keeping the magic alive

Christmas has become intimidatingly big. It begins in November and promises snow and presents and Santa and elves and lights and magic and nutcrackers and cookies and tinsel and Polar Express trains and hot cocoa and special movies and all of the things that bring the season’s magic to children. But there are so many to choose from and all of them take adult planning. Being the one to bring to life the magic of Christmas can be exhausting. The planners deserve a little Christmas magic, too.

Our family was tired this year, or possibly…it was just me. The thought of planning overwhelmed me and when I get overwhelmed, you can find me on the couch, in a book, ignoring all of the things. We almost didn’t even put up a tree. It is huge and heavy and in the attic and that thought alone was enough to halt our progress. Until the day we ran to Whole Foods for dinner and saw a cute little tree just waiting to be purchased. He was the smallest of the pines, standing tall at 5’9” despite his leaning trunk. Decision made, we popped him in the car and set him up by the fireplace within minutes, his piney scent filling the room.

It was then that I realized that a magical Christmas doesn’t have to be hard. It is enough to put some lights and a few ornaments on a tree to light up the nights. It is enough to grab a hot cocoa on your way home from the school Christmas performance taking the long way to look at the lights if you run out of time for a leisurely neighborhood stroll. It is enough to put the boys in their too-short pants and last year’s polo for Christmas Mass if clothes shopping was low on the to-do list. It is enough to throw some stale oatmeal on the driveway for the reindeer if you forgot to buy the magical glitter to light the way. It is enough to give Santa milk and cookies on a plain paper plate. If the cookies are eaten and the milk gone, it is enough to offer him a glass of water. It is enough to be with the family we love and it is enough to celebrate Jesus’ birthday together.

As a child, my favorite part of Christmas was the anticipation. I ran a paper chain down the hallway and religiously ripped off a link every day, excitement building as the day approached. My parents did nothing special. They decorated the house and then they let me dream as I tore off that paper circle each day. The magic came from the waiting.

The church season of Advent is there to remind us that magic is still found in the waiting. It is easy, much too easy, to get caught up in all of the stuff we think we must do to get ready for Christmas, but, above all, Christmas is about love. No amount of stuff can match the genuine happiness love brings. The love of God, the love of Mary for her baby, the love of family and friends. So we light one candle each week, marking the passage of time, and taking a minute to dream about that love. It is in the waiting that the magic appears.

Happy 4th week of Advent and Happy Christmas!

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