My family’s tradition on Christmas morning is to keep the children in bed (or at least in their bedrooms) until 8:00 or so, which allows me and my husband to sleep in the tiniest bit, take a shower, make some coffee, put cinnamon buns in the oven, and turn on the Christmas music and tree lights (thanks to my parents for setting that example when I was growing up). It also allows us to revel and bask in the anticipation of Christmas morning that only lasts, for the little ones especially, for those few minutes between when we tell them they can come downstairs and when they start tearing into their presents.
I love my life, every day of it, but I’ve often thought that my very favorite of the everyday moments (which don’t include the extraordinary and miraculous ones, like the births of my babies) are those Christmas morning pre-presents moments. It’s a time of genuine joy and hope! My children are kind and accommodating to each other during this time — they laugh cheerfully at each other’s corny jokes, gamely join in singing Christmas carols and answering my Whose birthday is this? and Are presents the point of today? questions, enthusiastically make room for each other on the couch, and excitedly point out to each other which wrapped parcel might be theirs. During this time, I see the best of themselves without any of their often impatience, crankiness, meanness, and eye rolling — it’s the closest I’ve seen to “the lion shall lie down with the lamb.”
I can’t help but think this is a foretaste of heaven. It’s got all the elements: innocence, joy, hope, kindness, generosity, selflessness, all because of and in celebration of Jesus.
Unfortunately, at least in my house, that heavenliness only lasts for those few pre-presents minutes, for as soon as my boys start opening their gifts, the air starts to be let out of the balloon. Almost inevitably there are tears — someone didn’t get something they wanted, or the thing they wanted didn’t turn out to be exactly as they’d imagined, or their brother got something cooler that they didn’t think to ask for — but even when everyone’s basically content and grateful (and believe me, we work on this quite a bit and I have no patience for those tears), there’s still that feeling of letdown, of coming down off a high. For my children (and I remember feeling similarly when I was small), post-presents Christmas is just never as wonderful as pre-presents Christmas.
And that is where our human Christmas mornings differ from heaven. We still have our fallenness to contend with, and always will, until we’re in heaven. Can you imagine a Christmas morning that fulfills and even exceeds all expectations, forever? (But gently, without the overexcitement that leads to pinging around like a pinball before devolving into overtired tears and then crashing — for children and adults!) It’s like the opposite of how Narnia was under the White Witch’s rule (“always winter, but never Christmas”) — heaven will be always Christmas!
My children are growing up and our Christmas mornings won’t always be as they are now, and I find myself thanking God ahead of time (as Bl. Solanus Casey would say) for having had the gift of them. I’ve also been given a peek at a more mature perspective: I mentioned this train of thought to my thirteen-year-old the other day, and he said, “I never understood that part in Narnia. Why don’t they just celebrate Christmas? You don’t need to have presents to celebrate Christmas! You just do it!”
Indeed! I hope you all have a wonderful, happy, and holy Christmas celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus!
Copyright 2019 Kate Towne