“So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change. We keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.” —John Mayer
I grew up in a Catholic home, in a family that went to midnight mass every Christmas Eve, back when it was still held at midnight.
Year after year, I was one in a long line of kids wearing white robes and silver pipe cleaner halos and grasping tiny candles, marching up the aisles of the church toward the alter, where we would form rows in front of the packed church and sing “Away in a Manger.”
To and from mass, I sat in the backseat with my head pressed against the window, searching the black sky in furious silence for that small red glow. I always hoped to see it, but was also a little nervous—afraid we wouldn’t get home in time to fall asleep before Rudolph’s hooves touched down (We made it every year).
One specially selected gift was opened on Christmas Eve and the rest would wait until Christmas morning, after Santa Claus set them out in their unwrapped glory under our Christmas tree.
I still get that feeling when Christmas comes around. From the first ornament stocked onto store shelves before Halloween to the last left-over peanut butter ball at New Year’s, I feel like a kid in the backseat, searching for the red light in the sky.
I wasn’t raised in a home with resources for a lot of gifts. But we always had them. And I don’t remember every present I got, just a few that linger years later. But I remember the anticipation. Gifts have always been a part of my Christmases. Even more so as I learned how to give them.
Losing the heart of Christmas seems to be a collective fear. I’m just not convinced that every other beautiful part of the holiday needs to be dismissed on a quest to preserve the real meaning. If we’re going to wait around for the world to change its view of Christmas, it’ll be a long haul. It starts inside each home, like all solid things should, in spite of distractions.
I love presents. I love food. I love Christmas cards. I love singing “Away in a Manger.” I love wide eyes on Christmas morning. I love “The Charlie Brown Christmas” special and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I love Santa Claus and believing in the magic of believing. If you’ve seen “The Polar Express,” you know what I mean when I say I still hear the bell.
I love Christmas.
No doubt that Christmas is commercialized. We do put too much emphasis on expensive electronics and toys. And Lord knows we do overindulge.
But what else happens during this materialistic nightmare? We spend more time with family. We read the Christmas story. We hang lights and spend evenings driving around to find the best displays. We watch our kids transform into Mary, shepherds or a donkey in nativity plays. We sing Christmas hymns. We send cards and buy gifts for the angel trees.
I can’t help but love Christmas for what it is. For ALL of what it is. Baking, singing, eating, praying, giving, playing, and yes…gifting.
Those of us who believe know the reason for the celebration, but still appreciate the other symbols that come with the season. The ones sung by candlelight or that show through a child waiting for Santa’s visit. I also occasionally enjoy the ones topped with whipped cream or a fat red bow.
There’s room for all of it under my tree. I believe. Because I love Christmas.