Christmas is coming!
I always loved Christmas as a kid. My parents were rock stars at creating magic for my sister and I. They waited until Christmas Eve to put up the tree, wrap all the presents and assemble the bikes. Usually till the “wee” hours of the morn (it’s the Scots talking). About 4 I’d carefully wake up dad and tell him it was time…Santa must have come! We’d wait with mom while dad turned on the tree lights then we’d head to the living room to see all of the glory that was Christmas.
It was magical
I loved it. All of my Christmas angst was worth the wait. Beautiful tree. Lots of presents. Stockings stuffed to the top. My hopes and dreams were fulfilled and more.
Dad was asleep by 6
Growing up in the Bay Area, weather was mild and our neighborhood was tight. Often we’d hit the sidewalk after breakfast to share our haul. Showing off and bragging rights – automatic. It was a wonderful time of reveling in all the new toys we deserved for being ‘good’ all year. Santa was simply the best guy E-ver!
The level of excitement I felt leading up to Christmas was so huge I couldn’t contain it. My mind went all over thinking about Santa. I’d imagine I heard him on the roof. I’d picture him coming down the chimney, struggling to fit. I’d hope he liked the cookies we left. And I was sure I could hear the feet of reindeer. My stomach would get sick, and I’d lay in bed wide awake till exhaustion finally knocked me out.
I was late to the truth of Santa Claus…
When I finally learned that he was my mom and dad, I was heartbroken. I had a sister who was 5 years younger so I had to keep the secret a bit longer, but it was quite a letdown. That fictional person was real to me. He liked me, he thought I was good, and he wanted to give me really cool stuff.
Once married, Bruce and I negotiated how to celebrate over the years. I was adamant about stockings, he tolerated them. We went back and forth over Santa but eventually decided to leave him out. Partly to avoid the heartbreak I’d felt as a kid, but also to refocus Christmas on Jesus’ birthday. When navigating church culture I used this phrase,
“I didn’t want some guy with a beard and red jacket to get credit for what I did at Christmas”
We also wanted our girls to know that their parents were the givers of the best gifts, just as their Heavenly Father is the giver of best gifts. That principle conflicted at times with grandma, but it was non-negotiable, (thank you Sweetie).
We added a Christmas Eve tradition of heading downtown for the day after we moved to IL. Being far from our extended families, we took the opportunity to enjoy the big city. We’d catch the train, see the lights, windows at Marshall fields, eat lunch somewhere fun, and come home after dark when all of it was beautiful.
Lots of good memories
I don’t know if our girls felt the level of excitement that I used to feel about Santa. They slept till the sun came up! And they loved opening presents. Stockings became a hallmark of our celebration, they always said they’d give up everything but those.
As we prepared for our recent trip to Mexico, Bruce and I both had times of Santa Hope. We even said to each other, that it was on the level of Christmas Eve. He didn’t sleep the night before we left and I had many Santa moments. Our hopes were more than met when we went.
It’s been a long time since I felt this way. Life has many unmet expectations and my imagined life is vastly different than the one I live, as everyone’s usually is. So much of it is better than I ever imagined. But some of it is painful and I think it’s dulled some of my ability to hope.
Maybe a preventative way of avoiding disappointment?
I wonder what it was like for Mary, Jesus’ mother. Israel hoped for a savior for centuries. Their imaginations were vastly different than the reality. Mary must have been stunned to think that the Messiah was going to come as a tiny baby, helpless, needy and dependent. Strength was needed for Israel to break free of Rome’s stranglehold. How would a baby accomplish that?
I can’t imagine how she felt while raising him. Watching him grow into an adult, seeing him in the temple with scholars. Learning of his power. It’s no wonder she prodded him into turning water into wine. She had a son who would free them from bondage and he was taking his time about it!
Mothers are nothing if not proud
As I read and hear of the American church today, often I think of Israel before Jesus. Conflicts, divisions, various doctrines and issues competing for priority. Social media aggravating all of it to the level of crisis. People abandoning valuable relationships over something as inane as a face mask.
In many ways we are mirror images of Israel under Rome
I have to wonder if we aren’t at a point where some Santa Hope might be needed. The kind of anticipation that prompts us to anticipate Jesus’ return. So much of life is anticipating the next visible event here on earth that his return is abstract and unimaginable.
To the early church, Santa Hope was the air they breathed
This Christmas season I’m asking God for some Santa Hope. I need it today as much as I needed Christmas morning to come when I was a child. I need the hope of God’s promises to the church to come true.
I need to be excited about them!
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”
May 2022 be a year overflowing with Santa Hope while we trust in God to fulfill his promises.