Sending Christmas greetings a day early so we can focus on what’s most important tomorrow.
With everything the season’s been culminating toward just a single night’s sleep away, what child sleeps well on Christmas Eve?
Growing up, the time off school, the Christmas parties, the drives to see lights, the visit to Santa and the midnight church service peaked with me lying in bed on Christmas Eve, staring up at the darkened ceiling, my mind spinning about the following morning.
As the first rays of dawn cut through the curtain, the promise of unimaginable surprises propelled me from the cocoon of blankets. I’d race around our house, waking my siblings and parents.
We’d go downstairs as a family, turn the corner into a family room, and be in awe of the transformation. The lights on the tree would shimmer off the wrapping paper, stocking hung on the chimney with care would now rest on the floor, the weight of goodies too great for the overmatched masking tape. The cookies we laid out for Santa, absent; the milk we set nearby to refresh him, empty; the carrots we placed on a plate for the reindeer, gone.
Yup. It was official. Santa had made it to our house!
Before diving into the stocking and presents, though, there was one family tradition that needed to take place. Dad would get our family bible and flip through until he found Luke, chapter 2. As he searched for it, and with the glittering presents beckoning me, I remember asking why we had to do this. “Can’t we just open the presents?”
“John,” he replied. “This is why we celebrate this season in the first place. Nothing matters without what you’re about to read. One day, you’ll understand.”
And with that, Dad handed the bible to my oldest brother Jim who read a paragraph. He then handed it to my sister, Cadey, who read a paragraph. Then onto Amy, and me, and Susan and Laura.
There are so many incredible memories from Christmas growing up. But of all the presents received, all the parties attended, and all the experiences we had, the greatest gift my parents gave was that time with my siblings, gathered in a circle, reading scripture together and hearing the words, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Decades removed from those Christmas mornings and now with my own family, responsibilities, and obligations, we have our own traditions for Christmas morning.
And yet there is one we borrow directly from my parents. Our kids sit together, usually on the staircase, and before we check for presents or stockings or half-eaten carrots, we pause to read from Luke. We pause long enough to be reminded what we are celebrating in the first place.
And although our kids sometimes gripe about the delay, I’m able to quote their grandfather to them: this is why we celebrate this season in the first place. Nothing matters without what you’re about to read. One day, you’ll understand.
My friends, regardless of where or with whom you celebrate Christmas tomorrow, or if you celebrate Christmas at all, I hope the words, “Do not be afraid,” aren’t just words in someone else’s story, but a proclamation that positively elevates your life, fills your day with the thrill of hope and reminds you that the best is yet to come.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas tomorrow and a happy holiday season.