My Christmas Prayer From Last Year

The twelve days of Christmas are past, today was Theophany, and tomorrow is back to school for us. We all enjoyed the Christmas break even though we were busy. On top of all the busyness of the holiday there were a lot of church services to go to. We are all really glad to be just down the road from the monastery now because it used to be over an hour drive to services back in California. I am sitting next to the beautiful Christmas tree and thinking of the past several weeks.

As Christmas was approaching and the fast was wearing on us all (like it does every fast) I remembered a prayer I said to God last Christmas. It was Christmas morning and the kids were tearing the wrapping paper off of their presents (the presents I just barley finished wrapping a few hours before!) and I was thinking, ‘I sure hope they really know the meaning of Christmas and they are not just excited for all the presents and other fun things.’ I prayed, asking God to please help my children to truly understand and have the real joy of Christmas day.

I am sure other parents can relate to my concern. I know I often wonder: Am I raising the kids right? Am I teaching them what I should? Am I being a good example? And I am most concerned about their faith and relationship with God. Especially since I know I can only do so much in that area; I cannot have a relationship with God for them; they must do that on their own.

Well I had some moments this fasting and Christmas season that made me relax about these things, and a funny thing happened. This Christmas I realized it was me who needed to understand the meaning and joy of Christmas far more than my children did!

When I remembered the prayer I had said last year it was during a conversation with my eighteen year old daughter Scarlett. We were in the kitchen getting things ready for dinner and she said how tired she was of the fast and that it was wearing on her. I agreed and said I noticed it is wearing on everyone but to just hang in there because we are almost done. I then suggested maybe we find a new recipe to try, something new and yummy to eat might help even if it is fast friendly. To my surprise Scarlett said, “No that’s okay. We can stick it out a little longer. Besides, keeping it simple and keeping the fast is good for us. Especially for us Americans who all year long are able to have whatever we want to eat any time we want it. The fast is good because it keeps us from thinking about food so much and makes us grateful for all the other times when we have so much to eat.” We then proceeded to talk about the small sacrifice it really is to fast and how we can do that at least, especially since Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be incarnated, live, die, and be resurrected for us. I was happy to hear how much my daughter understands, and how much she gets what all the fasting and feasting is really about.

The prayer I had prayed came to mind, and I also recalled how several times since Thanksgiving my children had told me, at different times, not to worry about Christmas presents because they were going to be happy for Christmas no matter what. The kids knew we were tight on money and I told them not to expect many presents this year. I had thought to myself, ‘I know they are trying to make me feel better, I wonder if they mean it? I hope they won’t be disappointed this year.’

The night before Christmas Diego(11) and Lena(10) both told me how excited they were for Christmas day (I immediately got that bad feeling hoping they wouldn’t be disappointed with the much smaller amount of presents than usual). Now these two are so close that they often talk to you at the same time, but not over each other, and they finish each others sentences (picture the Weasley twins).

“We are excited for Christmas but Christmas isn’t our favorite day.”

Surprised, I said “No? Which day is?”

“Pascha of course. Because that’s when Jesus rises from the dead!”

Wow, I was really surprised by this. I mean we have always emphasized that Pascha is the feast of feasts and we certainly celebrate it as such, but for my kids to have it has their favorite day– over Christmas, this made me pretty darn happy. A sense of relief came too. I thought, ‘Maybe the scaled down Christmas won’t disappoint them after all. Maybe they really do get the importance and meaning of all of these feasts we celebrate.’

So Christmas morning came and the kids went through their stockings and opened their gifts and it was just as happy and joyful as any other Christmas morning! To add to the happiness, the kids did their second annual secret Santa gift swap. This was something else that made me realize the kids have a good understanding of Christmas. My dad always sends them letters from “Santa” and this year he included $5 for each of them. We had just discussed who would shop for who and they went through their banks to see if they had money. Since some of them didn’t have a lot I suggested we go shopping at the thrift shop. They agreed and then they opened their letters and found the $5. Immediately the kids decided they would each spend their $5 on gifts for one another and the thrift shop would be perfect because they could buy a whole lot more! They relished picking out multiple little toys and gifts for one another, secretly wrapping them up, and giving them to each other on Christmas morning. This really added to the joy and the love between them.

Through all of these things I realized it was me who needed to understand the real meaning of Christmas. The gifts and other little joys of the season are important and making things come together certainly falls on me as the mom. But in the midst of my focusing on making Christmas perfect for my family I have forgotten so many times over the years that it isn’t me at all who makes Christmas perfect, or makes Christmas anything!

Christ was born in a cave, there were no frills and thrills. He was the light who shone in the darkness, and He is still the light who shines and the one who gives us life, joy, peace, love, and salvation. Over the years, I would have a feeling of missing something once Christmas passed. I chalked it up to all the exhausting preparation and figured I did what I needed to do–I made everything wonderful for my family for Christmas. But the fact is, I was missing something. It was the pure joy of what it means for God to come down and become one of us, what it means that Jesus Christ has sanctified and redeemed the world and me. I knew these things of course and would have Christmas joy but not like I did this year. This, our humblest Christmas in many, many, years, this feast finally sank into my bones and I knew the prayer I said was answered, answered in a way I didn’t even know it needed to be. Christ is Born! Glorify Him!



  1. beautiful! I was worried about our semi-simple Christmas as well….it was great!

    • I am definitely going to keep things simpler from now on. We never buy outrageous expensive gifts anyways but over the years I have tried to scale down more and more. This year, I had little choice. Everything ended up turning out great!

  2. This is lovely…isn’t it wonderful when our children can be our teachers, too? 🙂

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