But really he wasn't talking about those kind of presents, he was talking about the one big present, Jesus. Advent season meant lighting a candle each Sunday and preparing our hearts and minds for that amazing birthday party. Who doesn't love a party?
Christmas stopped becoming a joy when I became a grown up and realized all the wonder and magic was up to me. I was the one who would be shopping, cooking, cleaning, preparing. Along with that work, came the heavy guilt about all the expense, measuring up and giving enough. But was the wonder all up to me, really? Or did I simply decide that?
One of my favorite daily devotion websites is called "Following the Star" at www.d365.org. I think the author says it best when she writes:
"I step into this season with an open heart, O God. As I wait for you, surprise me with the hope of Christmas that will fill the empty places. Amen."
That is my prayer this season. I remember the child-like, toe-curling wonder of Advent, not for the presents, but for the open heart and the hope it brings. To remember that I can choose to focus on the guilt or I can choose to focus on the star.