A friend and I were talking about Christmas last week. We were remembering what Christmas used to “feel” like when we were younger. I remember. To me as a child, there was a very defined “Christmas feeling”; it was so strong it was almost tangible.
It was a magical feeling.
It was that feeling I got when I woke up in the morning and beheld a new world glistening in white. It was in the smell of pine. It was in the taste of warm, buttered yule kake and hot chocolate. Always it was in the sweet carols I sang around the piano with my mother and sisters. The wrapping of gifts; the shiny red, golds and blues. Stories. Flickering candles. Even the seemingly slow movement of the mouse figure in our advent calendar. A paper snowflake. A raven lighting on a snow-laden branch, dusting the place beneath in soft white. The stillness of a frosty night; dare not step and break that magic with the crunch of my foot.
Wrap up all those memories and feelings together and I would call them my “sense of wonder”. There was a child-like joy resting in the knowledge that something much bigger than me was taking place; I could not fully comprehend it and that was enough.
Now I am old. Wonder isn’t as tangible as it once was. Once in a great while, I will be surprised by the merest scrap of it when I least expect it. It’s like a thread dangling from a garment. I grab at it but if I pull too hard, it unravels and escapes me.
Christmas time and all it’s frenzy hits me as it does most everyone in this part of the world. I’m told almost everywhere I turn that the magic will be found in creating all the right circumstances. I don’t know how to slow down. My inbox is jammed with last-minute deals I can’t pass up and records of orders that probably won’t all arrive in time before the big day. I feel the pressure of making my house festive and succumb to any number of impulse buys while at the mall. I defy logic, bobbing my head in agreement, when the clerk grins at me, jovially announcing, “you saved $82 today!” as I heave my multiple burdens out of the store. Yay me. I’m busy baking and planning menus; too busy and flustered trying to make everything perfect to think of it as a “magical moment”.
I get to about mid-December, right about the time I’ve chosen either to increase my panic and finish “everything” or give up, telling myself that next year things will be different. I start getting the emails from fellow bloggers encouraging everyone to slow down and reflect on the real meaning of the season.
More or less, I guess that’s what I’m saying too…and then some. I know there has to be something more, right? I’ve had the years of post-Christmas blues where I know I’ve missed something. I miss the magic. I miss the sense of wonder.
And it has to be more than a mere feeling. We can conjure up “feelings” given the right environment but they are fleeting and immediately change with our circumstances.
It escapes me where I heard this first…that as we age, it takes more to spark that sense of wonder in our hearts. I agree. Children are so simple and believing; their little hearts have not been calloused by the hard practical ways of understanding the world. As we grow up, the childish beliefs fall away. We realize there is no Santa Claus. Christmas time becomes a thing to survive; to rev up the excitement and get through then let the kids enjoy while you pick up the pieces later wondering if all the effort you put in was worth it.
I’ve floundered all month this year on what it would look like for me to jump off this hamster wheel I annually find myself on; I’m not yet sure what it looks like. I do know though (always known but sometimes we go through hard lessons of reminding) that the only thing that’s big enough to ignite a sense of true wonder is God. Obviously. Over the last few weeks, I’ve read the Christmas story accounts in the Bible again and again. And again. I’ve read them with prayer, purpose and with a desire to grow not just with the regular familiarity as I have in years past.
I was going to copy all my favorite pieces from the first two chapters of Luke here but they are indeed best read from beginning to end. I encourage you all to read it even if you’ve just read it recently. Read it as if for the first time. Unwrap the miracle of the Savior’s birth. Then share it!
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Only God is big enough produce a sense of wonder this season; a wonder that will last throughout the year! Really, I write this for me. Maybe it’s no trouble for you; maybe you’ve always felt the wonder of God humbling himself as a baby for our sakes and can tell me about it. I need to quit this cycle. I’m abandoning this commercial Christmas ship because I want to focus only on remembering the birth of Christ. I’m throwing out my impossible expectations. I don’t want my children to remember Christmas time as “the month mom went crazy” and repeat this pattern in their lives. He is enough.
“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”