I was ten years old, and in my own mind, I was now old enough to outsmart Santa and get a glimpse of him, and that was exactly my plan that Christmas Eve. Under the most supreme of covert operations, I was going to get a visible glimpse of Santa Claus that year.
We had just left the Christmas Eve service at church, and it was now time to begin hatching my plan. Out of nowhere, two mammoth obstacles suddenly threatened my plan. The first one, my parents decided to build a fire in the chimney for ambience. No! Quickly I asked, “How is Santa going to get down the chimney if there is a fire in the fireplace!?” Quick on the spot, my mom answered, “Oh, don’t worry honey, the fire will be out by the time Santa gets here, and if it’s not, he’ll just come through the door.” Believable enough, first crisis averted.
Then, my mom sprung the second obstacle on me. She followed that statement with, “I’m going to sleep on the couch in the den tonight.” She never slept on the couch! What!? Santa traditionally left our gifts in the living room around the tree. But you had to walk through the den to get there. If my mom is on that couch, how am I going to get out of my room to see Santa!? She’ll just tell me to get back in my room. Try as I may, I could not come up with a solution to get my mom off the couch that night. I concluded that somehow, she must have caught onto my plan. Determined not to be thwarted, I resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to sneak past her in the middle of the night and hope she was asleep.
The clock struck well past midnight and the house had been dark for some time now. It was time to act on my plan. Quietly I rose from my bed, cracked open the door and stepped out into the long, dark hallway. I peeked down the hallway with much scrutiny. As suspected, my mom lay fast asleep on the couch. It was time to move. The heavenly Christmas music playing on the record-player was faint, but it provided just enough sound to cover the sound of the floor cracking beneath my feet.
As I made my way up the hallway, the few remaining flickering flames from the fireplace began to illuminate the room. They were casting long and uneven shadows across the walls of the house. Those flame-filled shadows met magnificently with the radiance of the lights on the Christmas tree in the living room. With the Christmas music in the background and the light colliding and casting about the room, the atmosphere seemed magical. There was a presence in the room. I knew it, I could feel it.
As I sensed that presence, my feet became frozen and dug deep into the carpet beneath me. Strangely, I was filled with a deep sense of awe, wonder, and anticipation. I inched forward, as quiet as a mouse. As I crested the top of the hallway, I glanced to the left, and there, standing just to the right of the fireplace mantle…there he was, in all his glory…Santa! He seemed much larger and spectral than any department store Santa I had ever seen. The sack on his back was huge, and he seemed to have his hands clapped around a small toy. All of a sudden, he turned his head and looked right at me!
Immediately, I did what any self-respecting, courageous kid would do. I turned tail and ran back down the hallway back to my bed. I jumped in my bed, pulled the covers up over my head and just lay there, hoping that Santa would still leave me toys. I was not sure if it was a direct Christmas violation if any kid ever saw Santa. I didn’t sleep a wink the rest of that night. Much to my elation that Christmas morning, Santa delivered, just as he always had. Perhaps there would be something in my note that I left him that would give an explanation. Nothing. Perhaps my mom or dad would say something. Nothing. I never said anything to them either. The first time they ever heard that true story was when I shared it in a sermon at a Christmas Eve service a few years ago. They had no explanation.
To this very day, I do not know what I actually saw that night. My dad was in his room. I checked. My sister was fast asleep in her room. I checked. My mom was asleep on that couch. I saw her. Could it have been the flickering flames casting shadows on the walls playing tricks with my mind? Maybe. Why didn’t the dog bark? He was on the chair and he usually barked at everything. There could be any number of explanations for what I thought I saw that night. But to this day, I cannot pin it on one. Regardless, it remains an enchanting Christmas memory of mine. Truthfully, I never needed an explanation for that night. The awe and wonder of that moment has been enough to supply me for a lifetime, even if the actuality was left incomplete.
When Jesus came into the world, there was much hope and expectation. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that He would “save his people from their sins” and that he would be “Immanuel, which means God is with us.” In Isaiah 9 we learn that He would be the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” and that his “peace will never end.” Luke 2 tells us that this would all be “good news of great joy!” The Messiah is born and He is here! Now that’s worth staying up all night for…all year! But here’s the thing, every prophecy about Him in history has 100% delivered…every, single one! Every single thing He has done and foretold has come 100% to pass. None of it is mythical. It’s supernatural reality. There is a reason for hope and expectation!
But lastly, He also tells us He is coming once more. When He does, He will blaze the sky and everything, every single thing will bow before Him. For those who have put their trust in Him, death and sin will be over forever, and everything will be brand new! We’ll be reunited with loved ones and all the saints. It is the one and only actuality that will most definitely be better than the awe and wonder of its anticipation. But as followers of Jesus, we get the joy of both the anticipation and the reality. Oh Wonder of wonders!
This Christmas, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, and the difficulties of this year. May we take a moment to sit down, be still, breathe in, and bask in the holy moment that Christmas brings us each year. The awe and wonder of anticipation, and the indescribably beautiful guarantee that anticipation will one day bring. Merry Christmas everyone!