A month or two ago I started wondering about the Christmas season. Specifically, I wondered why it seemed so much more magical to me as a child than as an adult. Now, there could be a variety of reasons for this—maybe it was because as a child I loved the sparkly tree and presents, or maybe my memory is just rose-colored and it really wasn’t that different at all.
Regardless of my own personal case, though, I can think of some explanations why children tend to be much more receptive to Christmas than adults—and why those reasons are worth noting.
First of all, don’t children wonder more at everything? For example, I remember being surprised at the age of seven to see a computer deal a perfect electronic game of Spider Solitaire. Now to adults, who understand how computers work, that’s just what they do — but to a young kid, it borders on magical.
Why do children wonder so much, at Christmas and other things? Two reasons for this are that anything they haven’t seen before is marvelous and new to them, and then they have relatively little experience of the world, so they see a lot things we would think commonplace as extraordinary.
Then, too, having simpler lives, children can appreciate their joys as pure joys in themselves, especially at Christmas, instead of the joys being tainted with worries as adults’ joys often are. Finally, because children have this lack of worldly experience, they are more inclined to trust the word of an authority figure on its own merit.
That all being said, it’s easy to understand how Christmas seems totally different from the rest of the year in a child’s eyes. More than just a child’s perception of it though, what is the significance of Christmas to Christians? It’s the start of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh coming down to earth.
Outside the Christian Church the idea seems almost laughable—the all-powerful God of the universe becoming… a baby? Out of pure love, at that? How many ordinary adults can believe by themselves that God would turn Himself into a human, much less a baby, only for the love of us? Utterly untenable—or so it appears on the surface.
We often forget how fortunate we are, to have a God Who would first create us, forgive us when we broke the Law He created for our benefit… and then finally and amazingly go through every last indignity of becoming one of us, even to babyhood, in order to save us from due punishment for our transgressions. This truth is so astounding that it can only be fully accepted in a humble spirit of faith and trust, just like that of a child.
Thus, at the center of the Christmas celebration lies not only a great truth, but a great mystery, which all Christians are called to accept with a spirit of faith and wonder. Perhaps that’s why Christmas is often much more special to children—because they are more naturally inclined to trust and marvel at the seeming ordinary, they can then enter into the birth of Christ with a more appreciative spirit of awe than a less accepting adult.
I offer this as a little food for thought—let us not spend another Christmas season treating it as a big to-do list. Instead, let us have a more childlike spirit of awe and gratitude, and enter into the familiar celebration as though it were new.
After all, the love of God that inspired the Incarnation will never get old, which makes the beautiful wonder of Christmas all the greater.