“Good things come to those who wait,” is a consistent piece of advice given to those who suffer from extreme impatience. That is why I have heard it repeatedly these past 20 years. As a child, Christmas was one of those unique events that came regardless of whether I waited or not. For that reason, I never let Christmas come to me. Instead, I pursued Christmas with an unbridled haste. I began listening to Christmas music November 1; I had a Christmas wish list prepared at least three months in advance with all proper citations and references; and all pre-snow angel bodybuilding began long before the first snowfall. I chased Christmas as if, at any second, it might disappear. Of course it never did. But that was because I had yet to figure out that Christmas was more than just a date on the calendar commemorated with good food and good company. It was a feeling. Christmas was a never-ending conviction which professed love and good news to the world.
Christmas, however, like most things, changes as you grow older. You become busier and more independent. Suddenly Christmas becomes a reflection of the rest of your life: A hectic race to get everything done on time with as little pain as possible along the way. The childlike wonder you once possessed is replaced with a lot of frazzled, a touch of cynical, and a single promise that if you hear “Frosty the Snowman” play one more time you will personally decapitate every snowman within a five-mile radius. Between planning Christmas meals and putting up baby gates in preparation for your visiting relatives (not because there will be any young children in attendance but because at least one inebriated uncle has taken a tumble down the stairs), it is easy to find oneself finally having time to celebrate Christmas — long after December 25 has come and gone.
By the time I was in high school, Christmas had lost a lot of its magic. It had been replaced by deadlines and haste. Homework hadn’t stopped just because school had; and I found winter breaks had become less about carols and hot cocoa and more about calculus and The Old Man and the Sea. I had grown up, and it seemed that Christmas had too.
Then, my sophomore year, I had an idea. I conceived of a loophole in the impossibility that is Christmas shopping for my parents. My mother is a technophobe and my father is convinced that if society would allow him to wear the same outfit every day, he would do so with gusto. Needless to say, my brother and I missed those days where a poorly molded clay pot was an acceptable gift. And given my artistic abilities, my clay pot would still be just as poorly molded today. But that year was going to be different.
Come the start of every winter, my church puts up a collage of sticky notes. Each note contains the name of a member of a family and what they would like for Christmas. These families can’t afford to buy their own Christmas presents. Members of our church take a sticky note or two and leave the wrapped gifts at the church to be delivered come Christmas. So, without my parents’ knowledge, my brother and I selected a few names from the list, and we purchased everything from baby clothes to picture books. Before we wrapped them up and took them to church, we took a picture of each item, to be included in a card for my parents on Christmas morning.
When the time finally came, my brother and I presented our card with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. After my parents opened it, and it finally registered what they were looking at, an identical look spread across my mother’s and father’s faces. It was one of such love and joy that I found myself beginning to cry. At that very moment, all the feelings I had as a child, of Christmas being magical and breathtaking, came rushing back. In that single instant, I remembered that Christmas wasn’t a race to the finish line; it was a time of love and of giving back. All this time, there had been no need to chase Christmas. It had been there all along.
My sophomore year of college, I came home from winter break an absolute mess. Exams had been grueling. I was stressed, tired and miserable. I came back to Connecticut to a house that hadn’t been decorated and to a family that hadn’t finished buying presents, never mind wrapping them. In other words, I came home to perfection, because I came home to love. Christmas came to me in the embrace of my parents and in the smiles of the members of my church on Christmas Eve. Christmas came to me in every joke my little brother told and in the laughter of my best friends. When I woke up December 25, I thanked God for giving the world his only son and for giving me the opportunity to wait for Christmas with open arms and an open heart.