It is not about exam cram and ugly sweater parties before returning home for break, nor Christmas shopping and out-decorating neighbors, but about waiting in blessed hope for the coming of Christ.
We spend our whole lives waiting: to grow up, to get better jobs, to retire. College students especially are intimately familiar with waiting for breaks, deadlines, relationships, and postgrad life. With the end of the semester rush that coincides with Advent, we can easily focus more on waiting for final exams to end and Christmas break to begin than waiting for Christmas itself.
This Advent, I found myself bogged down in research papers and final projects, but found comfort and escape in meditating on how childlike innocence and wonder relate to observance of the season.
Christmas in the Draime household is a big deal. My siblings and I constantly tease our dad for being more excited about the holiday season than any of his kids, but we relish in his decorative and spiritual efforts. My parents begin decorating around Thanksgiving, sketching layouts for stocking and garlands on the mantle, the papier-mâché village and train set in the family room, and the various tree setups around the house.
The most magnificent and meticulously planned is a crèche sprawling across our dining room at a massive thirteen feet wide and five feet deep at either side’s wings. It includes 99 figures to date, each handcrafted by artisans in Naples, Italy, in the style of Renaissance scenes.
On Thanksgiving Day, a family friend brought his wife and two-year-old son to visit with my family. While my dad showed off the crèche to the adults, I asked the toddler is he wanted to go see baby Jesus. His face perked up with excitement, and his eyes widened even more at the sight of the crèche, the Christ child in particular catching his attention. The uninhibited wonder and awe this little boy displayed for the Holy Family, cherubs, shepherds, Wise Men, and animals was nothing short of incredible.
It transported me back to Linus’ recitation of scripture in A Charlie Brown Christmas, a scene that Charles Schultz refused to pull from the special when network executives pressured him to secularize it. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” young Linus concludes with profound simplicity as he clutches his blanket.
I couldn’t help but remember the toddler whenever I gazed upon the crèche—a 1960s heirloom that belonged to my mother when she was a child—that I displayed in my apartment this past Advent. The profundity of that moment reinforced for me the focus of the season. It is not about exam cram and ugly sweater parties before returning home for break, nor Christmas shopping and out-decorating neighbors. Rather, it is about waiting in blessed hope for the coming of Christ. We must allow ourselves to experience the unbridled wonder and awe of children as we reflect on the patience, joy, and faith of the Holy Family and strive to emulate those virtues in our own lives.