When did Christmas start feeling different for you? I remember the exact moment it dawned on me that Christmas had changed.

I was 16 and had long stopped believing in Santa, and yet, up until that season, the Christmas season still possessed that unworldly magic of the movies. I was taking my seat in the gymnasium at my local church, the metal chairs scraping on the hardwood floors as the congregation shuffled about. Our production of the nativity was about to begin. By all rights, I should have had a part in the nativity, even if it was just as a choir angel, but my newly minted status as a varsity basketball player didn’t allow for much beyond school and shooting hoops that winter. I’d rushed to make it to the production; my hair was still damp from the sweat of practice, tightly wrapped into a bun. As I stood there waiting to take my seat by my parents, I thought about my upcoming basketball game and realized with a start that it was Dec. 17. There was only a week until Christmas, but it didn’t feel like Christmas. It didn’t feel at all like Christmas; it felt like any old day.

I lost my childhood Christmas spirit that year. I couldn’t then, and still can’t now, quantify what I hoped to feel, but I’ve been chasing that feeling for all the years since.

In the 18 intervening years, I’ve gotten close to the feeling, glimpsing it through my children's eyes – their excitement over Santa, their awe of the nativity, the glee at a dress-up day at school. This year, I’ve been reading our small collection of Christmas books to my son at bedtime. I keep catching myself tearing up at the oddest things in the story – the spider who spins a web and protects baby Jesus from the Roman soldiers, the mouse who gives up the powerful strength of his legs to another animal, the little Norwegian girl who wants to become one of Santa’s elves. When I read these Christmas stories to my boy, I capture that feeling, and yet, it is fleeting.


My newest favorite Christmas story is by Pearl S. Buck and is called Christmas Day in the Morning. Pearl S. Buck is a somewhat famous author who won a Pulitzer Prize for a story called The Good Earth (highly recommend). Christmas Day in the Morning is a simpler story but packed with feeling. It is about a farm kid, his father, and an unpretentious act of love. If you’d like to read it this Christmas season, you can easily find the story on the internet. It is short and will only take you a few minutes, but I know you will, at least for a moment, capture that feeling – the Christmas Spirit.