Remembering the greatest gift

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

When I was a child Christmas Eve was a night of magic and wonder. Anticipation and expectations of what the morning might bring filled the air. Would daylight ever come? Then it came, the long awaited day arrived and in a rush of ripping paper was finished.

Oh how I hated to see Christmas morning end. After weeks of waiting, I wanted it to go on forever.

The years have passed and I feel differently about some things.

Christmas night is now one of my favorite times during the holidays. I like it when the excitement settles down to a manageable level and the pace of the day slows. Finally, calm descends on the house.

Out where I live beyond the lights of town, there is a sense of quiet and peace on Christmas night that I have come to appreciate. When the weather is clear, millions of stars fill the sky and seem close enough to touch.

When darkness creeps in inviting the world to stop and rest for a while, I like to slip outside and spend a few minutes with the stars.

The cold air tickles my face as I watch my breath come out in a white puff. I tip my head back and look up in wonder at the sky overhead. All around me are the sounds of the night, the soft rustle of the trees, the call of a bird somewhere deep in the woods.

The world is so still and in that stillness, I think about another Christmas night, one long, long ago. I've heard the story of that wondrous night since I was a child.

As I wrap my coat around me and settle on the top step, I imagine a mother cradling her newborn son as the sky sparkles above her. The sounds of the creatures standing nearby fill the air as she looks at her sleeping baby.

On this night a child is born and his parents rejoice at his arrival. Hope lies in a manger and it is cause for celebration throughout the heavens.

I pick out the brightest star shining on this Christmas night and remember another star, the one in that story. Such a peaceful feeling envelopes me.

Now that I'm all grown up I realize how easy it is to get so caught up in the Christmas Eve part of this holiday that you lose the meaning of the season. That is why I like the quiet time on Christmas night.

As I sit alone in the dark, I think about the gift the world received on that first Christmas. No sleigh brought it and no bright wrapping paper covered it.

It came quietly into the world delivered by a virgin and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Thousands of years later, I sit beneath a starlit sky and feel in my heart the eternal love that was given to us on that special night.

It is a priceless gift, ours to treasure on Christmas and to carry with us throughout the days to come.