Building the Anticipation of Christmas

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

The family Christmas tradition that I love is one that I now believe was established by accident and out of necessity. Every Christmas, my parents would have the children wait in the hallway with the door closed before telling us to come out to see what “Santa” had brought us during the night. Now that I’m older, I know they were using this time to make a pot of coffee, light the fireplace logs, get the video camera charged and do any last minute wrapping–but for all of those years, it was a lesson in patience and built the anticipation of Christmas morning. Christmas was all the more special because of that wait.

The minute that we were allowed to open the hall door, we would all rush to the stairs. Seeing the tree and stockings downstairs was magical. It always looked like the entire living room had been transformed. Writing this makes me want to find those videos from each year to look at our facial expressions.

We would all find our spots around the tree, and then my dad would read the Christmas story from the Bible and we’d place baby Jesus in the manger scene before starting in on opening the stockings and gifts.

We still do Christmas this way with our children. Those of us who are in town gather on Christmas morning at my parents’ house, and we make the kids wait in the hallway. Those of us who aren’t getting things ready wait in the hall with them. We know the waiting made Christmas extra special for us, so we hope they feel the same way.

Do you think that the waiting you experience in your publishing journey (or in life in general) could be God’s way of making your blessings extra special when he sends them your way?

I think that anticipation is a tool that God uses throughout the Bible, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he still uses it in our lives today. For example, the Israelites anticipated the promised land while wandering in the desert, and they were anticipating the Messiah, too.

How has anticipating something in your life made it extra special when the event occurs?

When does your family open gifts? Christmas Eve? Christmas morning? Christmas night? Is there a tradition like mine in your family?

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39 Comments

  • My wife’s family had traditions that included ‘family gifts’, opened on Christmas Eve, and ‘Santa gifts’, opened on Christmas morning. Christmas was huge in their house, and the pictures I’ve seen were of presents literally carpeting the floor.

    Later, Barbara would take each of her parents shopping, separately. Both so the parents could shop for one another, and they could spend exclusive time with their daughter. It meant a lot to all of them.

    I think of anticipation as hope plus faith. Looking forward to something you believe will happen is exciting…and the faith you have will make the eventual success even sweeter and more meaningful.

    Without faith, hope deferred can feel like hope denied, and can easily turn to bitterness, a dark stain that can spread into all parts of life.

    Waiting in faith can bring so much more meaning to success. When you reach the mountaintop, you can look back along the road you’ve traveled.

    And you can see that you did not walk it, nor could you have walked it, alone.

    • Kiersti says:

      “Anticipation as hope plus faith”–what a beautiful way to express it, Andrew. And so much captures the spirit of the Advent season to me. I do think waiting/anticipation is something God seems to be big on. I was thinking the other day how many “special” babies God gave in the Bible came to those who had long awaited them…Isaac, Jacob, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist. And of course Jesus.

      In my own life, I prayed for a little sister from when I was three years old, but remained an only child until I was almost eleven. But how very much I appreciated the little sister who came then! I think I still treasure her more than if she had been born when I first wanted her. So yes, while waiting can be so very, very hard, surely we do appreciate the longed-for blessings far more. And if God had sent a Messiah right after Adam and Eve sinned, surely we wouldn’t have seen the enormity of the Gift He is.

      Christmas blessings, everyone!

    • Rachel Kent Rachel kent says:

      I love this! Thank you for sharing, Andrew. I do agree that faith is a very important part–especially with the writing journey.

    • Jeanne T says:

      I, too, loved your definition of anticipation, Andrew. Beautifully stated.

  • Hi, Rachel! We usually let the girls open one gift on Christmas Eve, then other gifts/stockings are opened Christmas morning.

    We have the same tradition of making the girls wait. We are just like you, we are trying to get the birthday party for Jesus ready, set up the video camera. We weren’t great at taking videos of the girls, but we always video-taped every Christmas. We have recently been watching the old videos together … they are so sweet. The baby trying to eat wrapping paper … and everyone is too busy to see her, but the video camera got it!

    Plus … I like to be showered/make-up on so that pictures will be good! Ha! Sounds silly, but I didn’t have make-up on in last year’s pictures … and I will never repeat that mistake!

    I waited years for my baby girls! I thought I’d never have a family. Bringing my daughter home through adoption was worth every minute of waiting … worth every tear shed! Though they are 15 and 13 now, I’ll never forget the awe. And I know the same for publishing.

    • Rachel, what wonderful memories! Thank you for sharing!

      We let our daughter open one gift on Christmas Eve, and we open the rest as a family on Christmas morning.

      Mid-morning on Christmas day, we gather at my husband’s parents’ home and celebrate with a delicious (and fattening!) brunch. Then it’s back to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner and It’s a Wonderful Life.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel kent says:

      Now I really want to find our videos and watch them! :) We have very few videos other than Christmas, too. Now I have lots of short movies of my daughter because of my phone and I love it! Hopefully computer storage can keep up with my video taking habits.

      • Rachel … we all laughed so hard watching those old videos … especially the girls. Karalee gave us a hard time when the youngest was trying to eat wrapping paper. It was hilarious. The funniest … you don’t realize how much you are walking around. We had our tripod set up … and it’s like we are all going in fast motion except for the baby trying to eat the paper!

  • “Do you think that the waiting you experience in your publishing journey (or in life in general) could be God’s way of making your blessings extra special when he sends them your way?”

    Absolutely LOVE this thought, Rachel.

  • Jaime Wright says:

    Anticipation is like hazelnut creamer in my coffee. The coffee is the best part but that hint of nutty goodness just enriches the satisfaction. I “anticipated” getting the email from an agent someday seeking to represent me since I was 13 years old. When it finally came 24 years later and I was 16′ in the air in my tree stand bow hunting … and couldn’t scream for fear of scaring away the 13 pt buck I was stalking … that anticipation became reality in a BIG way. It was DELICIOUS!

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Aww, what a sweet tradition! I love that you’re keeping it alive.

    Yes, I definitely think my publishing wait will make the next door that opens beyond special! So many times this year I’ve thought of God’s miracles–the ordinary turned extraordinary, the small made big. Loaves and fishes! Water to wine!

    Merry Christmas, Rachel!

  • Our parents did something a bit similar — we were allowed to get our stockings and open them, but had to wait to be called into the living room. Stockings are still a big part of our Christmases. Thanks for bringing back precious memories.

  • Lisa Bogart says:

    As a writer who has had a drought in 2013 I can say waiting has been hard but I have learned a lot. And now that a new project is forming the excitement is not just in the work to be done but the joy of feeling loved and cared for by a God who has been with me all along. Love that about him.

  • The Lord has a habit of either separating us from others or making us wait. When these times occur, rest assured God is up to something good. I am an adult Sunday school teacher and our class is reading John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy, a daily advent devotional which is available free as an ebook at desiring God.org. My parents are now gone, but we always bought our tree on Christmas Eve and decorated it that night, too. My father always insisted on the tree being topped with a star, as mine is today.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      We use a star as well! I bet that decorating on Christmas Eve made it possible for the whole family to decorate together. I like that idea. We’re always running all over the place and we don’t decorate as a family.

  • Thank you for sharing your memories and your tradition, Rachel.

    Like you, my sister and I were not allowed in the living room on Christmas morning until our parents said so. There were always gifts under the tree prior to Christmas day, but on Christmas morning, there were many more gifts from Santa plus stockings. We were allowed to explore what “Santa” had left in our stockings and to have one piece of candy, but then it was off to Mass (were the story of Christmas was reading and carols were song). When we returned home, Mom made pancakes and we had breakfast together before opening the presents. So there was a good deal of waiting, but I think the thing I most got out of it was that the presents–as wonderful and exciting as they were–were not the focus of the day. The day was about God and family. In fact, the baby Jesus was not put under the tree with the nativity set until Christmas morning as a reminder that Jesus was born this day.

    I loved the way that we opened presents in my family. Each of us got to go to the tree and pick out a present for someone else to open. Only one person at a time opened a present. The rest of us watched as the person unwrapped the gift and got excited discovering what was inside. To this day, I get a greater joy from giving a gift and watching the person’s joy than I do in getting gifts. This part of our tradition was another lesson in waiting and in focus. Instead of everyone diving in and opening their own presents, we focused on the other person. My parents taught us wonderful lessons. One funny note: the waiting got difficult when it was my mom’s time to open a present, especially if the present was from my dad. My mom opened her presents VERY carefully so as not to rip the paper (I don’t know why since we didn’t save it, only the bows). My dad always used a LOT of tape, so it when my mom opened present from him, it took almost more time than a child could tolerate! They are both in heaven now, and I very much miss spending Christmas with them.

    Blessings!

  • Thanks for sharing your tradition with us, Rachel. It’s been a week of touching posts.

    When we were kids, my sisters and I would wait in one bedroom and play cards until 6 a.m., which was the time we were allowed to wake our parents. One downside to my husband and I having a master bedroom downstairs is that if we don’t keep all the lights off, when the girls peek in on us Christmas morning, they can see all the presents before we catch them. So, we told them the only lights on will be the tree lights and they must block their eyes coming through the playroom into our bedroom, so they can’t see the presents in the family room. They are either the best actors in the world, or they really listen to us, because we manage to catch such great moments on the camcorder Christmas morning.

    Waiting for that first book contract definitely made it all the sweeter, so anticipation can be good for a writer; though patience has never been my strong suit.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      We’ll hope they are following the rules and not just working on their acting! :) Very fun.

      And I’m not good with patience either!

  • Katya says:

    At least in my case, the wait is a blessing. A HUGE blessing!

    1. I have the chance to learn more about the publishing industry — and there’s a lot going on in the publishing industry today.

    2. I can work on building my platform. I may have gotten a good grasp on Twitter, but Google+ is still foreign to me and I just started blogging.

    3. I can write another book or two. Because once published, I will have to work on marketing my first book AND expected to write another one. HAH, GOT ANOTHER ONE READY!

    4. I can improve my writing. Writers at each point of their journey can improve their writing.

    5. I can still look forward to something — publication :)

    It’s been a good year, and with God’s help, 2014 will be even better.

    Keep your blog posts coming! I’m learning so much from them!

  • Jeanne T says:

    Rachel, my parents did the same thing!! :) We couldn’t go into the family room until my parents made certain “Santa had already gone.” We three girls fairly shook with anticipation!

    Since we live close to extended family, we actually do Christmas with our boys on Christmas Eve so we have some family time. The choose a restaurant for lunch. When we get home, we read Luke 2 and then open presents. It’s a special time for the four of us.

    I would definitely agree that God uses waiting in our lives. When He brings the blessing, it means so much after walking through the time of waiting and wondering. Like Shelli, we waited for YEARS for God’s gift of children. Ours came after much heartache and gifted to us through adoption. Motherhood was one of the most difficult gifts to wait for, but I learned so much in that season and drew close in to God. I wouldn’t trade it.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I love that you still find time for your own family tradition even with spending Christmas day with extended family. We should try to establish something like this for our little family.

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