The Christmas season gets shorter and shorter every year. I know, that's the lament of an old man, or at least a middle-aged man. I'm not talking about when Christmas ads start airing on TV a week before Thanksgiving. In that respect Christmas lasts longer than ever. But the real Christmas season flys by.
It's the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas songs are all over the radio, Christmas trees are everywhere, you're thinking of potential gifts for the kids, the grand kids, assorted extended family members and friends. You get the tree up and hang the stockings, put up the outside lights and bust out the Christmas cards and your address book. You catch maybe two of the dozens of classic Christmas shows on the tube. You surf the net for the best buys and maybe brave the crazies at Wal-Mart at the five a.m. opening, feeling like your running with the bulls at Pamplona. If you have Faith maybe you make it to the Christmas Eve church service.
The next thing you know, it's over.
The living room is trashed; wrapping paper litters the floor and hangs off the light fixtures ( in the more exuberant households ); gifts are stacked next to chairs, on the couch and the coffee table; the Christmas meal has been ravaged, the table cloth so stained with spills it looks like a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, and scraps of food are scattered on the floor around the kitchen table in a pattern reminiscent of a land mine explosion ( okay...my clan is exuberant ). You sit in your favorite recliner, stare uncomprehendingly at the game on TV and drift into the coma only the materially and gastronomically overdosed are capable of, and your last thought before you float into unconsciousness is, "Over already?"
When you're a kid, the Christmas season last for months, because when you're eight years old, a day is as long as a week to an adult. While the time between bed time on Christmas Eve and the time you wake up on Christmas morning is only hours, to a kid it is a geologic epoch; continents have drifted, species have come and gone and innumerable stars have burned all their hydrogen and winked out. The Christmas Eve when I was five I woke my mother every half hour from Midnight to 3:00 a.m. asking, "Is it time to get up yet?" She finally surrendered and said yes. The fact that my father put up with getting up in the middle of the night is the surest sign I can think of that he loved both me and my mother. By six a.m. we were all back in our beds, me with my six-shooter in hand and new tennis shoes on.
Dozens of Christmases have passed since then. My dad got his revenge when my own kids woke me up at the crack of dawn begging me to get up so Christmas day could begin. I did get up, but not as early as my own dad did. He always was a better man than me. Where I loaded caps into my western six-shooter my kids loaded Mario Brothers into their new Nintendo machine. I had Hot Wheels and G.I. Joe, my kids had Star Wars spaceships and My Little Pony dolls.
I still try to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It's A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, The Polar Express and A Christmas Story are must sees too. Sometimes I start to feel foolish watching kid's Christmas shows, but then I think, if you're lucky, Christmas makes you a kid again.
I'm not a kid anymore. Those days are long gone. So when I'm watching the Christmas shows with a beautiful tree in the corner and stockings hanging on the wall and dishes of Christmas candy and cookies strategically placed around the living room, I also think of other things...adult things. I think of Christmases past, when I was young and my folks were healthy and vibrant. I think of family and friends that are absent. Maybe they live a long way away, or maybe they've died, or maybe we've had a falling out and no longer speak. Those thoughts make me sad.
But then I think of the meaning of Christmas. I think of Christ. I think of His sacrifice. I think of his promise. It's then that I pray. It's then that I give thanks for being alive; for having had loving parents; for having had good friends; and especially for having children that I love and who love me.
Christmas is full of promise; full of hope; full of joy; full of beauty; full of love. It makes me feel like a kid again. I hope it does the same for you, and if it does, I hope you know why it does.