I already consider this Christmas a win for our family. Our boys were able to visit Santa, and sit on his lap, shedding exactly zero tears. Total success. I could stand back and simply observe as my boys so effortlessly experienced the wonder of the season. Not just with Santa, but in other ways too.
And amid the relief, it hit me. You don’t have to teach a child wonder. It’s hardwired into them. Just watch their faces—when they see the ocean, visit a zoo, take a bubble bath and eat dessert. Wonder is easy. But especially this time of year. December is ripe with opportunity to be caught up and wrapped up in the magic of Christmas.
It’s one of the reasons I love Christmas so much. Because I am learning that as much as I feel like I have to do—with the
and general insanity of it all—
the kids don’t really need it.
As parents we feel agonizing pressure thinking if we dropped even just one ball, Christmas might as well be cancelled. But it wasn’t always that way. We were kids once too, and there was a time when wonder came as easily and naturally to us as it does for our kids.
I remember the Christmas I saw “Santa’s” footprint in the fireplace of my childhood home. I remember the eager anticipation each Christmas Eve and the attempt to sleep sabotaged by giddy excitement. I remember the magic conjured up by a living nativity, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm oven and a crackling fireplace.
And then I grew up.
It makes me question if we are going about it all wrong. What if in our efforts to make Christmas special, unique and over the top for our kids, we are missing the point?
Because the truth is I don’t think our kids need to be taught to experience the wonder of this time of year. They get it. They aren’t looking at us to learn wonder. But I think they are looking at us to help them hang onto it.
They’re watching, wondering if one day they’ll wake up having lost the sentiment of the season— like maybe they’ve seen us do.
Our kids may not need another thing to do this season to prime their hearts for the wonder of Christmas. But we do. Our kids need to be able to look to us to see that the magic of Christmas isn’t something that leaks with age. That with every year that passes, it’s possible to not only keep it, but to provoke it until it’s so abundant, it quiets us and leaves us satisfied in awe.
Maybe the conflict in Christmas isn’t whether we can get everything done, but whether we can sustain the magic, the wow-inducing marvel a lowly baby in Bethlehem created. My experience tells me, it isn’t easy to do. My heart tells me, we ought to fight hard to do it.
In her book Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamott writes, “Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”
Unto us, so much is given.
Or as the prophet Isaiah said it first, Unto us, a child is born. A son is given.
Both Ann and Isaiah are right. And this time of year ought to be the time, more than any other, when the miracle of what’s been given catches us by such surprise our kids can’t help but watch and crave it themselves.
Find some time this Christmas to remember, to revel in, to soak in the mystery and majesty that the God who hung the stars, the God who pitched the sky, the God who holds the oceans, the God who counts the sand, entered the world He made, in hopes we might catch a glimpse of the mighty love He has for us.
That is true wonder. Wonder that we can’t afford to outgrow and thank goodness, don’t ever have to.