It's no secret that parenting changes your view of faith and faith changes your view of parenting.
Two years ago I vividly remember taking this picture during church (gasp!). I remember being overwhelmed watching tiny Maggie sleep as we sang, "The First Noel." She was so small and tiny and suddenly the humanity of the Baby Jesus became very real to me. The responsibility of parenting and raising our daughter to know Jesus personally also became very real to me. I will never forget that moment of her first Christmas.
Last year at this time I was approaching the stage of being Great With Child. Maggie and Gary and I were still living apart, and it was a very lonely, confusing time for me. I was having a hard time even remembering I was pregnant some days, let alone bonding with my baby. During our Women's Bible Study Christmas Brunch the speaker told about her own experience being pregnant during the Christmas season with...a son. Who knows why certain things touch you in different ways when you're pregnant (stupid hormones), but again, I vividly remember driving away that day overwhelmed with the anticipation of the season...of my pregnancy...of my son...and again brought the Christmas Story that much closer to home as I thought about Mary being pregnant with her own - God's own - son.
This year has been an entirely new Christmas experience. How FUN to introduce Christmas to a child...EVERYTHING is new to her. It's been very interesting to see what she picks up on - from what she sees on TV, to what others tell her, to what she sees around her (Christmas lights, huge blow up Santas, etc.), to what she hears in church, to what WE tell her and emphasize.
As I brought out the Christmas boxes this year, she was literally bursting with anticipation - and she had no idea what was even inside! Frankly, I never remember what I put in which boxes, and the first one I opened happened to hold our Nativity set. One of my vivid memories from this Christmas will be opening the box for one of the angels and Maggie (not knowing what I was opening) exclaimed, "But where is Baby Jesus??" Every box I opened after that she asked the same question. He was finally in the last one...and she was beaming as she put him and Mary on the shelf. Earlier I had purchased a Little People Nativity set for her and Howard to play with. I was going to wait a few days to bring it out, but seeing her excitement I just couldn't wait. She carried that little Baby Jesus under her arm all morning.
At night I've started reading the Christmas story (or parts of it) from her little children's Bible. Same story. Every night. She still asks for it. She also asks for "the Baby Jesus one" ("Away in a Manger") when I sing to her before bed. The past two nights she has sung the last few lines with me.
This is a lot of writing just to say that this Christmas what will stand out to me is not Maggie's experiences with presents or Santa or snow or cookies...but that it's her first true experience with JESUS. As I read her stories and sing her songs, I have realized (DUH) that teaching her about God sending his son to us as a tiny baby is the beginning of teaching her about the his great love for us and her salvation. Everything starts here.
This is by far the most meaningful Advent/Christmas season I have ever experienced in terms of reflecting on the True meaning and significance of this date. Even watching Howie looking at the lights or chewing on Joseph's head make me "treasure up all these things and ponder them in [my] heart."