I remember one Christmas Eve on the farm being so sure I heard the sound of sleigh bells coming from the sky. As I peered out the window into the clear, cold, moonlit night, I didn’t see a thing but I just knew I had heard sleigh bells. Santa was indeed out doing his thing and I was in wonder and awe. There was a burbling in my tummy and a fluttering in my heart…but it wasn’t the gifts I was so enthralled with. It was that I got to hear the sleighbells and I knew Santa was on his way!
I must have fallen asleep for a short while, but, generally we younger kids hardly slept on Christmas Eves. We could hardly wait for Christmas morning! We weren’t allowed to go downstairs until a certain time, aka, a time by which Mom and Dad would have had some sleep. So, the 3 of us gathered in our spacious upstairs bathroom in the middle of the night, played cards, whispered our thoughts and tried not to laugh out loud, which is difficult when you are trying not to! Finally…the OK came to go downstairs, turn on the Christmas tree lights (the bubble lights were my favourite), and dig into our Christmas stockings (real socks, by the way!). Our stockings held such treasures! A Christmas orange and a snow apple, peanuts and hard candy - none of which we had at other times of the year…pencil, crayons, colouring book…what a moment of joy and wonder. We did receive other gifts under the tree, and I remember only a few of them: a Pollyanna Doll, Betsy-Wetsy, and a toboggan…and a new board game that we could play, along with cards, of course…all day long (when we weren’t outside sledding)!
I don’t recall ever wondering if Santa was checking his list twice to see if I’d been naughty or nice. No frightening thoughts of being graded or in the “epic fail” category. I loved Santa. He even came to our church after the Christmas Pageant was over! “Ho, Ho, Ho!!” he laughed and chuckled as he handed out neatly packaged, small brown bags of Christmas goodies.
Life was not always rosy. Our family and community had their own set of sometimes debilitating challenges, and yet they provided what they were able to at the time – and God did the rest. Wonder and joy, love and grace go a long way in the moment…and they go a long way as time goes by, and, in the gift of God’s grace, I get to look at life and situations in a new way. Not the child-like magical thinking, which is great when we are children, but the sense of mystery at the wonder of God’s Love and Presence in whatever age, stage, and situation we inhabit.
Now I am listening for the very real sound of God’s Love at work today. The treasures I anticipate and wait for in my stocking and under the tree look like forgiveness and healing, love and peace, hope and joy, freely given for all, by the One who came to live as one of us. Jesus, Emmanuel, God dwelling with us, raising us to our inherent dignity. Thanks be to God and Merry Christmas! Hold on to the Heart of It!
The Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love of the Christ Child be yours this Christmas and always!