On Christmas Eve, I watched the lights in the sky. If I saw a red one, I asked my dad if that was Rudolph. On Christmas morning, we woke up early. Too early. And we waited until we couldn't wait any more and then we went and woke up our parents. Such wonder. Such awe. Such joy in waiting and then seeing the promised event actually come to pass.
My sister, brothers, and I celebrated the candy cane in the stocking. And the little chocolates and the toothbrush, new crayons and color book. One year I got a bike. That was a great year, except that I didn't learn to ride it for over a year. And, of course, sometimes Christmas day wasn't quite what I hoped. One year I got more clothes than toys. Another year the Skipper doll I asked for didn't have bendable legs. I was crushed.
And so I set out to make magical Christmases for my kids. I wanted to recreate the awe and wonder of my own experience for them.
Those days are over. My kids are all grown up. Today they're all coming over to decorate the tree, but it's not like it was when they were little. In those days, I let them put stickers on the days so that they could count down until Christmas. I explained, "Only six more sleeps, and then you'll wake up and it will be Christmas." I hid all the presents in the closet or Kirsten would figure out what each gift was, and then we put them out on Christmas Eve before the kids woke up.
The magic is gone. We don't count down the days until Christmas. I think that I'll get some of the magic back when I have grandchildren, but who knows?
Right now I just want to recapture the magic and the anticipation of waiting for Jesus. For experiencing his presence. For looking forward to the second Christmas, when he returns to reign in all his glory.
That's hard to do. First of all, we don't know when it's going to happen. I mean, we have no idea. We can't put stickers on the calendar. We don't know how many sleeps it will be before Jesus comes back. Peter describes it this way, stating, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8). It seems like it will never happen, but God is now slow, Peter says, as some people define slowness, he is "patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Even more difficult, we have people around us, questioning our faith in the promised return of Jesus. Peter calls them scoffers. They ask, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of time". (2 Peter 3:3-4) In essence, "Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. You might as well believe in Santa Claus."
And finally, over time, we tend to forget. That's why Peter reminds us, "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. . . we are looking forward to a new earth, the home of the righteous" (2 Peter 3:11-13). This is more than sparkling, flashing lights. This is more than a bicycle under the tree and a new toothbrush. This is Jesus. The One who loves us, who suffered for us, who died for us, who sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us.
I want to recapture the magic. I want to revel in the anticipation of this second return. I want to stand in awe of the promise of God.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a wise rabbi, wrote
Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ....get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed."This is the goal of Christmas: Love incarnate. Relationship with God. Redemption of sins. Restoration of God's plan.