Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Heart of a Child

But Jesus said,
"Let the children alone, and do not hinder them
from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven 
belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:14

We started celebrating Christmas early the year we learned that our eldest daughter and her family were coming from Minnesota for the holidays. We got excited when we thought about the fun we were going to have together, and it just grew from there.

Long before Thanksgiving, we were planning and buying gifts. Christmas decorating mingled with - and finally preempted - the turkey and fall colors. It created a bi-polar as the subdued hues of harvest succumbed to the manic noise of jingle bells. Competing Christmas songs blared from opposite sides of the house. We watched nearly every Christmas video we could get our hands on - sometimes twice.

We may have been a touch over-zealous. But we have had our share of heartache in recent years, and it felt good to have something to celebrate. We packed the glare of a decade of lost Christmases into one joyous clamor.

But that Christmas ended as every one has for me - with a sigh. Each year, I pack Christmas away with the feeling that I'm packing away a little bit of myself. It's the child in me, the one who never grew too old to believe in miracles.

Grown-up sorrows have buried the wide-eyed and trusting little girl who lay awake most the night listening for sleigh bells. I've forgotten how to bounce out of bed before first light to race breathlessly to the tree. I miss running in bare feet on cold floors, eating guiltless plates of cookies with milk, playing outside in the snow too long, and not knowing that homemade egg nog could make me sick.

I especially miss believing that the golden glow of the season was real.

Somewhere along the way, the child in me got trampled, starved, and seriously lost, too sad to dream or let hope out to play.

Somewhere along the way, a tired cynicism replaced the wonder.

Somewhere between faith and futility, the child grew into an old woman.

That won't do anymore. This year, I opened my present early. I unwrapped the fragile heart-shaped box of my soul, and there she was, a tiny little babe born in the stinking barn of this world.

Oh, those trusting eyes! See how she reaches for her Father! What a gift from God!

I think I'll name her Joy.

Oh holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
-Be born in us today.
-Phillips Brooks (1835-1903)

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