My fondest memories of Christmas relate to Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. Without going into a lot of lengthy details to distract from the upbeat theme of the occasion, suffice it to say that I was raised as an only child, despite the fact that I have one biological brother and two step brothers. Growing up, aside from the dog, there was no one else around within 30 years of my age. So Christmas Eve was very special because that was the one time all year long when my brothers would all come over and be there at the same time.
I was a bit younger than each of them. In fact, I was five years younger than the nearest chronological sibling. So they tended to hang together, and I was the little guy who was often the target of physical and psychological older brother torment. But I didn’t care. It was just great to have them around.
When it was time to open up the presents, paper was everywhere. We tore that place up! The joyous sound of “WHOA!” was heard several times during the course of the evening. It seemed like the opening of gifts lasted for hours.
It’s been several years since I’ve shared a Christmas with my brothers. They all have their own lives. I think the fact that we grew up separately, and were not exactly close in age has a lot to do with our distance today. Not to mention the geographic distance which stands between us. But I do have great memories.
On Christmas Eve 2008, I will participate in my church’s special one hour service. It will be nice to do this, since in years past, I always had to decline because I had a lengthy drive to be at my parents’ house, and I didn’t want to get there in the middle of the night after battling traffic out of the Bay Area. Now, about 30 miles separates us, so I can still do the service and get to their house by 8 pm.
There will be no kids tearing into presents. It will just be my parents and me. A little quiet time, reading the biblical account of the birth of Jesus out of Luke chapter 2. Christmas Eve now has a different energy level than it did all those years ago, but in a different way, it’s even more meaningful now. Not because of who isn’t there, but because of what my parents and I share. Each of our lives have been changed as a result of the life of Christ which started in that humble manger. Our relationships with each other are so different, so much better than it was all those years ago. We’ve each taken interesting paths to get to where we are today. None of us knows how many more Christmas Eves we’ll share together. Without anyone saying anything, we will enjoy this one knowing that Christmas Eve 2009 isn’t guaranteed to any of us.
As you experience your own Christmas Eve, I pray that you spend it surrounded by people you love, and more importantly, people who love you. I pray that it is somehow the most special yet. I hope you and they have many, many more Christmases together yet ahead. But I pray that you never take one moment of this Christmas for granted. I can think of many people I know who will experience this Christmas as the first one without a special someone in their lives who they lost this year. When you look around the room at them, when they’re not even aware of it…just look at them and thank God for them.
And remember to thank God for sending His son to us. This is, and always will be the greatest gift ever given.