Monday, December 22, 2014

What IS the Magic of Christmas?

I have been thinking about this question ever since my family watched "A Christmas Story" last week. Before watching the movie, several of the kids said they couldn't think of anything they wanted for Christmas. They decided to donate presents to others the last few years instead of asking for anything (they still got a few things of their own). They came upstairs after watching "A Christmas Story" and a couple of them had thought of something they wanted for Christmas - and my husband asked, "Do you remember that magic of Christmas morning? When you woke up and saw all your presents?"

Interestingly, I had been reading a short story by Pushkin (The Queen of Spades) while they were watching the movie (I wondered if maybe I should be watching it with them for some family time, but I decided that I'd seen the movie enough times that I could still share in the conversation about it afterwards without having to sit through it again!) Anyway, this short story was about a man's obsession with getting something and the obsession betrays him in the end. It gave him misery instead of the happiness he wanted.

I didn't see the similarities  between the movie and this story (until the next day), but as I watched this sudden desire in my kids and this nostalgic comment from my husband, I wondered - what is the "magic" we want so much at Christmas?

I would love some insights about this, so far I have 3 theories - which do you think is right?

1. The "magic" is the belief in the impossible. We could call this "imagination". All great inventions and breakthroughs start with someone imagining the impossible and then making it possible. Imagination is strong in children - why shouldn't a man drive a sleigh with flying reindeer, squeeze through millions of chimneys and put toys under everyone's tree? If I can be a squirrel one minute and a Transformer the next, surely this is possible too.

I believe all good attributes are magnified as we grow in truth... so maybe we don't have to lose this ability as we get older. We just begin to understand that making the impossible possible takes a ton of work, so we choose to let it stay impossible. Or, if it means a lot to us, we follow that inspired dream with all of our might. Maybe the nostalgia comes because we've stopped taking God's hand and trusting He has a purpose for the desires in our hearts and He will help them come to pass if we jump forward in faith.

2. The "magic" is greed. The love of stuff is powerful. Wanting something badly and then getting it with no effort feels pretty good. Ask any compulsive gambler! This form of magic is deceptive. The temporary pleasure leaves you empty after a time - anyone familiar with these kind of after-Christmas blues?

3. The "magic" is love. Family time, games, dinners, conversations. Remembering Christ's ultimate gift and His love for us through music, story, art. Following His example by reaching out to others and looking for ways to cheer. Living less selfishly.

As I look at what the magic might be, I have to ask myself what kind of magic my actions and traditions produce in my home. I want to foster imagination, but I want to couple it with a hard work ethic and a faith in God. Imagination without these things is only wishful thinking. It will produce bitterness an cynicism.

Some of our past traditions have fostered greed. I understand that Santa Claus can be a symbol of Christlike charity, but for our family the belief in Santa seemed to foster greed and selfishness. We had to let him go. I am glad we did. We also took the focus away from the presents. We don't talk about them or ask about them (of course other people do ask so we get ideas about what they would like). I remember asking Bud, a couple of years ago, what he wanted for Christmas. As he racked his brain trying to think of an answer and got more self-centered in the process, I realized that I didn't really want to ask that question anymore.
Santa was at our church's Christmas party. The boys sat on his lap and when he asked what they wanted for Christmas, Gem (seeing his bag of candy canes) replied that he wanted a candy cane :-) 

I do know I want to foster love. That brings the kind of joy that keeps on building and never runs out. The love of God is an ever-running fountain. The love building traditions are the ones I want to spend my time and energy on.  I am still trying to figure out what these are. We have done some service, we have read some stories, we have slowed our pace and talked more spontaneously. We have gone to some family parties. It has been nice. I know I could be more purposeful though. What are some of your favorite love-filled traditions?