The grass was slightly damp, fragrant with the sweet coolness of the fast descending night. Fireflies were beginning to appear, rising from the ground like sparks from a fire, then fading away like dying embers...
At the time I am writing this, it is two weeks before Christmas. The tree is up and decorated, the halls have been decked, and the season of wonder is in full swing. I have the great privilege of being able to watch my children experience the thrilling anticipation of the coming holiday. There truly is nothing as magical as experiencing Christmas Day through the eyes of a little child. And Christmas Day is a wonderful day, indeed. But as I look back in time through the lens of my memory, I would have to confess that to me, even though Christmas Day was wonderful, Christmas Eve was the most wondrous day of all.
How well I remember (can you remember, too?) the night before Christmas. Stockings hung by the chimney with care, the cheerful fire in the fireplace slowly dying. It needed to be dark outside for Santa to come. He came under stealth and that required the dark, quiet hours of the night. Finally, the moment came to go to bed. But who could ever sleep on a night such as this? The air was electric with expectation. I lay in bed, straining to hear the sound of sleigh bells, the soft patter of reindeer hooves, my heart racing with excitement. Visions danced in my head- what would the tree look like tomorrow morning, alight and glowing, surrounded by a blanket of beautifully wrapped presents? The presents! What a thrilling thought! All of the waiting, hoping, and good behavior: the mysterious winks and nods would be brought to light and explained. The longing and wonder would culminate in a moment of glorious discovery.
Eventually, the sleepless hours of the long night ended and Christmas morning came. The presents were opened- I finally knew what those merry packages contained! And so the day passed. It was full of love and family and fun…but Christmas day couldn’t last forever. As the sun began to settle down in the west, the shadows grew longer and deeper, and I knew that wonderful day was drawing to a close. It was a thankful feeling, but it was also a sinking feeling, as the magic and the sparkle began to fade with the realization that Christmas was almost over. It was about to go away for a whole long 365 days.
I suppose that is why I preferred Christmas Eve. It contained all of the wonder of Christmas, but with endless magic, dreaming, and possibility. It was the night before the day that anything could happen. Christmas day was wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it was over so quickly. It was so finite. Christmas Eve felt infinite.
Now we, the people with bodies made from the dust of the earth, who have put our faith in Jesus Christ, are but little children, dearly loved, barely able to sleep a wink in anticipation of the morning to come. What will it be like when we see Him face to face? What will it feel like, that first moment of breathless beholding when the long, sleepless night is finally over? Darkness is rolled back and death is swallowed up in victory…Christmas Eve is over and Christmas Day dawns clear and bright. It is the real and living Christmas. Its joy will never end. And my body will have been the vehicle that got me there, to that real and living Christmas Day. My body is the vehicle by which I came to find God and know Him in this world, experiencing the happiness and the sorrow and the heartache and the fight, that is this life. This life: This Christmas Eve for the soul that puts its hope in Emmanuel Himself.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
(2 Corinthians 3:17,18)
The Road Ahead
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”