CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

By Lisa Huddleston

When I was a little girl I believed in the magic of Christmas. I believed the red light on the neighbor’s porch really was Rudolph’s nose. I believed that Santa really did know if I were naughty or nice and that he rewarded my behavior accordingly.

I took delight in the once a year showings of Charlie Brown and The Grinch and Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman. I wouldn’t miss them for anything! I loved lying on the carpeted floor in the dark in front of the tv cabinet eating popcorn and basking in the multi-colored glow of the real Christmas tree.

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The church pageant on Christmas Eve was always the same but that only served to make it just right. The angels and shepherds and Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, the brown paper bag with bon bons, nuts, and oranges that each of us kids received at the end of the service, and our handheld candles lighting the small sanctuary with mystery and expectation as we headed out into the cold Michigan night.

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My grandmother sent a cardboard box full of Christmas cookies to our house every year—again always perfectly the same. Sour cream animal cut-outs with pastel icing and lebkuchen and pfeffernusse and springerle. Hopefully a visit from Gangi and Papaw, too, and my sisters and I loved jumping into their bed in the morning to wake them up and giggle together.

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On Christmas morning the presents around the tree covered the entire floor of the room. I think I always got everything I’d asked for: Chatty Cathy, Nancy Drew books, new pajamas (always opened on Christmas Eve), clothes, bicycle, and more. My mother was a generous Santa Claus to say the least. Now I know how hard she worked to make that happen.

I was pretty young when I realized Santa was a myth. I remember asking my dad to confirm what I was almost confident of including the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy for good measure. Dad, ever painfully honest with me when I asked a question, told me the truth, but added that did not include Jesus and God. I thought “duh” since I had not included them in my list anyway, but I’m glad Dad tried there. He was not a religious man, and I remain impressed by his effort. I was angry with my parents for a time. I felt lied to and betrayed, but I got over it.

I swore not to handle Santa the same way with my children one day, but I did it anyway. They were not as angry with me when they discovered the truth, but I felt terrible.

Although a lot of the magic is gone and I struggle during this time of year, I continue to love the beautiful lights of the season. They add a magical glow to the ordinary spaces of life, and winter’s darkness really benefits from them. Lights shine brighter in the dark.

I wonder if the magic will still be there waiting for me when children are once again in our Christmas. Maybe their belief and wonder at it all will stir the embers of my soul and let the light shine in the darkness once again. Thankfully their parents will have to decide about Santa, but I will comply as always.

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Until then I am thankful for the joy that remains–both present, in my memories, and on into the future. Sparkling lights, opportunities to let people know you love them, and as Dad reminded me, the true story our myths celebrate, Immanuel, God With Us.

I pray you’ll have a merry, magical Christmas and keep your eyes open to the lights in the dark: Rudoph’s nose, twinkling trees, and a star of wonder in the winter sky.

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