This December marks my 27th celebration of the Christmas season, and I can say quite definitively that with each passing year, the euphoric buzz, the nervous excitement — the “magic” — I once experienced around the holidays fades a little more.
I first became tangibly aware of the steady depletion of Christmas magic when I was in high school, and honestly, for years it kind of depressed me. I thought, “Is something wrong with me? Will I ever get that feeling back?”
As a child, my Christmases were filled with wonder. I can still flash back to the feeling of having weeks off of school and sleeping until noon before watching movies and playing video games all day. I remember how the anticipation would grow as the day approached. It was like an emotional sugar rush that was sure to come crashing down.
On Christmas Eve, as with many families, we’d convene at my grandma’s house for games, conversation, and delicious food. Then that night, I would hardly be able to sleep. The excitement of what awaited me in the morning was far too great.
Less magic, more meaning
Nowadays, it can run well into December before it hits me that Christmas is right around the corner. If I don’t consciously remind myself, I might even forget to order gifts or make party arrangements before it’s too late. Occasionally, I’ll feel a slight tinge of that old Christmas magic when a certain song comes on the radio or when snowflakes start to fall. But beyond that, Christmas rarely feels magical in the way it once did. In fact, it often feels incredibly regular.
The thing is, that’s OK, because I’ve realized something else. Each year, even as Christmas becomes less and less magical, it also becomes more and more meaningful to me. It’s an inverse relationship I never thought I’d be thankful for, but I assuredly am.
These days, I find myself tearing up more in church services when my pastor delivers a powerful Christmas message. I quietly reflect more on what, or rather who, the season is all about. I find more joy in gift-giving than I do in gift-receiving. When I spend time with family now, I am more aware of all of our flaws, so though it may not be as magical, it’s every bit as meaningful.
What it’s all about
I’ve come to realize that deep-seated convictions and long-term relationships are ultimately what Christmas is about, not fleeting feelings of magic. My relationship with Jesus Christ and my deep-seated conviction that he was born in a manger 2,000 years ago to live a perfect life, die for my sins, and be raised again to launch a new creation is what’s paramount to me. And I love celebrating that every day of every month with the family of believers who trust in the same thing.
You know something else? The magic never lasted anyway. Inevitably, as a child, Christmas Day would come and go, and I’d be left with a sort of sinking feeling. In a flash, the magic would vanish and give way to nothing but a pile of material things, not lasting joy.
The meaning of Christmas, however — the fact that God became man to destroy death and redeem sinners — well, that never changes.