Christmas Gets a Second Chance

Christmas day is supposed to be what is the pinnacle of the happiest time of the year, but this year was a little different. Our Christmas was just like that of the beloved Who’s down in Whoville, minus the hand holding and triumphant voices ringing out in joyous accord.

On Christmas Eve we tucked our little ones in bed with ‘visions of sugar plums dancing in their sweet little heads.’ I then went to the bedroom to wrap their gifts only to discover that the things they had hoped and prayed for all season long weren’t there. Frantic, I sprinted from the room, keys in hand, and sped from one corner of town to the other searching for one store, any store, to be open at 9:30pm on Christmas Eve so that my children wouldn’t wake up to a sea of disappointment and broken dreams.

Everything from Chevron to Walmart was closed, complete with a handful of security guards standing outside protecting the store from any mom crazy enough to break down the doors and run inside in a last-ditch effort to save Christmas, before it was too late.

I cried all the way home and well into the wee hours of the night until I realized something, that some things can’t be fixed, only redeemed. In a few hours my kids would wake up to realize that Santa didn’t come this year, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was too late. I couldn’t undo what had been done. I couldn’t fix it, all I could do was wait.

I know that Christmas isn’t about the presents. That the true meaning of Christmas is in our hearts, and the greatest Christmas miracle is that Christ came to save us from our sins by appearing in infant form. But tell that to a 9 year-old girl who is expecting this season’s number one toy and unwraps an I.O.U instead. The only miracle is that she doesn’t explode into tears before asking, “Why mommy, why?”

Unable to sleep, dreading the morning to come, I cracked open the door of my children’s bedrooms eager to see their sweet little faces one last time before they would find out what I already knew. Immediately they popped up, too excited to sleep in anxious anticipation of the endless joy they expected to come as they opened their presents the next day. It broke my heart.

As gently as anyone could deliver a blow so devastating it could knock the planet Earth off its axis, bringing the moon and stars down with it, I began to explain what was about to unfold. The edges of their smiles slowly drooped downward on their tender faces, like sagging branches under the heavy weight of over-sized ornaments pulling on their tiny limbs.

We had watched a cartoon just a few weeks before that introduced the idea of second Christmas, which was even better than first Christmas, naturally. Mommy and Daddy knew that it was too late to do anything about Christmas morning, but it wasn’t too late for a re-do! We would wait until the day after Christmas (when all the stores had re-opened) and we would re-create Christmas the way it was supposed to be, but even better, i.e. Second Christmas.

The kids nodded in agreement, disappointed, but reassured and quickly fell asleep as the previous adrenaline rushed out of their bodies with the hope of things to come. I wish I could say we bonded together and discovered the joy of Christmas that comes without the video games, robotic dogs, and tiny trinkets that keep companies like Toy-R-Us in business. But we didn’t.

It’s not because we’re materialistic. We pride ourselves on enjoying life’s simple pleasures like taking the dogs for a walk, a game of hide-and-seek with the kids, or a rainy day curled up with a good book. We create more than we consume, we donate to the poor, and volunteer to help the elderly, the military, and the local church.

My husband says happiness revolves around expectations. Thousands of children all over the world wake up Christmas morning empty-handed year after year wondering why Santa skipped their house again. Either their parents can’t get them gifts or don’t, but either way, they know what to expect. As a teacher in a low-income school, I see the same bad behavior annually as students act out aggressively the week before Christmas in a different kind of anxious anticipation.

Whether we know what to expect or not, it’s difficult to sit idly by as thousands of other people celebrate answered prayers and wishes fulfilled while we trudge through the day wondering what it would be like to trade places.

Second Christmas turned out to be everything my kids hoped and dreamed for, it was Christmas redeemed. We ate their favorite foods (sub sandwiches, frozen yogurt, and caffeinated soda pop), listened to their favorite music, and purchased their favorite toys while they chanted how it was the best day ever, and it really was.

On the way home from our day of shopping and eating out I asked them what was better, perfection or redemption? A deep question for childish minds, I explained in simpler terms whether it would have been better to have the perfect Christmas on the 25th or to have Christmas redeemed on the 26th? Surprisingly they all agreed, redemption was better than perfection.

As I thought about it, I realized they were right, not just about Christmas, but the concept as a whole. Redemption is better than perfection, it is trading in something worse for something better. People redeem coupons for discounts, bad memories for new ones, and death for life eternal. In every case we hand over our garbage in the form of a wrinkled paper, messed-up memory, or mortal body, in exchange for a reward. Perfection is perfection, but redemption is perfection with a lesson. And sometimes the lesson is even better than the reward, because the lesson lasts long after the gift is gone.

It would have been a lot easier, emotionally and financially, to have everything turn out just right on Christmas morning, but Second Christmas taught us about second chances, reminding us what Christmas is really all about. The miracle wasn’t so much that God could become human, or that a woman could give birth in a barn, but that after how much we messed things up, that God was willing to give us a second chance teaching us a valuable lesson not just about redemption, but about Him. Thanks to Second Christmas, this is a lesson we won’t soon forget.

Me with my family on Christmas Eve
Me with my family on Christmas Eve

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