The first time he looked at the bedside clock, the red glow of the numbers illuminated the time: 2:13 AM. The next glance was sometime around 3:30 AM. Then after a brief cat nap, about 4:15. Anticipation filled his muscles, images of toys and treats filled his head, and the joy of Christmas filled his heart. He was anxiously awaiting 6:00 AM, when he knew it was an acceptable hour to wake his parents and find what Santa had left them. Finally, once that hour had arrived, he flew out of his bedroom resplendent in reindeer pajamas and bounded down the hall with a rapid pace. And there was the object of his waiting—the tree, surrounded by glittering packages of all shapes and sizes, ready for unwrapping. I remember that special Christmas and the anticipation just like it was yesterday—rightfully so, perhaps—it was just last year, and that boy was me!
All kidding aside, Christmas Eve brings a sense of wonderment to children around the world. Once upon a time, it did for me as well, but despite my opening saga, that’s been more than a few years ago. With age come responsibilities, tasks to be completed before the big day arrives, groceries to be purchased, cookies to be baked, presents to be selected and wrapped, decorating to be done, cards to be sent, and lists to be made, checked, and re-checked. A bit overwhelming? Yes, I certainly think so. And then when Christmas morning finally does arrive, rather than fighting the urge to rush to the tree as the boy in my illustration, we instead fight the urge to sleep in, catching up on the rest we so desperately crave after the hectic season.
I suspect this year, the level of anticipation among us “older children” may drop even lower. Many of us will be unable to see family and friends, unable to renew traditions we’ve held dear for so many years, unable to feel we can truly celebrate Christmas. But it will still arrive, with or without our anxious awaiting.
Therefore, foolishly perhaps, I wondered if I might rekindle some of that excitement this year. Could I once again feel so much anticipation for Christmas morning that I struggled even to fall asleep? With some effort, could I watch the clock throughout the night, counting down the hours? Could I bound out of bed and to the living room with wide eyes and a pounding heart? I’m afraid my conclusion was that those feelings can’t be imitated, but must be genuine. Genuine the way they are with children—children who’ve been counting down the days for Santa’s arrival. They cannot, unfortunately, be duplicated.
Then is there cause for despair? Was my attempt to rejuvenate that excitement in vain? No, indeed, it brought a realization—a realization that there are reasons all around us for excitement and anticipation. There are new opportunities to come in the new year, there are relationships to be renewed, friendships to be maintained, there are weddings to be rejoiced, and new babies to be welcomed. There are birthdays and anniversaries and holidays to celebrate. There are milestones such as getting a driver’s license, graduating high school or college, or even retirement to be anticipated. There are gardens to be planted, flowers to bloom, leaves to sprout. There are boundless opportunities to be excited.
And around 2,000 years ago, there was the most special reason of all to be excited: a baby boy was to be born in the town of Bethlehem. A messiah to come for a fallen world. I doubt the Virgin Mary needed to attempt to create the magic of anticipation that first Christmas Eve—it was genuine, it was palpable, and it was shared by a world in need of a savior.
As many of my readers know, I refrain from topics of religion and politics, but I make exception for this one holiday celebrated by Christians around the world. I hope this Christmas brings you cause for excitement. Excitement for all the wonderful things that grace our lives and our world each and every day. May God richly bless you in the coming year, and from myself and my wife April, may we wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas!