I've focused a lot on simplifying Christmas, but there's one thing I want to do with my kids this year to bring some of the magic back.
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the magic of it—the lights, colors, gifts—and how it all helps make the true magic of Christmas manifest in the world around me in a tangible way.
But year after year, that magic gets lost a little more in the hustle and busyness of the preparations. Traditions we used to have, big and small, have fallen by the wayside. I haven’t taken the kids to see The Nutcracker in nearly six years—the undertaking seemed more and more daunting each year, especially since our bank account didn’t grow in proportion to our family size. But even simple things, like driving around in the evening to look at Christmas lights or making the special trip to the Living Nativity nearby, have gotten lost. The Christmas season has gradually become less magical and more exhausting.
I’ve written before about my plans to simplify Christmas by limiting everything, but i haven’t given much thought to what I can do to bring back some of that Christmas magic … until last week, when i was driving home from work late one night. I was in that autopilot mode that comes at the end of a long day and took a wrong turn, so I doubled back through one of the neighborhoods near our church. Like most neighborhoods, there were lights on all the houses—but there, at the end of the street, was one house so brightly lit that it seemed to illuminate the whole street.
It was one of those light shows attached to Christmas music, so the lights would rise, fall, flash, and change colors in unison with the melody. I slowed to a stop and rolled the window down, letting the cold air and familiar tune of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” wash over me. I literally felt the tension drain out of my body. Not only did I feel unexpected peace, but I also felt a sense of joy I’d almost forgotten. The lists, the stress, the worries all took a backseat to this moment, these lights, and this song. I whispered a little prayer of gratitude for the wrong turn that led me to this small moment of Christmas magic.
Right then and there, I promised myself that I would take my kids to look at Christmas lights this year. Every year they ask, and every year I promise, and it usually never happens. But this year it will because before I drove home that night, I blocked a night off for it in my calendar.
I want to share the simple joy of Christmas with my kids, and what better way than to soak up the tangible joy of Christmas lights? Not the extravagant, expensive places like Prairie Lights—just the bright, mismatched lights dotting the neighborhoods close to home. I want my kids to enjoy the lights put up by other families, people just like us who do it for no reason other than to celebrate Christmas. The beauty of a diverse community coming together to celebrate–even if the reasons for celebration are different–is a little miracle in itself, borne of the grace that only comes from the gifts Christ brought to us all those years ago in Bethlehem.