During my childhood, my family alternated celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day between my two sets of grandparents.
Before reaching the embarrassing and often awkward middle-school years, my favorite schedule was to celebrate Christmas Eve at my Grandma Helen?s house in Marquette, because every other year, the Olson family hosts a special visitor. A right jolly, good fellow you might say. And I loved savoring the anticipation of hearing the doorbell ring and a ?Ho, ho, ho? sound throughout the house.
Santa would haul in a large gift sack and call each family member by name to receive his or her gift?with one stipulation?one must sit on Santa?s lap.
As you might imagine, sitting on Santa?s lap was fine as a toddler, as a preschooler, even as an elementary school student, but in each subsequent year after that, my photographed face got redder and redder. And yes, even as an adult you can still find some tinges of red in my cheeks from embarrassment and a lot of laughing.
After Santa?s appearance, more gifts were exchanged, unwrapped and played with. Thank you?s were shouted to the appropriated party. Sweets were gobbled up. Toys were played with again. And then came hugs and well-wishes. And my family was packed into our van and headed home.
But it was during the 15-minute drive home that I started my own Christmas Eve tradition. I spent the drive staring intently out my window up at the heavens. No, not looking for Santa?s sleigh, but trying to pinpoint which of the twinkling stars was THE Christmas star.
The star that shone so brightly that the three wise men were able to follow its light. The star that signified the birth of a special baby in a faraway place called Bethlehem. The star that shone over the manager where the newborn King had been born.
I longed to find that star and to share in its glorious brilliance.
From early on, I looked for that star year after year, never realizing in my childish naivety how nearly impossible it would be to see a 2,000-plus-year-old star through the glass of a Chevy Astro van. Some might say it would have been easier to spot Rudolph?s red nose.
But eventually, I found something better than a star and better than Santa Claus. I found ?a savior which is Christ the Lord.?
As a fifth-grader away at camp, I accepted a free and perfect gift of salvation. I admitted I was a sinner. I pledged my belief in Jesus as my savior. And I became free.
Much to that young girl?s surprise, being a follower of Jesus hasn?t made life easier. I?ve experienced deaths of loved ones, some much too young. I?ve experienced living through a time of anger and rebellion against my faith. I?ve experienced worry over my own child?s health. But I?ve also experienced more blessings than I can count.
And through it all, God always brings me back to a place of hope. A hope that began in believing in and searching for a Christmas star.
And although I?m grown?and I know better?I?m sure I will find myself stealing gazes out the car window looking for a star that is a little brighter than all the rest as we travel home from Marquette this Christmas Eve.