Christmas as a youngster was nothing short of magical, and Christmas Eve was easily the greatest day of the year. My childhood imagination running wild, snow falling softly on the frozen ground, family braving the cold temperatures to share the holidays, and the comfy living room lit solely with the brilliant glow of the lights from the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
I loved it all!
On Christmas Eve, I went to bed dutifully every year, knowing that had I not, Santa would skip our house. I was in bed by 9 PM on the dot, but out of bed by 2 AM and down in the living room admiring the glowing, towering Christmas tree. The tree seemed enormous to me, a constant reminder that Christmas was much bigger than I was. It was surrounded by mounds of presents just waiting for my siblings and I to open.
I was never the type to snoop. I would find which presents were mine, but I had no desire to shake, feel, or probe. I saw what boxes had my name on it, then placed my pillow on the floor and my blanket over the warm heater vent. That is the cozy position I remained in for the next five hours. I would stare at the shimmering red, green, and white lights on the tree until my eyes hurt.
At about 7 AM my parents would sleepily stumble downstairs to begin our Christmas morning traditions. This was the same routine year after year, and it had the aura of heaven.
I enjoyed the magic of Christmas later than most boys and girls, as I held firm in the faith of Santa Claus until I was old enough that my mother thought it time to inform me of the way things really worked. I was twelve when I found out the truth.
Alright, maybe fourteen.
Some wonder how in the world I believed for that long? I think my little mind equated faith is Jesus Christ with faith in Saint Nick, and I had been deceived by the very convincing story-telling abilities of my dear, lying mother.
Even after having my whole world shattered with the confession of my mother, Christmas Eve was still pure magic. I knew the truth about Santa, but I still wanted to believe some part of him was real. I felt that he still flew through the brisk air behind Rudolph and the other reindeer, and I knew his footprints would surely be found on my rooftop the next morning. As for the Christmas cookies and milk, they were still just crumbs on Christmas morning when I awoke.
Then one year, something seemed a little off. The magic that I once felt was still there, but it seemed some of the magic had gone away. I couldn't quite explain why. The next year, even more of that magical, mystical feeling was gone. I still didn't have a clue why I was less entranced with this previously 'magical-beyond-all-other' holiday.
The next year, the same. Then, early Christmas morning I came into the living room, and stood there staring at our tree. Since my mother was allergic to pine trees, we had a fake tree that had seen every Christmas our family had ever been a part of. As I admired its warm glow and looked at the decorations placed strategically on the tree, I realized that it no longer seemed as enormous as it had before. The gigantic, towering tree now seemed shorter. My Christmas tree was shrinking.
I stood there in shock. I then chuckled and realized that I was slightly amiss. The Christmas tree wasn't shrinking, I was growing. Part of the magic all these years was that I was small. Everything seemed so much bigger than me, so much more majestic, so much more wondrous. Now that I was almost as tall as my tree, some of that Christmas magic had started to die.
Christmas to this day is a wonderful holiday for me personally. I find that as I look to serve others I capture a wonderful feeling of warmth and happiness knowing I'm making a difference. However, I'd be lying to you if I said that the service I give can ever replace the magical feeling I had as a young child, staring at that gigantic, shiny Christmas tree, knowing that in just hours, Santa's hand would be revealed.
Doubtless there are many this year that wish for a new IPAD, XBOX 360, or some other gadget or toy. As for me - If I could have one more chance to tip toe down the creaky stairs into the living room as a six year-old boy, and catch the grandeur of that gigantic, glowing Christmas tree lighting up my home, I would consider myself the luckiest man alive.