Last night around 10pm, Doug and I gave in to the epitome of consumer lust at Christmastime: we went to Toys ‘R Us. We had been looking for a set of Snorts to buy for our daughter, and my mom had a toy item she was in search of as well. I had never been inside of a Toys ‘R Us before, and it was an eye-opening experience. I had no idea how many strange toys were out there, and the bleary-eyed, desparate parents digging through bins were exactly as I had imagined they would be. We found the gifts we needed and we were happy to get out of there.
I started thinking back to my own childhood and how incredibly exciting Christmas morning always was. I didn’t sleep much as a child anyway, but asking me to sleep on Christmas Eve felt cruel and impossible. I am not sure what my parents’ limit was of how early we could actually get up but I am pretty sure I began lobbying sometime around 4am.
There is something significantly different about stockings and gifts on Christmas morning with kids present. There is an urgency and impatience and raw delight that infects everyone around them. I distinctly remember when Christmas morning started to change in my house growing up. As my sister and brother and I got older, there was a slow cultural shift where showers and sleeping in began to creep into our morning ritual. And then my Mom started to begin meal prepartions for the day BEFORE STOCKINGS. I was devastated. I was still of the mind (yes, in my mid-twenties, I believe) that the only acceptable behavior on Christmas morning was to wake up and go directly to the living room to begin stockings. I grew increasingly annoyed with my family’s desires for taking showers or rolling out pie crusts or whatever unneccesary diversion they could concoct.
My child-like attitude toward Christmas morning had enough of a reputation that the first Christmas I spent as a married woman with Doug’s family, they pulled a family-wide practical joke on me. As soon as Doug’s mom called us all together to open our gifts, one by one, each family member made up some excuse of something they needed to do before we could start. Someone had to use the bathroom. As soon as they got back, someone else had to feed the dog. Once they were done, another person had to make a phone call. And so on. I was absolutley dying inside, being tortured so. But these were my brand new in-laws so I was clearly not going to say anything. Finally, as I wasn’t cluing in to the joke, one family member decided to take it to the next level: “Why don’t we go for a walk first?” they said. That was it. I could stay silent no longer. I erupted in some sort of protest, when everyone around me fell apart laughing.
All that to say, I am looking forward to Christmas morning with Aaron and Mercy this year. As much as I join in the chorus of voices that beg for recognition of what this season is about and what it is not, I delight in the act of sharing gifts with people I love. I think too that there is something to be learned from watching children on Christmas morning; something about joy and anticipation and urgency that overpowers concerns for other things. As an adult, our list of concerns and resposibilities is often so long that there is simply not room for joyful abandon.
I think too about the church and how it should feel to gather to worship in singing or to join one another at The Table, or to speak words of confession and forgiveness to one another. Do we do these things with a sense of urgency as people compelled by something with the power to take us from death to life? Do we come at these corporate activities with the kind of joy and delight that makes taking showers and preparing meals seem irrelevant by comparison? What would it look like for us to recover a sense of hunger and urgency and delight in our life together that is fitting for the feast that awaits us?