Now It Feels Like Christmas
“Want to help me decorate the house for Christmas?” I ask my son over breakfast - a steaming bowl of berries and oatmeal for me and a bowl of dry Cocoa Puffs for him.
He considers for a moment, while I hold my red mug, which touts itself in white lettering as a “Cup of Cheer,” and I pray he says yes. I’m looking forward to making a memory with him since our days have been packed with activities lately and I’m longing for the cozy feelings of Christmas to enter our home.
“Can I watch the noon kick-off of the football game first?” he counters, and I agree.
Minutes later I rinse our breakfast bowls, refill my mug and drag boxes of decorations out of the closet under the stairs and into the living room.
As is our tradition, I start with our nativity. Holding each piece gently, I nestle them into the familiar scene on the mantle and surround it with twinkling lights and tulle. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests,” I recite in whisper and prayer. Lord, may we find your peace in this season.
Next, I turn my attention to the tree. I huff and puff as I pull it out of the box. Without a word, my son is by my side, distractedly he helps set the tree up and fluff its branches, while he keeps an eye on and ear to the football commentators as they debate the possible outcomes of the game. The tree begins to look more festive and less like it has been squeezed into a box for eleven months; he crawls under the lowest limbs and switches on the lights. Lord, may we remember you are the Light of the World.
We step back. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and plants a quick peck on my cheek before settling back down onto the couch while I hang ornaments.
“The nativity is my favorite,” his words break our comfortable silence. I nod and answer simply, “Yes, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without it.”
“I like our funny memories, too. Do you remember when we found Jingle hurt in the floor and then in the morning his arm was in a cast and he’d made a bed out of the kitchen towel?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the memory of panic in the night over the failed elf shenanigans. “Would you like to hear the whole story about that night?” He readily agrees, so I launch into the animated tale:
Wanting to be fun and keep up with the silliness of the elves who visit other families, I’d designed a rope of Christmas ribbon from which Jingle (our Christmas elf) and several other action and LEGO minifigures could rappel. The ruse proved to be much more difficult than I thought and ended up including more tape, knots and patience than an actual cliff rappelling adventure. An hour later, all the plastic figures hung precariously over the landing of the stairwell, ready to be discovered the next morning as they kept watch over our family’s good and bad choices to report back to the North Pole.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Hours later I woke to the pitch-black darkness of the wee morning hours and to my son’s little hand drumming me on the shoulder. With alarm in his voice, he yell-whispered in the darkness, “Mom, something terrible has happened to Jingle!” I moaned and threw the covers off to escort him back to bed, all the while assuring him Jingle was fine. The light at the base of the stairs revealed a different story. The elf had, indeed, tumbled from his rappelling adventure and landed, with limbs awry, just below his ribbon rope.
I mumbled, “Hopefully, he’ll be fine by morning. We just have to believe….” I stopped my sentence short. Believe what? I wasn’t sure.
Once my precious boy was back in bed and soundly sleeping, I rummaged through our bathroom cabinets looking for bandages and wraps, anything to set the scene for Jingle’s recovery. I played toy doctor silently, barely daring to breathe lest I make too much noise and wake my son again. I groaned inwardly, thankful a pretend broken leg and arm meant I wouldn’t have to think of anything else fun to do with the elf to entertain my boy, who desperately wanted to hold onto the magic of Santa, elves and rooftop sleigh-rides.
Was this all worth it? Or was I taking away from the foundation of what I want him to believe? Have we done all we can to show him the true meaning of Christmas? Will he be angry and feel like we’ve tricked him? I wondered, as I crawled wearily back into bed….
“We DO have something so much better to believe in, Mom,” his voice suddenly breaks into my retelling of the story.
I stop short. “We do, don’t we?” I marvel at his wisdom. He takes over the story of the memory from there, recounting his relief at seeing Jingle nestled in a dishtowel bed and recovering from his fall. He tells of the secret story he and the neighbors had concocted explaining how the neighbors’ elves had helped with the bandaging, recovery and return to their scout-elf jobs.
“It took me a few years after that to fully understand all that Christmas is really about,” he concludes. “The magic isn’t about elves. The joy comes from celebrating God’s gift to us in Jesus.” Lord, thank you for revealing yourself to him in your time.
I pop open the final green plastic tub of Christmas decorations, in awe of this simple truth and my son’s wisdom to trust in it.
Inside the last box, sits Jingle the elf. “Do you want to put him out somewhere?” I ask.
“Of course!” he responds quickly. “Let’s hang him high like the night he fell. I’ll secure him to the mistletoe this time, so he doesn’t fall again. We can celebrate silly Christmas magic AND know the real truth of Jesus’ birth.” Lord, let us remember the gift of Jesus, our Savior, is why we celebrate.
He bounds up the stairs and kneels to work with the elf, the mistletoe and ribbon. I sit beside him and watch his preteen fingers deftly tie the knots. My eyes weirdly brim with tears. Carefully, we lower the Christmas trimmings over the landing, tying it with fishing line so it appears to hang magically in the entry of our home.
We descend the steps together to check our work. The mistletoe and elf hang in the entry, the tree glistens in the early evening light and the nativity centered on the mantel reminds us what the celebrations are really all about.
“Now, it feels like Christmas,” he says with a squeeze of my hand and another peck on the cheek.
Lord, as we walk through this season, may we remember YOU are our peace, our light and our Savior.