The Christmas Eve spirit
Do you remember the feeling you had as a child the evening before Christmas? If you’re a parent, maybe you’ve noticed that same feeling in your children or grandchildren: that innocent anticipation filled with delight and wide-eyed wonder—maybe even the inability to sleep for the excitement of it all. You’re never too old and it’s never too late to catch that Christmas Eve spirit!
December 25th holds a special place for Christians worldwide, who commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. For many, it’s a day to share special gifts and special time with family and friends—but sometimes it can be a day of sadness, especially if we don’t have the people surrounding us that we hope for. I have certainly had years when I have been bubbling over with Christmas spirit, and other years when I was alone and missing my family, or simply overwhelmed with all that the holiday required in time and energy.
Cherishing a more spiritual sense of Christmas—a new and renewed dawning of God’s active love for all humanity—has helped me feel joy and gratitude, and made celebrating more about thankfulness for God and His qualities of goodness, love, peace, joy, than about ceremonies and material gifts.
Lately, I have been thinking so much about Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve spirit is really as uplifting and special and fun as the morning of the big day, isn’t it? The feeling inside of eagerness—eagerness to show our love and affection for others, to spend time with cherished family members, to commemorate the Christ’s appearance on the human scene—is stirring, vitalizing, awakening. It is a readiness for goodness, for grateful receiving and loving, active giving.
How do you think the wise men felt when they caught sight of that star of Bethlehem? The Gospel of Matthew clearly tells us: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (2:10). Wasn’t the invitation, that beckoning forward toward Bethlehem, the curiosity and expectation, in itself a thrill?
Wouldn’t you have loved to have heard the wise men’s conversation along the road to Bethlehem, and to wonder with them what glorious new gift they were being called to receive? I expect they were lively and bright-eyed, full of a tingling curiosity that impelled them forward joyfully and energetically. Now that sounds like Christmas fun!
The dawning of the Christ on the world is a momentous thing.
In spite of their initial fear, there must also have been a real spirit of excitement among those shepherds when they were told by angels—messengers of God, speaking to their hearts—that they were to go to Bethlehem and see for themselves what their spiritual sense was already telling them would change their lives forever (see Luke 2:8–15).
I am reminded again this Christmas season that we are all both eager children and wise men and women. We don’t know precisely what life will next reveal to us, but our child-heart, our spiritual sense, knows that a Father-Mother who is Love (as we know God to be), must surely bring us blessings beyond our imagining. That spiritual substance will surely be revealed to us in a way and at a time that Santa could never orchestrate.
That joyful wondering, the Christmas Eve feeling, is in itself a kind of powerful prayer. It is that perfect state of receptivity that comes of our expectancy of good news, our openness to spiritual blessings, and, most important, our awareness that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). No matter how God’s blessings are wrapped, they can’t fail to be wonderful! This kind of prayer is so healing; it opens our eyes and arms wide for blessings, rather than looking in one direction or to one specific time for goodness.
The dawning of the Christ on the world is a momentous thing. We aren’t waiting for it, or looking back to it. We are presently observing it. The Christ—the truth about God and about us as His beloved children—is here and is healing. Every day God has our treasures safe and ready, with our names written on them. The new morning is full of surprises, but tonight is already brimming with love!
So, my special wish this year is that everyone would join me in getting caught up with that sense of Christmas Eve wonder and hope. This expectation is not merely a waiting game, but an energizing, joyous period of real spiritual progress and receptivity. We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but we know that, because the day is impelled by God, it can only draw us nearer to Him, to perfect Love.
We can recognize and relish Christmas Eve, the expectation of grace, not only on December 24th. It’s a beautiful way of thinking every day of the year.