One of the best and most powerful traditions of our family Christmas is the sibling gift exchange. After checking out the stockings and seeing what Santa brought, we eat breakfast. Afterwards begins the gift-giving. One by one, starting with the youngest kid, they hand out the gifts they purchased, youngest to oldest. We all watch together as the gifts are unwrapped and revealed. I honestly think it’s more fun (and heart-warming) to watch the giver during these exchanges, rather than the recipient. It’s a meaningful and important time, as they usually put a great deal of thought and effort into the gifts they give one another.
Each exchange is followed by a hug, which is, in itself, a beautiful thing on Christmas morning.
Up until midnight on the 24th, we focus on Jesus – his birth, the angels, the traditional story, the interaction and worship with our community of faith and our neighbors. Last night all of us participated in some way in two consecutive services for our church family and the surrounding community. Drama, music, dance, teaching; we designed a service that would reflect the heart of the mission of our church while at the same time giving all in attendance a meaningful Christmas Eve worship experience. It was exhausting and stressful, but fulfilling. It’s become integral to our family life; up until the late hours of Christmas Eve, it’s simply what we do. My kids accept the responsibility (and the difficulties) without complaining or grumbling.
After church is finally over, we come home. We eat late – ham, rolls, green beans. We share time with our neighbors. We talk excitedly about the day to come.
Then we open one gift – something preselected by me. It’s always – ALWAYS – new pajamas, which are promptly donned in anticipation of Christmas morning.
I have to play the Charlie Brown ‘dance music’ for them, and they all do the Charlie Brown dance. Silly, bopping up and down, they dance until I stop.
Then we sing together. Always ‘Silent Night’. This year, David – precious, eight-year old, ever-more-trusting David – began the song himself. I tell the story of holding Sarah to my chest in 1990, one week old on Christmas Eve, while I picked out the melody of that same old carol on my ancient upright piano and cried, full of wonder and awe at the gift of the child in my arms.
Then we read the Christmas story, from Luke. They take turns. This year David read, too, in a voice clear and loud and confident. Praise God.
Syd lights a candle, the blue ‘Christmas candle’ we save for the occasion each year. The wick did not cooperate but the sentiment remained the same.
We pray together.
And then they go upstair, to sleep together on the floor in the same room (they told me today that they intended to do so until they were married with kids of their own). They know that they cannot get up until 6:00 a.m., and so they lock themselves in and cuddle up, fully expecting to be unable to sleep at all.
But they do sleep, and at 6:00 somebody wakes up, and they rush down the stairs and I wake up to the sound of shrieking and laughter and shouts of, “Look what I got!”
This morning it was, “I got a Shuffle!”
“Look at these awesome boots!”
“My hoodie that I wanted!”
“My drum pad!”
And, of course, Guitar Hero…
Following are a smattering of shots, in no particular order, from both my house and my mom’s, where the frenzy of gift-giving and receiving continued….