BY AMY WALTON |
Every December I have this childlike anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus.
Never mind that I have two adult children, both in their thirties, and three granddaughters, who all receive Christmas presents from me. This grandmother here still magically stirs up that same eagerness I had as a child knowing that St. Nick would make his rounds on Christmas Eve.
There’s no question my parents influenced this excitement in me, because the big guy in the red suit was talked about alot in our home; and every December 24, when we returned from the lovefeast and candle service at church, I’d be rushed off to bed after leaving milk and cookies out with which the master toy deliverer could refuel.
The following morning, once the presents were opened and the wrappings cleaned up, we’d enjoy the décor my mother created in our small home, then we’d take it all down before New Year’s Day, including our unlit Advent wreath.
Yes, our beautiful Advent wreath was never lit. Ever.
It was clearly a decoration. As rooted as we were in the life of our church, I never really grasped the meaning of Advent. I would occasionally light the wreath in our sanctuary, but I never thought much about the four-week journey that takes us to Christmas.
It wasn’t until I married and started a family that the meaning of the season really took hold. At the small Lutheran church we attended in South Carolina, Advent was front and center leading up to Christmas. I found myself having that same eager anticipation for Jesus that I once had for Santa. Honestly, I’ve always felt Jesus’ presence in my life, even as a little child, but suddenly Advent became as important to me as Christmas itself.
For nearly three decades now, I have meditated and prayed by my glowing wreath. My sons always joined me until they became teenagers, but for the past 20 years or so, it’s just been me… and God.
Sitting by my wreath before going to bed, I often read scripture, pray, and even sometimes sing. There’s a beautiful holiness in singing “O, Come, Emanuel” when you are gazing at a lit candle or candles in the dark of winter. One or more flames in the darkness providing a background for that song is a truly beautiful experience. It makes me ponder the darkness of sin on which Christ shined His divine light and took upon Himself to give us eternal life.
During Advent, I often think about times when I was giddy with excitement over seeing someone for the first time or after a long absence.
When my Army officer son moved back to the States after serving in Germany, I had a brief encounter with him at–of all places—a Greyhound bus station in southern Georgia. He’d just moved to Alabama for graduate studies and was heading to Atlanta to retrieve his shipped vehicle. At the time, I was volunteering at an organization down south, so I sat on a bench with over-the-top excitement at seeing my firstborn. My heart leapt for joy when that bus rolled in!
That same expectation was alive and well when my younger son emerged from an airport concourse after a semester of studying in Spain. No one could possibly erase that smile from my face. I had that same beaming grin and eagerness when I waited on the porch of a cabin on Christmas Day as a car drove toward it with someone I couldn’t wait to see. And every time I go to visit my family in Hawaii, I want to jump from the plane when Diamond Head comes into view.
Yes… over the top excitement.
Do I have that same eagerness, that same excitement over the coming of the Word who became flesh, He whose origins are of old?
At my beloved home church, Mayodan Moravian, we always sing “Jesus Bids Us Shine” at the end of the Christmas Eve service. As I hold my candle high, that final stanza always provides me a reality check:
In this world of darkness we must shine,
You in your small corner and I in mine.
I ask you as I ask myself: Are you shining your light, His light? Do you light your Advent wreath and ponder Emanuel, God with us?
Are you waiting with great expectation?
As we prepare to celebrate His birth, may we be over the moon with anticipation that God did walk among us and that He will return in victory one day. May we shine our excitement and our light—His light—for a world that needs both.
A birthday is drawing near. As John the Baptist proclaimed, “Prepare the way for the Lord…”
My earnest prayer is that each of us will have that childlike wonder and elation for Jesus that we had for Santa. I also pray that we will shine our light—His light—for all to see.
Christmas is coming, my friends. Jesus Himself said that unless we become like little children, we’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven.
May we all muster that childlike wonder and enthusiastically welcome the King of kings this Christmas!
About the author
Amy Walton is a certified life coach, certified Christian life coach, speaker, and writer who has lived in coastal Virginia for nearly 30 years. A native of Mayodan, North Carolina, she was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Mayodan Moravian Church, where she remains an Associate Member. Connect with her at www.HolyGrounding.com or [email protected].