers and I were all grown up, ourselves.
We do Christmas Eve with my parents, because Christmas day is for the in-laws.
Those are just the adjustments needed when outside people are brought into the family, and that’s ok. I’m fortunate in that I actually like my sisters-in-law, and my parents get along with their daughters-in-law, so it works out nicely.
I imagine that our family story isn’t very different than that of other families. Everybody has their traditions and those things that are special to them about the Christmas season.
I’ve heard so many arguments since I became a redeemed believer about whether Christmas is truly the celebration of Christ’s birth, or some pagan trickery introduced like a poison into the Christian bloodstream.
I’ll concede that the birth of Jesus was probably not on December 25. I’ll further allow that many – even Christians – have twisted the meaning of the holiday and forgotten how to make this a show of their faith, rather than a covetous mockery.
For those scoffers, I can only say that if you feel rushed, depressed, or you’re just disgusted and want to get through the holiday as quickly as possible, then of course you’re doing it wrong and it in no way reflects godly love.
For those who love the season, like myself, let fond memories, family, fellowship, and the joy of giving be your answer to the world.
Our Father in Heaven values these things. He sent His best as the ultimate gift to the world. That is what we celebrate.
Enjoy your day. Love your family. And if you have little in the world, as a follower of Christ, you can know you have treasures stored in Heaven that will never break, rust, or require batteries.
Merry Christmas and God bless you in the coming year, everybody.