Another Christmas is now hours away. The last of the shopping, cards, carols, live nativities, walks through Bethlehem, Christmas Eve communion services, Santa photos, egg nog, and Christmas gift-giving for another year.
I remember Christmases as a kid. I always paid close attention to how fast or slowly the day passed, wanting it to last a long, long time. The next day, I’d think, “It’s still just one day after Christmas,” the next, “It’s just two days after Christmas.” I wasn’t aware of the Twelve Days of Christmas outside the song; it was more wanting the feeling of Christmastime to last. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.
Then came the new year, back to school, and the feelings of Christmastime, peace, and goodwill were soon forgotten.
When our kids came along, the feelings returned for different, but significant, reasons.
Kids and Christmas
Their first Christmas kids know almost nothing. Depending on their age the presents mean nothing, either. Kids that young are cast members in the parents’ Christmas celebration. But, don’t miss it; it won’t last.
Soon they are old enough to help open their presents, only to be preoccupied with the wrapping and boxes. $300 worth of toys and clothes scattered and temporarily abandoned in favor of cardboard and paper. Don’t miss it; it won’t last.
Eventually they figure it out the Santa thing and ask for specific gifts. Some kids labor over lists as long as the rap-sheet of a 90-year-old career criminal. Parents have to make choices, and are some years unable to fulfill their children’s desires. We ache over what to get and what to omit. Some of those years can bring as much regret as joy. Don’t miss it; it won’t last.
In the midst, for a number of years, Christmas with kids can be magic. There’s a balance of perfect joy in the giving and receiving. Kids are at the perfect age to understand the glories of Christmas morning, with hopes and dreams realized. Parents are able to partake in the rapture of squeals, shrieks, exclamations, and elation; to relish the satisfaction, not only in their children’s joy, but, often, how their own sacrifice has wrought it.
Don’t miss it; it won’t last.
Soon will be gone wrestling with bike assembly and instructions that don’t match the parts scattered across the floor. Soon will be gone trying to remember where Santa hid all the presents. Soon will be gone trying to extract a Barbie doll from packaging restraints suitable for Hannibal Lecter in transit. Soon will be gone hoping the kids will sleep longer on Christmas morning than they ever have, and possibly ever will.
Don’t miss it; it won’t last.
When older, those same kids who couldn’t stay in bed until Christmas dawn if sleep deprived the preceding week, and force-fed a double-shot Ambien tryptophan cocktail will be asking to “have Christmas on Christmas Eve so we can all sleep late.” Everyone will agree. It is not that the joy is gone, but in some ways the magic is. More years and everyone will juggle travel schedules and work schedules just to be in the same room at the same time. Some years it is not possible.
So, while they are young, don’t miss it; it won’t last.
Those of us who are followers of Jesus endeavor to keep the giving and receiving of gifts within the context of God’s great gift to us. It can be an uneasy balance; the unseen is easily enveloped in shadows of the seen.
The One the angels heralded and Herod tried to murder was protected by His parents, increased in favor with God and man, and remained pure, perfect and without sin. An atoning death, a resurrection and lives forever changed. Glory to God in the highest, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Eternity enters history, neither are the same again.
It isn’t magic. It is beyond.
When our oldest (a daughter) was about six years old and our second-born very young, we had an especially tight Christmas. We’d prepared her that we had very little money, so she should pick out a main gift that could not exceed about $20, and we’d do our best to get some smaller gifts, which we did.
On Christmas morning, she awoke to a motley assemblage of gifts under the tree. We felt terrible as parents that we couldn’t do more. After opening the first gift, she went to Sonya and said, “Thank you so much! I love you!” then to me and said, “Thank you so much! I love you!” This was repeated after each gift. “Thank you so much, Mom! I love you!” “Thank you so much, Dad! I love you!”
It was more than magic. It was everything you would ever hope Christmas to be: transcendant.
I’m glad I did not miss it.