I have always loved Christmas.
My parents created Christmas traditions full of wonder and surprise. Christmas didn’t arrive at our home until Christmas Day… because Santa brought everything! After the little ones set out Santa’s cookies and milk and went off to bed, Mom and Dad began the gargantuan, all-night task of filling the stockings, setting up and decorating the tree, assembling the toys, and placing the mountains of gifts in individual piles. I don’t know how my parents ever functioned the next morning, but I know steaming cups of coffee were essential as the children tore into the over-stuffed stockings on Mom and Dad’s bed. When we finished opening our stockings, and Mom and Dad were semi-awake, we anxiously crept down the hall to wait expectantly at the closed living room door. After an eternity passed, Dad slowly opened the door to the magical world of Christmas! I can still feel the awe of that first glimpse of the huge, glittering tree and the enormous collection of bright, shiny gifts that waited for us.
With my own family, Christmas came with greenery and berries wrapping staircases and pillars, outdoor lights on the awnings and windows, and decorations in every corner of the house… entertaining, rice bags to keep out the cold, cut-out sugar cookies decorated in varying styles of creativity as young children grew to teenagers, and traditional cinnamon rolls eaten leisurely on Christmas morning while we opened stockings and gifts one-by-one. We also had a big tree – but we sanely began a new routine of setting it up with everyone’s help weeks ahead of time. Since we lived in Mexico, we sometimes added Christmas Eve dinner, hot chocolate, and late-night piñatas. Christmas Eve candlelight service and a collection of nativity scenes helped remind us of Jesus in the midst of the craziness.
This year, we live in Orlando, Florida in a small apartment. Most of my decorations were given away in the move; the days-long decorating tradition lasted only a few hours. It is warm and sunny outside; snowmen and frosted trees seem strangely out-of-place. There are no children at home, no stockings to fill, no piles of gifts under the tree, little motivation to bake sugar cookies that we shouldn’t eat.
So I wonder… what is Christmas really? Is it children’s delighted wonder at glitter and toys? Is it pretty decorations, gift shopping, and favorite foods? Is it special family time, traditions, or church services? All are good, and through the years I have enjoyed it all… but none are the true essence of CHRISTmas. This year as so much of Christmas normal has been stripped away, I realize that I have actually received a wonderful gift — the opportunity to focus intentionally on Christ: His story, His life, His example. There are so few distractions, so there is more peace and more time to learn from Him. I know we will attend parties and events, shop some, and bake (to give away :)), but I am especially excited to spend quiet, not rushed, special times with Jesus this year. I think this may become the kind of Christmas that I love most.
What do you love about Christmas?