I remember Christmas as a child. On Christmas Eve my parents and brothers and sisters would go to my grandparents who lived about a block away from us. Grandpa would have the fire place going full blast to take away the chill of the cold outside air. We had enough food to feed a small army which is just as well because we were a small army. It was a Norwegian feast: meatballs, lutefisk, lefse, oyster stew, mashed potatoes, and rice pudding. There was always a nut in the rice pudding. The person with the nut in his or her pudding won a box of chocolate. Since I was the youngest, I seemed to win most years.
We opened the gifts in the stockings above the fireplace first. Then we opened the presents under the tree. As the youngest child I got to deliver the presents to everybody else. I loved to open presents. I just ripped them open as fast as I could. It was pure joy. We threw the boxes and the wrapping paper into the fireplace. We played with our new toys. We ate some more. We closed the night by going to church at 11:00. We didn't go to church much during the year, but there was something special about church on Christmas Eve. Even for the distracted child, the Holy revealed God during Christmas Eve.
Life is different now. I still love Christmas, especially now that I kind of understand what it means. But something is different. I open presents much slower than Benjamin does. I seem to enjoy giving more than receiving. Nothing is wrong with either of those things. The latter is generally a healthy thing. I think what is different is this: Children see Christmas with wide-eyed excitement that some of us adults have lost along the way.
One more thing. Christmas is God's idea. For years and years and years God watched His children struggle. Then one day He said something like: "If you want something done right you have to do it yourself." So He gave himself to the world. The boy grew up and became a man. He showed us how to love and how to live. He died so that we can live abundantly now and eternally forever. It is a gift. God's gift to us. Christmas, in its rawest form, is about joyfully unwrapping the gift that God gives to us in Jesus Christ.
Benjamin and David getting ready for bed
David getting ready for a marathon