The Magic of Christmas
Have you ever been to a magic show? A really, really good one?
Three times, I have sat in the audience (and once been an unsuspecting participant!) for a David Copperfield performance and, three times, I have walked away amazed and bewildered and altogether enchanted. Without exception, his performances leave me feeling wonder and awe. I never try to even guess at how he accomplishes his illusions because the point of the show, for me, isn’t to explain things. No, the point for me is to experience for a little while a magic, an innocence, that frankly I don’t remember ever feeling. My favorite David Copperfield illusion that I’ve witnessed live, without question, would be the one involving snow. He starts out by masterfully telling a story about the first time he ever saw snow. He woke up on Christmas morning and looked out his window, saw the fluffy white snow, and felt amazed. As he talks, he rips up a piece of paper and turns around. Soon, he is transformed into a little boy on whom snow is falling. In all aspects, it is a beautiful performance.
I’ve been thinking about that illusion, and magic, lately.
You see, it’s Christmastime. More than my birthday (I don’t need a reminder of how old I am), more than Valentine’s (a rather sticky holiday, if you ask me), more than the fourth of July (I’m a party pooper, don’t like them), more than any other holiday on the calendar, Christmas is my favorite. I love everything about it. I love the baking, I love the smells, I love the extra time with my family and girls, I love the songs, I love the crafts, I love the lights, I love everything about it. Most of all, though, I love the way the entire month seems to be enveloped by a warm blanket of magic. More special, even, than the kind David Copperfield conjures up. A kind of magic that makes you smile even when you’re alone. The kind of magic that makes you wake up excited because you’re one day closer to the most special day of the year. The kind of magic that makes you believe that, maybe, hope is real. The kind of magic that whispers the reassurance that evil has already been defeated and that grace overcomes any and all suffering. I know it’s not really magic; it’s Jesus. But it feels like magic. And I wait for it every, single year, just like a child eagerly looks forward to her birthday. It is the one time of year I relax enough to feel like the little girl I once was again.
My girls have elves that come to our house. We have three: Sammy, Dasher and Elf. We love these elves. We don’t use them in the way that the traditional story goes because I don’t believe that Christmas is or should be about discipline. Our elves don’t come to report the girls’ behaviors to Santa. Instead, they come because the girls are so special, and loved. Every night, they get into mischief. Last night, they had a snowball fight with marshmallows. They’ve also decorated a Christmas tree, popped popcorn, used sugar to make snow angels and a whole host of other messy adventures. Each morning, the girls wake up to discover their adventures and we talk about them all day long. We look at the pictures of their adventures. We laugh. But the elves at our house do more than make a mess. They help me reinforce the real meaning behind Christmas: Jesus. One morning, we found that one of the elves had made a picture of the Nativity scene and the other elf was reading Luke 1 to the baby dolls. Another night, they baked a birthday cake for Christmas and made Him a card. In another couple of days, we will wake to find them praying. Before mentioning Santa, we thank God for sending the elves because we know that God is the one who gives Santa the ability to give gifts to children in the first place. I love the elves for helping me bring Jesus into every day of the month in an exciting and unique way. But I also love the elves for helping me cultivate a home that is full of sweetness and magic and warmth.
I don’t want the girls to grow up thinking that Christmas is a happy time during which they give gifts. I don’t want the girls to grow up thinking that Christmas is a time when they read the Bible a little more than we do already. I want the girls to grow up knowing that Christmas is a joyous occasion, a day to celebrate Jesus, life and hope. I want them to grow up learning to believe in what they cannot see so that when this world tries to poke holes in their buckets of self-esteem, they will instinctively trust God to comfort them. I want them to see more than lights and hear seasonal songs. I want them to experience the awe and wonder that the three wise men had to have felt the first time they gazed upon His face, knowing that He was the savior. I want them to experience the wonder and magic that the shepherds had to have felt in the fields when the entire sky resounded with the voices of angels announcing His birth. These were true events that challenged everything reasonable, logical, intelligent men had previously ever known. These were true events that inspired belief. In our household, the elves and Santa help me create an atmosphere where it is easy to believe, an atmosphere that will inspire the belief in the extraordinary, in the impossible and, ultimately, in the Scriptures.
Already this month, we have been to visit Sunnyside lights, Opryland lights, a Christmas concert at church, the Walk through Bethlehem exhibit, put up and decorated the tree and lights, shopped for family, friends and our Christmas tree angel, enjoyed a photo shoot day and journeyed to watch the Christmas parade along with our daily activities of school and church. We’ve made a fire in the fireplace and roasted marshmallows. We’ve sung Christmas songs and, every morning, we read from the Bible, learning and talking about Jesus. We’ve totally immersed ourselves in everything that this month has to offer. We’ve also made Christmas lists and talked about what the girls want to see under the tree—but it has been about so much more than that already. It’s been about relishing in the warmth and care that this world has to offer, and believing in the good over the bad.
The other night, I cried my way through a Super Soul Sunday with Oprah as she walked the sacred grounds of Auschwitz with Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor. It was one of the most moving and profound interviews I have ever seen. It reminded me, just as stories of the Holocaust always have, that I am blessed just for the ability to feel grateful. I wake up and I believe that the strangers I encounter during the day are going to be good people who will treat me decently. Despite valid reason, I’m not cynical or bitter or angry. I see the flower that’s growing in concrete and am still able to marvel over it. Even on my most tired day, I’m capable of getting in the floor and playing Elephant in the Jungle. There are those this Christmas season that cannot do that. There are those this Christmas season whose home burned, or who faced medical crisis or who had a loved one die, that wake up and see the world as grey. The pain obscures the dawning light, and blocks their ability to feel grateful. I know what that is like on an extremely personal level. So just having the ability to feel grateful, to look at the world and know that there is something positive in it, that people are not all bad, and that the Bible is still true no matter what….I don’t want to take that for granted. Instead, I want to cherish it and embrace it and soak it up for all that it is worth. I may feel alone—-but the magic is believing that I’m really not. I may feel scared — but the magic is believing that I’m safe. I may feel unwanted — but the magic is believing that I’m worthy. These are the lessons that Jesus taught, these are the seeds of hope He came to instill in me.
Every night, just before the girls go to bed, a tiny arrow of excitement shoots through my nervous system. Butterflies dance in my belly because I know that it’s almost time—-almost time to help capture a bit of the beautiful magic of this season for my girls. Every morning, we dance around with joy as we try to possess those mischievous elves’ antics. We wrap ourselves in a warm blanket of peace and comfort and joy, happy for life, and for time to both feel and encourage innocence. The magic of Christmas is that it gives us a period of time in which we take a break from being stressed out grown-ups to being filled with childlike hope. We wrap up in warm coats to go outside and brave the weather but, as the frost reddens our faces, our hearts are energized and motivated to cheerfully give more than we normally would. Life doesn’t revolve around us and at no other time do we realize this as clearly as at Christmas.
There are ten more sleeps until Christmas Eve. On that beautiful night, some of us will wake to a winter wonderland outside. Snow will be on the ground and fires will be lit. On that beautiful day, some of us will have a cold, but snowless, ground. We’ll sing songs, open gifts and bask in the glow of the faces of the ones we love. We won’t think of work. We won’t think of bills. We won’t get aggravated when our children act like children. We’ll relax, and take time for one another. And, if you live in our house, we’ll hug our elves and wish them a happy, safe journey back to the North Pole. We’ll drink hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows. We’ll read the Christmas story, we’ll make promises to Jesus. And then we’ll lay down, whisper and giggle under the covers, and listen as hard as we can for the sleigh bells.