Dear Christmas Magic,
I remember the way you use to tingle up my spine and flutter like a snowflake flurry in the middle of my belly. So much wonder. Excitement. Delight.
How you were there every year when we piled in the car and drove down the boulevard to the family-owned corner lot that sprung to life with perfect pines each cold December — or Southern California warm winter, as the case often was. We strolled down rows of Douglas Firs because my sisters liked the way they looked and Mom liked the way they were priced. But my eyes danced to the majestic Blue Spruce with its strong branches and thick blue-green needles.
In the end, there’d be a tree tied on the roof rack and four off-key singers belting out carols (give or take one backseat sulker) and off we’d go . . . back home for the trimming.
Mom would bring out metal trays for the ornaments, each carefully placed as we unwrapped them one by one from crinkled tissue paper and reused bubble wrap. Once every mismatched, memory-rich treasure was tray displayed, it was time for the hanging!
You know the red metal tricycle and gilded angel girl were my favorites.
Then, dear Magic, you’d croon to us through Harry Connick Jr.’s melodic voice singing lyrics we all knew by heart while we sat cross-legged in couch corners threading long silver needles, waiting for Mom to bring us bowls of stale popcorn for stringing.
I’d get lost in the fireplace flicker and real-wood crackle and inevitably pop handfuls of the stale white snack into my mouth without thinking. It’d squish foamy against my teeth and I’d chew and swallow anyway.
Oh, Christmas Magic, you even made old popcorn taste great.
But you didn’t just arrive for the tree trimming tradition and vanish when the decorating was done. No, you were a faithful friend throughout the Christmas season.
I saw you in the spiral peels of green apple skins falling into piles of wonder while their insides got mixed with generous helpings of cinnamon, butter, and sugar for mom’s famous apple pie.
I heard you in the raindrops that pelted rooftops, giving hope that winter and the need for scarves and mittens could be real.
I felt you in the pa rum pum pum thrumming in my chest, my favorite Christmas song on repeat.
You were there when I spent all my piggy bank savings to buy my big sister a pair of American flag Converse hightops at the height of her sneaker obsession. You watched me beam with pride as I handed over my most prized giving gift and you reveled with me when she showed equal delight.
You were there in the steam escaping from thermoses filled with hot chocolate, like a swirling mist keeping careful watch over liquid dessert slowly sipped, guarding our search for the most spectacular displays of Christmas lights.
Oh, the lights!
Yes, the light.
Perhaps your magic was never so real as on Christmas Eve when the church sanctuary illuminated by nothing save for candlelight. When hundreds of Christmas sweater-clad friends and neighbors and strangers would stand shoulder to shoulder each bearing a single white wax-dripping candle. And as faces glowed warm, our hearts overflowed and voices rang out in reverent adoration.
Joyful praise . . .
Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Over the years the anxious excitement and nervous tummy tickles have faded. No sleep is lost on Christmas Eve. No wondering what presents will lie beneath the tree.
I’m all grown and your magic once so strong has faded with each passing year. Even with kids of my own, the season’s sparkle doesn’t shine as bright as memories gone by.
Yes, there is joy in their joy!
The way my boys lay belly down, faces cupped in tiny hands, mesmerized by evening fire flickers. I delight in their backseat squeals at even the meekest array of house-strung lights. I love the way they stroke the satin stitching and fuzzy ribbon on their mantel-hung stockings when they think I’m not looking. But even so . . .
Even so, it’s hard to feel today the swirl and whirl and magic wonder that I did as a child.
I’m so keenly aware of the weary world and heavy-laden by the burdens of those I love. Weighed down by the brokenness of children everywhere, young and old alike.
Yet, perhaps, dear Christmas Magic, your glitz and glimmer aren’t meant to be sustained. Perhaps your glitter is a special, fleeting, children’s gift that prepares the way for hearts to receive the only lasting gift: a Child.
A child born into this world in the grittiest way. Without pomp or production. But with purpose.
Yes, that is the Christmas Magic that never fades.
The Gift of God’s love.
The Miracle Magic that bright-eyed babes and the broken, burden-weary world both need.
Our Jesus King.