growing up, i was a pretty sly kid. i began questioning the methods of santa when my parents installed a wood stove in the fireplace. i knew santa was magic and all, but he was a little big to get through that little door on the front of the stove. a couple of years later, i discovered the true identity of the jolly old fellow when i insisted on writing him a letter Christmas eve night and then compared the hand writing sample of his with … my moms. yep, the gig was up. but i didn’t let on. i carried it on for another two years, until one day i let it slip out that i knew who really was eating the cookies and drinking the milk that was left by the fireplace on Christmas eve (my dad was always insistent that we left oreo’s for santa, his favorite cookies, and my mom ate the carrots that we left for the reindeer … because they need snacks too!). it was suddenly declared that i would not be having the same only child-spoiled Christmas that i was used to.
my mom was quite upset with me for a while. she tried to declare that Christmas wouldn’t be celebrated in our house that year, which translated to no gifts under the tree. but, while i was on a little reconnaissance mission, (a.k.a checking all of my mom’s regular hiding places for my christmas gifts while she was at work. hey, i was a crafty latch key kid … what can i say?) i discovered the set of Sweet Valley Twins books that i had been wanting along with a package marked to mom, from mom. i guess her disgruntled protest included shopping and gifting to herself, because she couldn’t have santa leave her anything under the tree anymore.
that Christmas i found a ton of stuff under the tree, half of which i don’t remember what it was. i do remember that i did get my first stereo/boom box. an electronic device that i could blast my tapes on. (yep … i am that old!) debbie gibson, madonna, new kids on the block… their sounds would be wafting through the air of the house in no time. i also remember, as with every Christmas before that and a couple after, the fun and joy i had with my parents. it was the three of us every Christmas morning, and it seemed perfect to me. little did i know that we were missing an important part of the celebration.
i never knew growing up what Christmas was really about. i always thought it was about giving gifts, getting gifts, spending time with family, Christmas dinner with my grandparents, homemade tamales at my aunt’s house and everything else that made Christmas Christmas. there was some much preparation that went into it all. from getting our tree to decorating it to my mom making fudge to shopping to all the other stuff we had to do.
but we didn’t go to church. my family didn’t do that. after my parents divorce and getting into this church thing, i discovered that there were other things that had to be added to my Christmas to do list. things like going to church … going to every church activity to be exact. making cookies and candies for all my friends at church was added to the list too. oh, and i can’t forget the actual going to church part of it all. there was always just so much to do.
it’s taken me several years to figure this out, but none of the busyness is what this season is about. i know, shocking right?!? but it’s true … busyness is not the reason for the season. nor is making others happy. nor is having the perfect tree or making the perfect cookies & candies or attending every possible Christmas event on the calendar. shocking, i know.
right now, this very day, we are in the midst of advent. advent is about what’s to come. it’s about preparation. it’s about anticipation. it’s about waiting. all of which is similar to what we do in the days leading to Christmas. but instead of preparing and anticipating and waiting for the birth of Christ, we do all that for some many other things remove our focus from what we are truly preparing, anticipating and waiting for.
maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my singleness or maybe it’s the fact that i tire easily in the Christmas hustle & bustle these days; but my focus is less on what i am putting under the tree and more to what i am pouring my heart into during advent.
i’m patiently waiting, dutifully preparing and eagerly anticipating the birth of Jesus.