Christmas Awe

Putting up Christmas decorations is an annual battle of my two selves. There is the sentimental side that lives for Christmas movies and swoons for Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” Then there’s my practical side: the “waste not, want not” me, the “plan for every contingency” me, the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” me. It is an epic struggle to see which side wins.

For instance, as I’m stringing the lights on our Christmas tree the Oscar the Grouch part of me is asking, “Why am I doing this? In just a few weeks I’ll have to take all of this down and put it away. I’ll have to drag out those dusty plastic bins and try to fit this stuff back in before storing it away in the basement again for another 11 months. And I’ll most likely be doing this cleaning up all by myself with no help from the other people who happened to live in this house.”

The Buddy the Elf part of me is saying (or probably singing or maybe shouting), “I love Christmas! I love Christmas! I love Christmas!”

If only I could see all of this magical Christmas splendor through the eyes of our 5-year old son. This is his first American Christmas—his first Christmas with his forever family—and every Christmas decoration fills him with unimaginable awe. Every Christmas tree twinkling through an open window, every giant Snoopy blowup wearing a Santa hat and swaying in a front yard, every set of net lights thrown atop a bush incites a cry from the backseat, “Oooo, Mom, look! So pretty!”

The Grinch-Me knows his sense of awe won’t last forever. He is partly in love with the sights and sounds of this holiday because it’s new and so different than what he’s used to. After a few years of blinking lights, he probably won’t think everything is quite so amazing. The once mind-blowing may ultimately become the expected and uninspiring.

The Mistletoe-Me believes he will always feel a tingle of excitement when those Christmas songs start playing on the radio and those wreaths start showing up on front doors.

His present level of awe reminds me of a group of men sitting on a hillside, barely staying awake as they were watching their sheep, a couple thousand years ago. There they were, minding their own business then, all of a sudden: “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” (I’m with Linus—King James Version only for this one.)

This was new and different and glorious. They were afraid but fully listening to the instructions given to them via a bunch of angels. I wonder, after the angels were gone, did the Shepherds’ faces glow like Moses on Mount Sinai? When they told others about their experience did they get a reputation for being crazy? Right after the angels disappeared, could they close their eyes and see the remnant of their brilliance, like when someone takes your picture with a very bright flash and you can still see the flash seconds later?

What would it be like to carry that kind of memory with them for the rest of their lives? The experience was strong enough for them to pick themselves up off the grass and head to Bethlehem, lickety-split. Did they feel honored that they had been chosen to receive this information? Did they want to get over to the stable before they could talk each other out of what they had seen, before that radiant, angelic outline they could still see when they closed their eyes had fully faded?

For me, this will be the Christmas of Awe. It will be the Christmas of “Oooo, pretty!” And Lord willing, it will be the Christmas of “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” Just like those shepherds did as they returned to their sheep on that night so long ago.

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