Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Christmas: from a squeal to a whisper

My daughter and I have this contest to see who gets to be first to text the other “waaaaaahaah!” when Christmas comes around. It means we’ve just heard that seasonal sob-fest, The Christmas Shoes, on the radio.

Newsong’s lachrymose little tale of a young boy trying to buy a last gift for his mom, who is fading away with cancer, is a serving of some of my favorite festive cheese. Like an over-sized chunk of Cheddar, it never fails to leave a lump in my throat.

Yes, it can all get way too commercial and crass, but I wonder sometimes if part of the sniffy attitude towards Christmas adopted by many isn’t as much to do with self-protection as it is selfless principle.

Opening up to some seasonal sentimentality means looking back to the child in you, getting in touch again with the anticipation, the wonder, the expectation. Doing a Scrooge-like scroll through the past.

For some, that can be just too painful, so they choose cynicism. Studied indifference.

I’m old enough to enjoy reflecting on five Christmas childhoods. Mine and my four kids’. There’s the year I couldn’t work out how Santa got that large slide into our small living room. The time we were snowed in at my grandparents’.

Then, as a parent, how the wise men trekked across our living room toward the nativity scene, a bit closer each day, to help the children count down to Christmas Dayand how one of them kept moving the homemade magi a bit closer when no one was looking, as if that would speed things up a bit.

But much as I enjoy some winter wistfulness, Christmas doesn’t end for me centered on days of old. The uncertain yearning, the unclear hope, the unfocused delight I recall from being a kid—and watching kids—at Christmas is answered in something I’ve discovered as a grown-up (using the term loosely).

Christmas as a child was the excited squeal, “He’s been!”

Christmas as an adult is the grateful whisper, “He has come!”

It’s been a fair trade: finding someone I once believed in not to be true, then finding someone I once didn’t believe in to be true.

Childish beliefs and adult doubts, and childish doubts and adult beliefs, intermingle this time of year, if we will let them. Doing so may reawaken old hopes and fears, but as the carol reminds us, they are met in Him.

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