by Katie Julius

I’m sure we all have memories as children of the great anticipation of Christmas morning. We carefully crafted our wish list, helped our parents decorate our homes, baked cookies with families, and excitedly performed in the choir at Christmas Eve service before quickly falling asleep so Christmas morning would arrive.

Christmas morning in our home was carefully choreographed. We weren’t allowed down the hallway to peek at the presents under the tree until both mom and dad were up. Of course we were always up early and eagerly climbed into our parents bed to wake them so we could begin our celebration. We waited for them to set up the VHS video camcorder to preserve our reactions that morning and then walked down the hall – youngest to oldest. We reached the doorway to the living room and peeked around the corner, and ran to the “Santa” gifts and stockings that sat under the tree.

Throughout the morning, as each package’s red and green wrapping paper was torn off to reveal the much desired and hoped for gift, the anticipation turned to joy and thankfulness.

Years later, now as a mom, I witness that same anticipation in my daughter as we countdown the days to Christmas each December with our advent activities. Everyday she asks, “Is Christmas almost here?”

Sadly, I have to admit that I have lost some of that great anticipation I had as a child and now see in my daughter. The Christmas season can often become a season of the never-ending “to do” list – school lessons, recitals, family gatherings, parties, shopping, decorating, baking … the list goes on.

This year, I have found myself thinking of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was much younger than most first-time moms today, myself included, and probably somewhat scared. I’m sure she was also eagerly anticipating the arrival of the baby that was growing inside her–the baby who would save the world.

When I was pregnant, I remember that with each office visit, ultrasound, and shower celebrating the life growing inside of me, my anticipation grew. I could not wait to meet her. And while the process of welcoming her into this world was not an easy one, to hear her cries, see her face, and hold her in my arms brought immeasurable joy (and relief!).

As Mary cuddled her newborn baby and looked at his little cheeks and tiny lips, I can only imagine what was going through her mind when she lovingly stared at the face of the Son of God. I’m sure the joy of the arrival of her baby multiplied, realizing she was holding the most anticipated baby in all of history–a true miracle.

In Luke 2:19, after the visit from the shepherds, the Bible tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I want to encourage you, as the Advent season draws to a close, to take time to experience the anticipation of Christmas with your children. Take a break from your schooling and other activities to allow yourself to feel that bubbling-over excitement you felt as a child.

And then when you are sitting with your family on Christmas morning, watching joy wash over their faces, remember Mary. Let the joy of the celebration of the birth of Jesus fill you. Treasure these moments and ponder them in your heart.

Long after the Christmas decorations are back in the attic and the monotony of your daily school routine seems to drag on during the drawn-out winter days, ponder those memories just as Mary did.