“'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse...” Clement C. Moore enthralled his children and generations that followed with his timeless poem. The shear anticipation of that to come is almost unbearable. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” Lean in. Tell me more. Butterflies in my stomach. Will I really get the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle I requested? I've been good.
On the eve of one of the two most celebrated Christian holy days, we gather to practice religious and cultural rituals which connect and inspire us.
“Twas the night before Christmas.” This is the equivalent of Indy cars at the starting line. Olympic sprinters, feet in the blocks. “Gentlemen, start your engines.” “On your mark. Get set. Go.” “Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!” Butterflies in my stomach.
It cannot be that it is Christmas Eve. The Grinch was surprised, too. “How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Twas the night before Christmas. For Christians, the eve of the greatest Gift. The Star. The Manger. The Baby. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:9-12
In the spirit of the greatest Gift, we too give. And, in quiet moments, stolen from the obligations of the day, we may reflect on the meaning of our own giving. Baltasar observed, “The great art of giving consists in this: the gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted so that it may be the more highly appreciated.” I don't think he was talking about a Target gift card. (I bought several).
Albert Schweitzer challenged all of us. “You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others – something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”
On the night before Christmas, no less a thought leader than the Grinch himself reflected on giving. “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” What if.
What if it means redemption and good will and peace. “Peace, My Brother. Peace, My Sister. Peace, My Soul,” Maya Angelou wishes in Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem.
'Tis the eve of Christmas. And we are stirring with last minute to-dos. But later we will gather, for worship and reflection and repose. Nestled. Snug in our beds. Butterflies in our stomachs. Can't fall asleep. Christmas Eve.
“Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at email@example.com.