We spend a good bit of time writing about these three words here, as it relates to our vacations and time spent reliving happy moments with the ones we love the most. In a place that we all love dearly. But as I put up a 'last minute' tree the other night and breathed in the heady aroma that announces the arrival of Christmas, I was instantly and quite surprisingly transported back in time thirty years. And in that moment I was reminded that there is no time or place that brings about any greater joy, any more priceless memories, any more pure and unbridled gleeful anticipation than Christmastime.
Sweet, glorious Christmastime.
It all started not with a mouse, but with a spontaneous purchase. A whim, if you will.
For weeks our home has been fully decorated, inside and out. Ready and waiting to ring in the holiday season with its perfectly perfect white lights and painstakingly color coordinated ornaments strewn everywhere and anywhere they will fit. But as beautiful and convenient as our artificial tree in all of its decorated glory is, it felt like something was missing. Like I was doing it all wrong. At least as far as the decorating goes. So while I was out finishing up my shopping, I happened upon a sale I couldn’t pass up and picked up a small Frasier fir for less than the cost of an Arby’s combo.
Little did I know the memories that little purchase would evoke.
As soon as we got home, I went to work. I promptly set the tree up in the kid’s bonus room just off the kitchen and proceeded to decorate it in the exact opposite fashion of the rest of the house.
There were no matching ornaments and not a single white light to be found anywhere. Instead, I went with a multitude of old school C-7 lights in every color of the rainbow, as well as multi-colored twinkling lights. Once I was finished, I took a step back and took a deep breath.
One little tear.
The happy kind.
Because as I stood there taking it all in, my mind was immediately ushered back to SO many Christmases of my youth. As I watched the lights glow and dance and smelled the familiar scent that has always signified the arrival of Christmas, I was no longer on the verge of 40. I no longer had responsibilities. No longer had any grown up worries. I was five again, wearing my favorite ruffled flannel nightgown and I could feel the cold hardwood floor beneath my feet and hear my big brother’s excited whisper as we tip toed through the darkened house together, being ever so careful not to awaken anyone else. The anticipation was like a knot in my stomach and I felt as though I could hardly breathe the closer we came to our destination. But we were greeted with sheer unbridled bliss as we peeked into the living room and beheld the wonder of Christmas morning. In an otherwise darkened cold room, the multi-colored lights that shone like glowing Easter eggs reflected off the wooden floor and cast just enough light on the items below to send a five year old snaggle-toothed little girl and her seven year old brother into uncontrollable, giddy, quiet laughter. Christmas had indeed arrived, and it was everything we had hoped it would be. It’s curious that, for the life of me, I can’t recall a single gift I received that year. But I can recall perfectly, can still FEEL perfectly, every emotion I felt that morning and so many other mornings like it over thirty years later.
Looking back on all of those years, there was always so much joy in our lives at Christmas. And as a parent, I feel blessed beyond measure to be able to see that same joy reflected in my own children’s eyes at this time each year. Earlier today our daughter pleaded, “Mama, PLEASE make Christmas come faster, I can hardly wait for it!” She’s got joy, oh yes she does. And it mirrors ours exactly because as a parent, we take joy in giving good things to our children. You think the lead up to a surprise Disney trip is momentous, you ain’t seen nothing’ till you’ve seen us at Christmastime. My husband and I both turn into giddy, sneaky little kids around this time of year, but it’s not because of anything we hope to gain. It’s about giving good things to our children out of love and anticipating how happy it will make them. How it will make their lives better. How it will make them smile, or possibly dissolve into a fit of uncontrollable, giddy, quiet laughter in an otherwise darkened room illuminated only by the light from the Christmas tree.
There is so much joy that comes with being able to provide something that your beloved child desperately wants or needs and seeing them appreciate it fully, especially at Christmastime. I sometimes wonder if that’s the same kind of joy that our Heavenly Father felt as He gave us the ultimate gift, the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. I say that knowing full well that there is absolutely no comparison between anything we could give and what He gives us, His children. What He gave us with the ultimate gift. Because with the unwrapping of that gift, there truly is no greater joy on this earth.
It’s my prayer that each of you have a safe, wonderful, Christmas. One filled with joy and giddy anticipation as you relive special memories from Christmases past and make new ones to add to the priceless collection in your mind.
Merry Christmas, friends. May time spent with your loved ones at this special time of the year be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.