Traditionally, I’ve always spent Christmas Eve night opening presents with my family. It sounds weird. Most families I’ve met open maybe one present on Christmas Eve night and open the rest Christmas morning. I suppose we just broke with tradition. I’m not entirely sure why it started. I have my assumptions but none of it really matters. It certainly wasn’t impatience, I’ll say that much.
This year is different. For the first time in my life, I’ll be spending this day waiting and listening and enjoying the present while preparing for the next day. Not one gift will be opened. Not one stocking. The day will be devoted to waiting.
While Advent teaches us to spend an entire month preparing for the birth of Jesus. The beauty of Christmas Eve is its set aside to fully and totally place yourself in patience and expectancy while equally feeling the now. Some wait for gifts, family, maybe Santa, perhaps turkey and pumpkin pie. But many others wait for Jesus.
When Christmas arrives, there’s no more waiting. It is. It’s now.
But with Christmas Eve, the now is the waiting and that paradox is both uncomfortable and the best kind of tension the holiday can give us.
This year, I spent the morning drinking coffee and reading the paper while my dog sat by my side. My wife and I went to church, singing Christmas hymns and praise and listening to our pastor speak of the coming Christ. We held tiny white candles. The lights dimmed until the room was fully black. One by one the tiny lights came to life, spreading across the sanctuary and extinguishing the darkness. I held my light. There was joy in that feeling of anticipation. There was peace.
We spent some time preparing for tomorrow by grabbing a few quick things at the market. Others, as you can imagine, were doing the same. I got a tin can of Danish cookies, hoping to savor those over coffee tomorrow. My wife got ingredients for a cake. A flurry of snow came down, floating and dancing to hard pavement. It came as quickly as it left us but it was a nice treat all the same.
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After lunch, as I sat comfortably on my couch, sipping green tea and reading the novel The Name of the Wind, for a single moment the tension of waiting vanished. Instead, peace. A peace almost too good to be true. A peace you can only dream of and wish for. It was a gift, certainly, in its own right. The quiet of the Christmas music playing in the background, the tapping of my dog’s nails on the hardwood floor, and the clatter of work in preparation for tomorrow.
A mere sliver to the one gift I wait for each year.
But that’s Christmas Eve. Finding those moments in between waiting and arriving, and hanging on to them as long as you can.
Merry Christmas Eve!