For perhaps the first time ever, it is December 31 and I’m ready to take down the tree. I have always loved the Advent and Christmas seasons and always try to savor every last bit, letting decor linger in the hope of capturing every final drop of magic to be had — and, yet, I’m realizing that my desire to hold tightly to what has already passed reveals how I fail in properly awaiting the arrival of Christmas during Advent.
I’m grateful for my children in many ways, but one of the biggest surprises for me has been how differently I internalize the Advent season since they came into the world. Born only seven weeks before Christmas in 2015, P taught me about the insanity of incarnation. This little boy I held in my arms, that I walked circles with in the nursery, to whom I sang every seasonal hymn that came to mind in the black of night — this little boy was flesh and blood and bone. He was an incredible gift we did not even begin to deserve. I wept so much in the Advent season the year he was born. Our own long waiting had concluded with his birth and it ushered in a time of sweet, contemplative celebration. The whole experience was too wonderful, the reality of Christ’s coming more profoundly moving than ever before.
How deeply that first Christmas with P made me wonder just how much Mary knew of the years and life that awaited her newborn babe. How many nights did she walk the floor, singing softly, her heart fully captured by this tiny being but knowing He was not hers to keep? The Word of God became flesh — how much did she truly grasp who He was and what He had been sent to do?
Our two Christmases in between that first with P and the one newly past (2016 and 2017) were also enjoyable. We’ve begun to establish some of our own traditions (Chris makes cinnamon rolls; we listen to The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas album). My parents came up and joined us for our first Christmas at home in 2016 (in ten years of marriage, the first!). P still didn’t quite understand what was happening, but he still enjoyed our time with family and he loved the Christmas tree.
We went to Idaho to be with Christopher’s family in 2017. All the magic of a big family Christmas with cousins and snow and sledding and all manner of mayhem. It may have been the complete opposite of the previous year’s quiet celebration with my parents. We had to grapple with what to do with the idea of Santa Claus for the first time. I was five months pregnant with A, who was newly known to be a girl. It was beautiful in a very different way — but in the press of a very busy December, I had failed to prepare my heart adequately and, so, I don’t believe it is any coincidence that 2017 marked the longest we’ve ever kept our decorations and tree up (we took them down the first weekend in February 2018, I believe).
And then came this year. Again, I’ve circled the floor with a babe in my arms, singing and humming and marveling at the miracle of the incarnate Savior. After I returned from Mexico, I set many things aside in order to make a few gifts (a tradition I was eager to return to after not having been able to do so in 2017) and to keep the pace of our life slower.
Our boy is now 3 years old and the magic of the season was so sweet to see through his eyes. Every night, he wanted to sing Christmas songs before bed. We bought him an Advent calendar and he loved waking up from his nap every day and finding the right door to open for his treat. He helped Chris decorate the tree and discovered candy canes and enjoyed picking out gifts for his cousins and for his sister. He loved listening to our Christmas records and baking cookies with Grandma and (naturally) playing with all of his new things. We talked of Jesus and he learned songs in Sunday School. On our first ‘Christmas’ morning (the 23rd, before we left for my parents’ house), we piled onto the big bed and read through the Christmas stories in The Jesus Storybook Bible and he was able to engage with them and it was an incredibly meaningful thing to share the earth-shattering truth of Christ’s becoming like us with our son.
I followed along with She Reads Truth‘s Advent devotional once again and, while it didn’t resonate quite so fiercely with my heart as it has in years past, it was still a good preparation — a useful means of keeping my heart attuned to the season in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Christ once again. I also have been re-reading Russ Ramsey’s Behold the Lamb of God, which weaves such a beautiful narrative of the whole story, the whole fulfillment of the promises made by a faithful God from the moment we were separated from Him by our sin. He knew and He planned our rescue before we even had need of it. I pray that reality never ceases to be incredible to my fickle heart.
We had a grand time celebrating the actual holiday with my family (P’s the oldest of the next generation on my side, so it’s a different dynamic altogether) and then spent a few days with Christopher’s uncle and a few other family members. We arrived back at home, unpacked our absurd load of gifts and goodies — and I realized I was ready to take down the tree. There might be a few items that remain behind for a while yet, but most of it will go back into storage until we retrieve them again late next year.
And that’s okay. Amazingly enough, the story doesn’t end in that barn or cave or whatever the true ‘non-inn’ was where Mary and Joseph took shelter that night in Bethlehem. There is much more to celebrate.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Currently Reading: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey
Currently Listening to: Thankfully, no more VeggieTales Christmas songs. Christopher decided to start from the beginning of our MRC membership and listen to all our vinyl records in order of receipt. I think that means we’re about to flip over to the B side of Magnolia Mixtape, Volume 1.