with the dawn of redeeming grace

"And so, I'm offering this simple phrase, to kids from one to ninety-two: 
Although it's been said, many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you."

This year, I found myself yearning for the Christmases of my younger years. Now, I know what you're thinking, and it's probably something along the lines of, "Well gosh, she's too young to say something like that!"

Well, I suppose you have a point there.

However, the Christmas I'm talking about is of the never-missing-a-day-of-opening-your-Advent-calender (I'm ashamed to say I missed more days than I remember this year), watching-presents-slowly-accumulate-under-the-tree, putting-out-milk-and-cookies-for-Santa, feeling-like-Christmas-Eve-couldn't-possibly-pass-any-slower sort. But over the years, 17 or not, I've found that, despite my hardest efforts, I've built up some more patience, and, amidst all the bustle, started to see more of the hurt and realness of life than Christmas magic. It's sad, isn't it?

But...I have a secret. Promise not to tell? I know where that overflowing, untouched well of magic is hiding: Christmas Eve.

Would it be terrible to say that I like Christmas Eve better than the big day itself? Because I do. Magical is the only way I can think to describe that most holy of nights. It's always magnificent, but something I can't quite place brought this year from just magnificent to extraordinary. My mom said it was probably because I'd successfully conquered my hair (which is true, I was proud of it), but we'll just say it was simply because my recollections of Christmases past were dimmed by day-to-day monotony.

This Christmas Eve, I could not stop smiling. By the time 2am rolled around, I was certain my cheeks would split clean in two after the cooking and the cleaning and the merry making and the singing and the eating and the laughing and the gathering of friends and family and the dressing up and the praying and the welcoming of the Christ Child.

Have you ever watched a sea of candles bob in time to Silent Night in a midnight-darkened church? It's the most wonderful moment of the entire year. And then there's the unparalleled joy that comes with taking Holy Communion in the wee hours of Christmas Day! It can't hold a candle (pun very much intended) to the ho-ho-ho-ing kind of Christmas magic. As wonderful as that kind of magic is! As much as I believe in jolly old St. Nick (yes, yes, I do)! But the magical peace that comes with the birth of my Savior is like none other. The peace that comes from Christ passes all understanding, it truly does. It's sweet and clean and light and pure and, well, magic. And while it's always been there before, it becomes a little more apparent with each passing year; hits a little closer to home, right in a spot where the worldly kind of magic can't compete.

Yesterday when I awoke, there was baked French toast straight from the oven and hot coffee, and, after church (pastor's kids probs), we opened presents. I should probably stop before I start crying, but there is such sweet, sweet joy in watching your loved ones open their carefully selected and wrapped gifts, the joyful squealing of "Look what Santa got me!" I took more pictures than ordinarily, mostly because 2014 has loads of changes in store and I don't know what things are going to look like this time next year and I don't want to forget right now.


Now I'm ready to do Christmas all over again.

Praying that your day was merry and bright and full of magic.