Christmas was magical when I was little. My parents made sure of that. Everything they did to decorate the house and prepare food and gifts was done with loving care and a constant element of surprise – Here’s the Advent wreath, let’s put the new candles in right away- Don’t eat that jam, it’s for Christmas –We’ll find the best Christmas tree this year – We’re delivering our baked nut breads to our friends today – and, Oh, look, it’s snowing just in time for Christmas.
Another part of the magic orchestrated was getting us to church, First Presbyterian, every Sunday during Advent and most weekdays in between, a continuation of our family life from the rest of the year, to help prepare our hearts, too. The pinnacle of waiting and preparation happened at the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, a night as mysterious as it was magical. What other times could we be out with all of our friends past midnight?
After the beautiful celebration of the long-awaited Child, and after my siblings and I settled to sleep, my parents trimmed the tree. And in the remaining wee hours before dawn, Santa surrounded it with colorful gifts. Christmas morning radiated love before our wide-open eyes of wonder when we ran down the steps to Christmas music and a hearty, “Merry Christmas” from those two, while my dad snapped a picture of our delight.
I am convinced that if participation in the church did not weave through our family life, Christmas would have been nothing more than twinkly lights and presents –a shallow holiday of bleak effort and comments like, “I can’t wait till Christmas is over,” would have been heard in our home.
Because my parents knew that active faith in the One who changed the world that first Christmas morning is the most important foundation they could give to their children, Christmas is never a burden to me, but one of deep joy that refreshes my soul every year.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your gift of faith, especially at Christmas