As I lay in bed this morning, I remembered Christmases as a kid. Memories of getting up, gathering around the tree opening our stockings while our parents had their morning coffee flooded through my mind.
I remember the laughter, helping my siblings with their stocking stuffers, coloring in our coloring books, eating sweet breads together for breakfast while sipping on milk & juice. I remember watching the pile of presents under the tree for the ones that I had wrapped weeks before to surface so that I could watch people open what I had given them. Memories of smiles, laughter, tears of heartfelt thanks from gifts we gave each other that showed each other love.
I couldn't tell you half - or more - of what I wrote on my obligatory "Santa Lists" as a kid. The only thing I exactly remember getting for Christmas from a list I wrote was my 10-speed bike when I was 11... and that was because I have fond memories of the many bike rides I took on it in the years until my friends got cars. I remember in college I got the board game "Guesstures", and that night while playing with my siblings I have an amazing memory of my mother laughing hysterically when we had to act out "Nose Droppings" before the time ran out.
Christmas - for me - has never been about the stuff. It's been about family, it's been about making each other smile, it's been about laughter and joy.
This Christmas I woke up to the feeling of little tiny feet and hands poking me from the inside and a husband who rolled over and put his arm around me while he got his last few moments of sleep. A light snow has been falling around my house all morning creating the perfect atmosphere for a calm, peaceful Christmas. I enjoyed pastry and a stocking exchange with Steve while listening to Christmas music... just like I did on Christmas morning as a kid. I am waiting patiently for my in-laws to arrive for Christmas dinner, looking around thinking of what Christmas will be like next year with our 7-month old(ish) son.
Christmas is not about the material stuff. It's about the heart stuff... it's about the gifts that God has given us. Remember - this holiday started with the most wonderful Gift that He has ever provided: His son... the "dawn of redeeming grace"... the promise of redemption that we may have a relationship with God.
As you go into the days after Christmas, I encourage each of you out there to avoid the question "What did you get for Christmas?" or "What did Santa bring you?" when you see your friends and family. Ask them instead how their Christmas was, what memory will they cherish the most from this Christmas, what did they appreciate most about their holiday. If anyone asks you what you got, respond with the intangibles. The memories, the love, the blessings that you find throughout your day.
Keep those things close to your heart, remember that God loves you and the gifts of love - starting with the gift He gave us on the original Christmas day of His son, Jesus - are the most beautiful gifts you will receive this year.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.
After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:8-20)