When I was a kid, it was always difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Like every other child in the world, I was restive with anticipation. My siblings and I were not allowed out of bed until it was daylight, but we were always awake before then, lying in our beds, waiting for that first ray of sunlight to break through our bedroom curtains.
In a flash we were up and racing down the stairs to wake up Mom and Dad. I never could understand how they could be so unenthusiastic about the whole thing. They would practically sleep walk out to the kitchen, making us wait the eternity it took for them to make a pot of coffee, pour a cup, mix in cream and suger and (finally!) join the rest of us in the living room for the grand present opening ceremony.
Now, as an adult with children of my own, I understand all too well how parents can end up less than enthusiastic when Christmas morning finally arrives. While the children are laying awake upstairs in eager anticipation, my wife and I are usually up until the wee hours of the morning, wrapping and placing all the remaining presents under the tree.
When the not-so-little-anymore ones come romping down the stairs to wake us up, I head to the ktichen for a cup of coffee as they wait impatiently in the living room. As the first rush of caffeine hits my body, though, I begin to perk up a little. Like a baseball player standing in the on deck circle, I take a few practice swings to limber up.
"Who's ready for PRESENTS?" I tease.
As everybody shouts and screams "ME!", I rise and head back to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. Groans of anguish follow me all the way to the coffee pot.
Finally back to my designated spot in front of the tree, I sit patiently, sipping my coffee as the kids begin to get the hint and start to quiet down some. When I have their undivided attention, I pull out my bible. This is the part that differs from when I was a kid. Maybe it's part of the reason I can drum up some energy after long weeks of Christmas sticker-shock therapy, and being up most of the previous night. This is the moment where we get to talk about what Christmas is "really" about.
I'm sure almost every Christian family spends time doing this on Christmas day. Many of them are probably a lot better at it than I. My wife and I have discussed bringing home the point by being less caught up in the wordly view of Christmas; the lights, the decorations, the presents and malls. But we just love the excitement and fun had by all during those days. We know the memories we create at this time of the year will carry us through our old age. So, instead, I use the moment before we open presents, to tell the kids a story I feel relates the point well.
It's not the typical story read by Christian families on Christmas morning. I like to tell the story of Simeon (Luke 2). The bible tells us that Simeon was a righteous and devout man who was promised by the Lord (the Holy Spirit, to be exact) that he would lay eyes upon the Christ before he died. In eager anticipation Simeon went to the Temple courts to await his promised gift.
We do not know how long it was before Simeon got his present. Was it days, months or years? How many times did he go to bed at night thinking "Tomorrow is Christmas!"? The truth is not known. Maybe it was just those few days between when Jesus was born and he was taken to the Temple for consecration.
However long it was, Simeon knew his gift when he saw it. The moment he laid eyes on the baby Jesus, he recognized Him for who He was. How sad that so many of us cannot say the same. All the old man Simeon needed was a fraction of a second, a single glance, and, with that, his joy was complete. He knew the Lord so well, he was able to recognize Him at first sight.
That, is what Christmas is all about.
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