Snow fell on Christmas Eve for the first time in almost a decade. The children played outside; sledding down the big hill in the back yard, building snowmen (each had to build their own), and working on igloo snow forts for snowball fight battles that may not come. The lights; red, green, blue, and orange, twinkle on the house, the huge Santa Claus face, a relic from the 1970s, on the peak of the house shining bright. Inside, the evergreen tree, artificial, blinks with the same colored lights, flashing in random sequence through nine various flashing patterns. The miniature Santa Clauses decorate the television cabinet, stockings hung on the wall beneath the latest school pictures on the dining room wall. The smells of cookies, candy, and turkey cooking fill the air, warming the spirit as much as the heat of the oven warms the house. Mother works in the kitchen, always with little hands assisting, to prepare the feast that the family will consume the next day. The air is thick with anticipation for that night, that very night Christmas will come.
The traditions are maintained, despite the economy, despite the adversities of life, the traditions are faithfully maintained. After dinner is served, after children are bathed, after all the Christmas programs are watched, the family gathers in the living room in silence. No television distractions, no music playing, no sounds coming from any of the children, silence on Christmas Eve as Father begins to read. Traditionally Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, or, as it is better known, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, is always read, but this year, this year in particular, Father decided on a new story to read for their traditional Family Story. He went to the book shelves that line the dining room walls, he searched quickly and found the book he wanted. He sat down in his chair and opened up the gold edged pages of the book and began to read the story of the Birth of Jesus Christ. The children sat, along with Mother, as Father read the story of how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the coming birth of the Son of God. He read how her husband, Joseph, and she went to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. He read about the birth in a manger, no room in the inns, about the shepherds seeing the star light and following it to the babe.
After the story was read, the teeth having been brushed, the children went to their rooms to dream of sugar plums, or whatever it is that children dream about on Christmas Eve. They dream of hoped for presents, each having made their lists. Although the oldest is almost sixteen years old, we still allow for the magic of Christmas. The lists were compiled, early in December, each presenting their list to the Parents for passing along to the jolly old elf who handles those affairs. Each child had been deemed “nice” and presents had been requested. As the night drew to a close, Father lay in bed watching Christmas movies, Mother by his side. He reflected on the holiday, on the meaning behind it. He reflected on his place in the world, his triumphs and his defeats for the previous year. He thought about his family members, although estranged from most and distant from the others, he thought and said a prayer for each and every one of them. It was Christmas, after all. He got up from his warm bed, and taking out some left over enchilada from the refrigerator, heated it a bit in the microwave and put it in an old whipped cream bowl and sat it outside for the wild, stray cat that lived in the yard and neighborhood. No one, not one creature, should have to spend Christmas Eve cold and hungry, even though he was not a fan of cats or any domesticated animal.
As the clock continued to tick away the hours and minutes of Christmas Eve, Father and Mother shared a kiss at midnight as they could hear the bells of Christmas ringing through the town. The snow flakes outside continued to fall off and on throughout the night. The gifts had been delivered, pretty packages with blue, red, and green paper spilling out from beneath the beautiful, dependable old Christmas tree. The stockings were filled with little chocolates, candy canes, and a couple small gifts. The two cats, black and orange, sat on their perches, vigilant in the night with huge eyes as Father shuffles through the house one final time, checking to see if everyone is still fast asleep. He crawls into bed, snuggling up to Mother, as he kisses her again. “Merry Christmas,” he whispers before closing his eyes and dreaming his own dreams. In the morning, early morning, they would all awaken. The children would flock to the living room, the youngest being in line to pass out gifts this year, and the gifts would be handed to each in turn. The gifts would be opened, wrapping paper flying everywhere. The smiles, the laughter, the feeling of satisfaction that a dream, a wish had come true, fill the house. Father and Mother sit and smile. The season was upon them and all was well in the world.
Outside their home, economic disaster is ever present. Outside their home, the battle against terror continues to rage. Outside their home, corruption fills the political offices of the nations, states, and municipalities. Outside their home, murderers, rapists, burglars, and other criminals threaten the people. Inside, though, inside that home the Family laughs, smiles, and enjoys each other’s company. In a few short hours, after breakfast, after dinner, after the wonder of the gifts begin to wane, the arguments, the normal siblings arguments, will continue. Mother will lose her temper a time or two. Father will lose his cool and holler once or twice. The magic of Christmas will fade, again, for another year. But, for that briefest of moments, the spirit, the magic, the wonder of Christmas had come to live in the home of that Family in Missouri, and hopefully in the homes of Families all around the world.