Hard to believe another Christmas has come…and nearly gone.
It is well before sunrise this morning as I write this. Once again I awoke quite early, seems I do that more and more often as the years go by. And once again the cinema runs at hundred feet per second replete with scenes of Christmases past. No sleep on this morning for sure.
In one unexpected moment I am twelve years old again (that may sound familiar to those who have read my books) and I am lying in my bed in that little house on Cora Avenue in Akron. It is well past midnight… eyes wide open, and my ears wide open as well. I am listening to every rustle of wrapping paper as well as the opening and closing of every closet door in that house. I was desperately trying to figure out where to begin my search for hidden gifts the following December. I needed to find those hiding places that held the magic of Christmas morning. That year’s search you see, had proven futile once again. My parents were much better at hiding gifts than I was at finding them. That night I didn’t want to close my eyes, not for a second. The anticipation of the morning was too great.
Swiftly the scene changed and it was me hiding the gifts, sometimes in the Attic, other times in the trunk of my car or my office at church. I had learned the art of stealth from the masters. Thanks to one of the “gifts” my mother gave us (a boxed red suit, complete with white beard, hat and black belt) Santa began a yearly Christmas Eve visit to our home. I well remember the year when Joey and Lynn figured out that Santa’s yearly visit coincided exactly with whenever Papa had to go out for milk. Seemed that Papa was always missing Santa Claus. On this year Papa made his “milk run” declaration, but before he could leave there was a knock at the door. Unless the ravages of time come and steal the best of memories I will never forget the look in their eyes when Santa walked in BEFORE Papa left… thanks in no small part to friend and fellow staff Pastor named Danny. There would be little rest in our small home in Illinois that night either. After sleep finally stole away the smiling little faces that warmed my heart, there were presents to find… and wrap.
It was in Missouri when the final embers of wonder made their appearance. This time the kids were awakened by frantic parents who had “heard something on the roof”. This time it was in the small hours well after the “seek, find and wrap” mission was complete. As I escorted the kids to the window, there was the departing image of a man in a red suit running across the front yard. Winter coats donned, a cursory check of the front yard did indeed reveal fresh footprints in the snow. How could this be? If that wasn’t enough, a permitted glimpse under the tree confirmed that we indeed had experienced a welcome visitor. Unfortunately they would have to wait till morning to open the gifts. As you might guess, that was assuredly a sleepless night!
I also remember a Christmas a few years later when that serene world I painted for myself lay in shambles. On that Christmas Eve I had invested all the energy I could muster. There would be no magic this year however, only a quiet sadness.
Soon though, as happens most often, years passed and time began its healing process as a new dream began to take shape. This Christmas there were seven of us. I drug that old Santa Suit out of the attic for one final curtain call. This time it was stuffed with newspaper and topped with a mickey mouse head. I thought it ushered in our first Christmas as a blended family rather nicely. There were more gifts than I could have ever imagined around our tree that year. Mickey Claus assured all of our first family vacation to Disney the following summer.
The “Great Game Room” Christmas followed, along with several others as life once again settled into a routine. All held lots of sacrifice, a myriad of great memories… and little sleep. And then there was “that” Christmas, the one I wrote about in TEARS IN A BOTTLE. The one where I lay wide awake in the hospital “hotel” with Matt lying a few floors down having been diagnosed with cancer. There would be little sleep that Christmas Eve either. It was then that I experienced the presence of God like I have few times in my life.
Then once again, years passed and we fought back to a more “normal” Christmas… whatever that is. The magic returned to our quiet existence as grandchildren entered the scene. For several years there was just one, and now there are five. These days Holidays are spent traveling and sharing Christmas concerts with friends all around the Country, and what a joy that has been! This year, our concert season culminated with a special evening at Prairie Valley, the little church in the country that’s not all that little any more. Last Sunday night we crowded 269 chairs in that tiny gym and then celebrated the genuine “reason for the season”. We joined together to laugh, reminisce and worship the Savior of the world with musicians from four to nearly eighty-four years of age. Every once in a while. the fabric of time folds upon itself in such a way that it can be readily stitched together. Such was to be the case on this brisk December night.
You can view the entire video here… https://fb.watch/a4j_wSHwJg/
After a little frivolity, the music to HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS began and time yielded up its constraining power. I stood at the piano on one side of our tiny makeshift stage. On the other side was the little boy who with glistening eyes couldn’t quite figure out how Santa showed up when Papa was there too. Only difference is now he’s two inches taller than I am. And in between us stood a small four year old child with a big voice, and an even bigger heart. Funny, she was about the same age as her Dad was all those years ago. With every note my Granddaughter sang the years seemed to melt away. She would look repeatedly into her Father’s eyes just as he had mine so many years earlier. For you see, she brought the missing magic to the evening. Christmas is not special because of a man in a red suit. It is special because of the Baby in the manger. You might imagine that there was little sleep for me that night.
See what you think…
Again as KNIGHTsong Ministries closes another year, I have no idea what tomorrow holds. God still only gives me one step at a time. Now I know He doesn’t deal with everyone like that. It’s just that He knows me, and He knows that is all I can handle. He keeps teaching and I keep trying to learn. Perhaps that’s what this life is really all about anyway.
I have no idea what Christmases future hold. They may be wonderful, they may be difficult. My guess is, there will be some of each, yet I also realize that there may never be another. Whichever yours may be this year, don’t lose hope. HOPE… that’s what Christmas is all about. One day, whether in this life or the next, for those who have accepted Christ, every right will be made wrong, every question answered, every unfulfilled dream made complete. I won’t want to close my eyes there, not for a second. Maybe not now either, the anticipation of that morning is too great.