Several years ago, my parents sold their home in Texas to be closer to their grandchildren. The first Christmas with the family together was glorious; we ate, played, and shopped nearly every day. One afternoon, I picked up my five-year-old daughter Elise after a fun day with Grandpa and Grandma.
I noticed she was looking out the minivan window, a sad expression on her face. “What is it, hon?” I asked.
“It’s Grandpa and Grandma. I just feel really sorry for them,” she whispered.
Elise sighed. “I was just wondering, aren’t they ever going to have kids of their own?”
I chuckled all the way home.
Children can know the facts without understanding them. Sure, Elise knew that her grandparents are also my parents, but she was not yet able to comprehend the full meaning of that fact.
She had a shadowy understanding that children grow up to become adults and one day have kids of their own. Of course, my daughter will know, just as her grandmother and I do, that childhood is only the beginning of a great adventure, and the sweetest surprises—not to mention the deepest sorrows—in life come with time.
I do wonder if I’m like Elise in my understanding of Christmas. Every year, I set out the same crèche. I bake the same cookies. I sing old hymns and carols, light white candles, and wrap presents. I understand Christmas so very well…or do I? Do I know the facts but lack the ability to grasp the greater implications?
What if Christmas is a mystery we will only truly comprehend much, much later? What if this Christmas here on earth is only a dress rehearsal for something far more wonderful?
Are the deepest joys still to come? I believe so, though I cannot comprehend them yet.
One day we will wake up in our Father’s House and discover that the real Christmas morning has arrived. We’ll be surrounded by family and friends, feasts and laughter. I believe I’ll also be awash in dog hair and slobbery kisses. There’ll probably be a horse sharing my hot cocoa and peppermint stick, too, but I won’t mind. In heaven, my horses will have impeccable table manners.
I cannot comprehend the mystery of Christmas, but there is one thing I’m sure of: the best is yet to come.