Something about the slow of this season, the quiet of the sky since the birds are all hiding, the chill in the air, makes me nostalgic and sentimental. I’m a feeler by nature, but the winter brings it out even more in me. I love the coziness of it all, the richness, the warmth of fires and voices joining in echoed carols and the mugs we hold tightly.
Around the glowing tree, the fire warming the room while the songs play on a loop, I feel the magic of this sweet season and it takes me back.
My memories are prompted by photographs and family videos, as I’m sure many of yours are.
The one before my brother came along, when my hair was still blond and I wore a Minnie Mouse shirt to help my dad with our freshly cut tree in the front yard of my first home. The books my mom read aloud to us in her animated voice, the stockings she had cross-stitched for each of us hanging nearby. The year my still sleepy eyes saw that big empty fish tank with all the coupons telling me I could pick out fish to fill it, the joy that overtook me. The warm years in Arizona when our new bikes could instantly be put to use in the cul-de-sac without our coats on. The Christmas card photo with my eyes still red from crying because I didn’t want to smile, not again, not next to that pesky brother, not in the matching pajamas, not tonight. The time the two of us sang Little Drummer Boy by the tree, my brother beaming and bouncing and drumming wildly, my bossy self commanding him to “stop jumping!” with my tiny hands on my non-existent hips. The candlelit services and the holy reverence of it all, the voices swelling over me in acapella unison. The time I walked in to see my parents stuffing a suitcase with the gifts "Santa" gave us just days later, when the myth was busted but I still pretended to believe so it wouldn't be spoiled. The reading of the story in Luke, the letters we wrote to Santa and read out loud to the video camera, the glittery oats we spread in Grandma’s yard because she called it reindeer food, the little felt characters we pulled from pockets to stick on the felt scene every day of Advent, the fragile nativity scene we carefully unpacked from styrofoam each year.
One half of the family, the one with all the girls, oohed and aahed over every open gift, the joy and excitement making us all smile until our cheeks hurt and we fell asleep piled on couches by the fireplace. The other half with the younger boys, all the cars and superheroes and science sets lost in a mess of paper and bows, the twin puppies causing chaos while Grandpa played Santa with a huge sack of endless gifts for us all. The years of just the four of us, quieter, sweeter, seeped in the traditions I still adore.
I’m in this middle season now, where I’m neither a child nor a parent, where it would be easy to lose the magic. The gift lists are shorter and the presents more practical, but it’s still sweet and sentimental to me. I still hold tight to the traditions of my childhood-- the new pajamas on Christmas Eve, the opening of the stockings as early as we woke while we waited for everyone else and anticipated the rest of the gifts, the monkey bread we ate in the living room and the overnight brunch casserole in the dining room later, the Santa hat we took turns wearing because it meant it was our turn to hand out the presents.
It’s all still magical to me. Sure, Santa’s just a jolly man to me now, and I’m not as surprised by what I receive, but Christmas is still a day of so much joy and love. My people are together again, all smushed together on couches instead of hours and miles apart. My Savior has still come to earth to save us, the Infinite has become Infant, the Messiah come to a manger, still a mysterious, wondrous gift.
The work pauses, the world slows, my heart swells.
It’s a sweet, sweet celebration. It’s a gift to adore my King come to earth. It’s a gift to gather around tables and trees. It’s a gift to shower love on the ones I share my life and blood with in the form of presents. It’s a gift to break bread together, to drink together, to laugh together, to remember together. It’s all a gift.
May I feel the beauty and the magnitude of Christmas this year. May the memories remind me I am dearly loved and abundantly blessed. May the faces I see around me remind me I belong to something bigger and better than myself. May the nativity scene remind me He is worthy of our endless praise, this Savior made small to give me life to the full. May we come and adore Him, our long-expected Jesus, born to set us free. May it all be about Love.