February 6, 2023

By Amanda Pugh

The Christmas season is that time of year that brings out our inner child. Snow is falling, Christmas music is playing, cookies are baking, and there is usually time off from school or work to enjoy it. After a whole month of building Advent anticipation, the time has finally arrived to celebrate!

Of course, as in most things, the reality for adults is not as simple and carefree as it is for kids. The holiday season is notoriously busy, weather can be unpleasant, and family gatherings can be tense and exhausting. If you’re a student, finals “crunch time” is just wrapping up, and you’re entering a weird in-between time at home before the rest of the school year unfolds.

But around kids, the magic of Christmas morning is contagious. There’s something about all the smells and bells of the season that can soften even the hardest of hearts—just ask Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch or George Bailey.

A big part of what makes Christmas special, for adults and kids alike, are the traditions and celebrations that surround the season. One family tradition I cherish to this day is our annual trip to our grandparents’ house. We didn’t see my grandparents very regularly, as they lived pretty far away, so this trip was special.

About once a year, my parents would get my brother and me loaded into our van to make the eight-hour drive. Looking back, I can only imagine eight hours in a car with two young kids asking “are we there yet?” was probably not the most enjoyable time for my parents, but we all survived somehow. For us kids, on the other hand, the drive was full of anticipation, knowing every second brought us closer to our destination and to Christmas.

Like a lot of families, we had plenty of Christmas traditions with our grandparents, like going to Christmas Eve Mass and having the family over for Christmas dinner. But there was one tradition that was the most important: waiting for Santa.

This was an important event, and therefore took some preparation. We would tidy up the living room and leave our notes for Santa along with a plate of cookies. Then my brother and I would retreat downstairs to our beds. We would try to stay awake as long as possible to hear the exact moment when Santa came so we could sneak upstairs to see him. Our plan was sure to work, but to our dismay, we always lost the battle against sleep.

Before we knew it, we were awake again and bolting upstairs. We didn’t know how or when, but Santa had come! And Santa was always generous. Our stockings were heaped full and the tree was surrounded with shiny packages.

The Christmas experience of waiting and receiving has surprising spiritual lessons. Even though I didn’t know the precise moment when or exactly how, Santa always came. And he came through in a big way. At some point, I learned that just because I couldn’t stay awake to see him didn’t mean he wouldn’t come. If jolly old St. Nick can come through like that, how much more will our heavenly Father?

So often I am tempted to believe that God will hold out on me, whether that’s in my prayer, my relationships, or my plans for the future. I often doubt God will answer my prayers, simply because I lack the spiritual awareness to see how he is already moving right now.

I often forget that God is a personal, incarnate God. He started his life as a baby in a barn in Bethlehem. He worked with his father as a carpenter, he called each of his followers individually, and he felt every emotion to the point of Calvary. He is a personal God. He knows my weaknesses, and he comes through for me even when I’m not spiritually awake enough to know how.
This realization changes my entire outlook on life. When I can trust that God is always coming through for me in ways I may or may not understand, I am free to receive all he wants to give me. I can receive like a kid on Christmas morning.

How have you been receiving? Have you tapped into your inner kid-on-Christmas-morning? I hope you’ll take some time with me this season to reflect on where in your own life the Lord might be present and active right now in a way you’ve never realized before.