The tree is lit, the ornaments hung. A few details remain, but the Christmas season is in full force in our Queens home.
I am not sure when I fell in love with Christmas. On first thought, opening presents Christmas morning floods my recollection.
I can recall that feeling when I opened a handheld television when I was 10. I would be so excited to watch wrestling on Saturday mornings, and Mets games in the summer. Who knew so many years later, I would have the capabilities of watching movies and sporting events in a better picture quality on my phone than on my television.
As great as those memories are, this is not why I love Christmas.
I also remember decorating in years past. My job was to unravel the tangled lights down the hallway. We would play the Neil Diamond Christmas CD, and my mom would make hot chocolate. We each had our ornaments to put on the tree, and I couldn’t help but smile as I opened those decorations that I forgot about since last year.
I also remember those who sat around the extended table on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So many of those loved ones will not be at that table this year. Some have returned to God, others to celebrate in different ways with other loved ones.
For those who remain, we are a little older, and hopefully a little wiser. We learn to listen more, take some mental photographs, and to share stories of past years.
We also welcome new faces, from new signifiant others, spouses, and children. The table and the food stay the same, but the seats are filled with an evolving family, still very much built on love.
I put up my tree with my wife and daughter two weeks ago. I couldn’t wait. Watching my daughter’s eyes as she saw the lights turn on was worth all of the time and effort. She reached for the ornaments, with a preference to hold instead of admiring from a distance.
She was three months last time around. The lights and attention kept her busy. This time, she can “fa la la la la la la la la” to Deck the Halls, bounce with the electronic snowmen, and marvel a little deeper at the gold and green that now decorate her home.
I heard before, there is nothing like a child’s eyes during Christmas. Their eyes tell a story. It is one of awe.
I am challenged by this lesson. How can I help my daughter look with that same awe at all whom she encounters. She tends to do this now as she is a social butterfly like her mama, but what happens when she gets older? How do I support these eyes of awe so they do not miss the beauty surrounding her?
The answer is in the life I model. Christmas is a reminder to celebrate each day, to keep each other warm as the temperature drops, and to give love until there is no love left to give.
I also love Christmas because 10 years ago, my wife and I fell in love in December. By a Christmas tree, we shared our first kiss. Surrounded by the carols, we started the greatest journey of my life.
For each subsequent Christmas, our love only grew. The following year, by that same tree, I fell to a knee and proposed. Two years later, we celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple.
Over the years, we created our own traditions. We took on different roles, watched the same Christmas films, and celebrated this special time of year.
Last year, we brought our daughter into the tradition, and God-willing, we will make many more memories to look back on when my hair falls out and my body aches.
The gift of Christmas is to take time to remember, and it is time to create new memories. It is a time to reflect on how we live our lives, how we bring God into the world, and how we can brighten up these dark days.
As we inch closer to Christmas, let’s avoid the drama, the stress from shopping, and the superficial. Instead, let’s give love, be a blessing to another, and be the joy that we celebrate this time of year.