I’ve always wanted to ride in a horse drawn sleigh.
I picture myself with a red and black plaid blanket draped across my lap while snowflakes tickle my nose and eyelashes. In my mind’s eye, we ride past snowmen with carrots for noses and Christmas lights shining through frost filled dimly lit windows. I, in my dream, am singing Christmas carols for every passerby and sipping on a thermos of hot chocolate.
I can just hear the jingle bells dangling from the sleigh as we slide up and down hills and down windy roads.
Doesn’t that sound dreamy??
I can feel my heart flutter at the thought of it.
The days ahead promise lights and tinsel, glitter and bows, caroling and celebrating the birth of the Christ child. There’ll be apple cider simmering on the stove and my breath will turn to tiny ice crystals in the crisp, cold air. Churches will display manger scenes with miniature Mary and Josephs standing faithfully beside live donkeys who are only interested in the hay.
The joy of this holiday is as palpable as the jingle bells on my imaginary one horse open sleigh.
Oh how I love Christmas!
My husband and I took a stroll around our local mall recently and the gigantic Christmas tree is up in all its shining glory. It’s a two story mall and the tree is in the very center reaching proudly to the glass ceiling above. Giant red and green balls hang from its giant green limbs, the lights twinkle to their own rhythm and Santa is sitting close by, listening intently to the wishes of children one and all.
The smells of cinnamon and spice are in the air.
I’m using great restraint by not pulling out our Christmas tree and putting the one thousand pieces together tonight. Yes, we have an artificial tree. I just can’t see the romance in a real one. (I heard some of you gasp.) We had a “real” tree once as a kid and all I remember is the little needles falling off and getting stuck in my feet. And, having to vacuum constantly because of the dreaded needles. I love the idea of walking through light snow, picking out a tree, cutting it down and bringing it home.
But, my real life is not a Hallmark movie.
Reality tells me I’m way more suited for an artificial one.
Now to find a Christmas radio station and listen to tunes on loop from now until the big day. I’ve done this for years and it usually drives those I love crazy because… how many times can you listen to “All I Want for Christmas is You” before losing hope in humanity??
So many wonderful memories come to mind when I think of Christmases gone by.
One of my favorites was the year Mom decided to sew my younger sister and me each a doll that was as big as we were. She worked tirelessly on those giant dolls and wouldn’t let us see her painful progress. She insisted we wait until Christmas morn. I had a bad habit of sneaking out of bed on Christmas Eve night when everyone else was asleep and peaking under the tree, desperately hoping Santa had already been there. This particular year Mom decided to sit the giant cloth dolls on the couch so they could greet us like new friends ready to play.
They sat quiet, with their yarn hair and giant eyes, staring blankly into the night.
I snuck into the living room, silent as a mouse, careful not to make a sound. The moonlight shone through the window and cast the smallest light across the room and I caught a glimpse of a two silhouettes. I nearly peed my pants. They looked like large weirdly shaped people sitting, waiting for me to appear so they could…well, I don’t know exactly, but I laid in bed with my eyes wide open the rest of the night worried about it.
Scared me to death.
You would think I would’ve learned my lesson, but, no. The next Christmas I found where Mom hid my gifts and unwrapped each and every one. I even took the time to re-wrap them. Looking back on it I wonder why Mom didn’t blow my mascaraed. I knew she could tell the gifts had been opened and carefully put back together, but, she didn’t say anything. Then she watched me pretend to be surprised with each gift KNOWING I had already opened them. She told me years later it was my Christmas and if I wanted to spoil the surprise she wasn’t going to stop me.
I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but I snuck into the Christmas gifts every year.
Ya’ll, I was such a mess.
Our tree always had multi colored lights and lots of tinsel. I’m sure some would say it was tacky, but I thought it was perfect. Homemade ornaments hung from its boughs along with the occasional candy cane, usually broken or half eaten. Decorating the tree was one of life’s greatest pleasures as far as I was concerned. Staring at it as it illuminated the night was nothing short of magical.
I remember I wore my pink homemade housecoat that slipped over my head and fuzzy slippers, dirty from wearing them outside. I would sneak out of my room and down the hall to the living room where I’d curl up in a ball on the sofa and dream little girl dreams as the lights played charades with the darkness. And, because I sat up late with the Christmas tree, I was always tired the next morning. And then I’d pretend to be terribly ill in hopes I wouldn’t have to go to school.
I didn’t realize when you put a thermometer into a hot glass of water it looked like you had a temperature of one hundred and ten.
So off I went to catch the school bus, no fooling Momma.
It was in my early years, between the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven and my beloved Tinker Toys, I learned about the greatest gift of all.
I have to be honest, I didn’t totally understand salvation as a kid. I was just glad this Jesus guy was born so I could receive presents. As a pastor’s kid, I was often a part of the Nativity. I was Mary, an angel or occasionally a shepherd every year. Now I realize all the gifts, the trees, church Christmas plays, all the stuff, led me straight to the manger time and again.
And somewhere along the way I fell in love with the baby in the manger.
The one who grew to be the Savior of the world.
The One who makes all things new.
The One who loves me unconditionally and gave me the GREATEST GIFT OF ALL.
Hope of life eternal.
And, maybe, just maybe, the hope of a one horse open sleigh ride.
Cue in “Jingle Bells” here. (Hum it to yourself as you read the last line.)
And now, let the gift giving, tree lighting, cookie decorating, ornament hanging, popcorn stringing, candy cane licking, movie marathon-ing, wreath making, bell ringing, absolute BEST time of the year begin!!!
Merry CHRISTmas season!!
PSA: Parents, hide the presents real good because I can ASSURE you one (or more) of your kids is looking for them in the dead of night.