As I talk to other parents who are making their final preparations for Christmas, it reminds me that in our family, we are writing our own story. J-Man seems to have little – if any – understanding of what Christmas is, why there’s a tree in our living room with white lights on it (though he digs it a lot), why people give him stuff he’s never seen before and why we ask him to pull paper off of them in the first place.
We can buy presents with him in the store with us and put them out in full view under the tree for a week and he doesn’t care one way or the other. There’s no going to tell Santa – or even us – what he wants for Christmas. There’s no searching all over the house for gifts we’ve hidden. There’s no singing along to Christmas carols. There’s no, “How many days until Christmas, Daddy?” or “Is it Christmas Eve yet, Daddy?” Tomorrow will likely be like any other day for him.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel sadness about this. And I would be lying if I said that there isn’t a part of me that wishes we could share those things together.
But one thing he’s taught us to remember is that Christmas really has little to do with any of those things. Because of him, I’ve come to finally get deep down that Christmas is about hope coming in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
I am not normally one to wax religious on this blog, but whether this story is part of your beliefs or not, I think it speaks to a fundamental desire in all of us to be able to believe that something incredible can come even from the last place you’d ever expect. Given the transformation of human history that would follow, it was not how you would have expected this child’s story to begin 2,000 years ago.
But by retelling it every year, we learn and re-learn that out of the humblest beginnings can arise something beyond anyone’s furthest imagination. We are reminded that hope and grace can bloom and thrive in places many people would never think to look, and even from places where people consciously decide that nothing of worth could possibly come.
This is why the story of Christmas means so much more to me now. Our family’s story did not begin as we expected it to, but we’ve discovered that uncertain beginnings are not permanent obstacles. They instead take us on a journey that transforms us as parents every day and brings goodness and light into our little community in the world. And who can even know where it might take us next.
The entire season of Advent is one of waiting and hoping, imagination and expectation. We discover that it’s not just for one day but that every day brings with it untold possibilities. In a little over four months, our second child will join us, and we’ll begin the next chapter of this great, unpredictable, exciting adventure we’re on. Meanwhile, we wait, with no small amount of uncertainty, but also no shortage of joy and hope.
All we know right now is that we have a little light and some rough directions and little else to go by except a driving sense of trust and belief that if we travel as far and as long as it takes to get there, we will discover things beyond our every hope.
In our Christmas story, the child stacks blocks and arranges crayons and never takes a step without two of something in his hands. The donkeys, cows, and sheep are packed away unnoticed in the corner. He swaddles himself in pillows for comfort. And then in an unexpected moment, he glances up in a temporary moment of peace as if to say, It’s time to go write a new story; go get my crayons.
So – full of wonder, fear, and expectation – that’s what we’ll do.