I’m not sure exactly when or how it started, but it has become a longstanding tradition in our family to give our kids one gift to open on Christmas Eve. As the days to Christmas count down, the excitement about getting to open one present early grows until the kids can hardly contain it. When only one day before Christmas remains and the sun starts to set, we give each child the gift that is special for Christmas Eve. They tear into their presents with unrestrained excitement, and the house is filled with squeals and laughter, even though the gift is the same from year to year.
Even though my kids know that the first gift they will open is their Christmas Eve pajamas, that knowledge does not seem to do a thing to hamper their anticipation. They look forward to those pajamas, and I look forward to seeing the expressions on their faces when they see the pajamas for the first time.
When they change into those pajamas, they know the wait is over. They haven’t yet awakened on Christmas morning. They haven’t yet torn down the stairs to see what surprises might await. But, everything else has been done. Everything on the to-do list has been crossed off. The last number on the Christmas countdown has been turned over.
All that remains is to sit in the moment, to enjoy what’s in front of us, and to imagine that what awaits us is even better than what we’ve already received.
Today, as we await the fourth Sunday of Advent, I can think of no better example on my Custom Advent Wreath that points to peace. In the giving and receiving of Christmas Eve pajamas, I see a foretaste of the peace that is to come – a microcosm of peace to cherish here and now.
Every Sunday that my congregation gathers around the Lord’s table for communion, we say that the feast we will receive is a pledge and a foretaste of the great feast that is to come. We eagerly await that foretaste, even though we know exactly what it will be. And, we treasure it because as we receive it, we are swept up into something so much bigger. We taste and we see and we experience…and we wait. But, that wait is no longer one of restlessness and discomfort, but one of peace and joy because we know that what is to come is even better than what we have now.
Isn’t that true of Christmas, too? Every Advent we count and we wait and we pray and we sing. We wait for the gift that is coming – the birth of Christ – though we wait for the same thing every single year. And, when we arrive manger-side, and peer with wide eyes at the tremendous gift that is present within, we will find that we are swept up into peace.
Our waiting is not over. We wait for Christ to come again. And yet, as we pause, and wonder, and receive, we know that in this simple gift, we have received everything.
And we are at peace.
Other posts in the Advent Custom Wreath series