“Christmas is for the children.”
Certainly it’s true that children embrace Advent and Christmas in a way that few adults are able to do. And little wonder, when there’s so much for them to get excited about!
There’s the timeless story of the Nativity, with the shepherds and the angels, the wise men and the star, Mary & Joseph journeying to Bethlehem and finding ‘no room in the inn’, the stable with its animals, and the baby Jesus, laying in a manger.
There’s Father Christmas, in his workshop in the frozen north, with the elves preparing the presents that Santa will deliver on his magic sleigh, pulled through the air by a team of reindeer, guided by red-nosed Rudolph.
There are all the Christmas decorations, the trees and the tinsel, the baubles and the lights, strung across streets, hung from the houses, winking from the windows.
There are Advent calendars to count down the days, with windows to open revealing pictures or chocolates, each open window a sign that Christmas is getting closer.
There are cards to make and to send & receive, perhaps via a post box in the school foyer (does this happen anymore?!) There are carols to sing and perhaps a play to perform (be that a traditional Nativity or something more ‘unusual’!)
There are treats and sweets and good things to eat, and of course there’s the anticipation of Christmas morning, with the thrill of presents to unwrap (recognising that, sadly, not every child is so fortunate).
So yes, Christmas is for the children. But must it be only for the children? Couldn’t it be for us adults too – for the child within us all?
Because we need ‘the spirit of Christmas’ just as much as the children do – and arguably more so.
It’s all too easy to become weighed down by the inevitable cares and concerns of adulthood – to become jaded and hardened and cynical.
How much more do we need the things that Advent and Christmas offer us: the anticipation and the excitement, the wonder and the awe, the joy and the laughter, the mystery and the magic?
Now, some might contend that the Christmas celebrations far too commercialised, that they ignore ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, that what they offer is artificial and superficial, rather than true mystery and magic and joy.
And perhaps there is some truth in this. But as adults are can become so closed to such childlike things that we need something to open us up again.
The ‘artificial and superficial’ of Advent and Christmas can help to change our minds and soften our hearts, and so make us more receptive to the real thing,
Of course, you cannot pretend to a childhood naivety that you no longer possess. You cannot truly see Christmas as a child.
But perhaps you could start by recalling your childhood, and remembering what you found special about Advent and Christmas?
Perhaps you could revive some Christmas traditions – or create some new ones?
Perhaps you could allow the children themselves to show you this season afresh, through a child’s eyes?
Whatever you do, try to set aside your adult reservations and scepticism, open yourself to the ‘spirit of Christmas’ and seek out opportunities to enter into all the good and childlike things this season has to offer.
(See here for a few suggestions of materials that might help you journey more intentionally through the coming season.)