I've always loved Christmas Eve. It's a time of such anticipation and hope.
When I was a child, this one night stretched endlessly. Minutes seemed to last hours. I'd never heard of the winter solstice, but would have accepted without question the concept of the longest night of the year.
Mom would tuck us into bed with a reminder that Santa didn't visit houses where children were still awake. My oldest brother always sank immediately into a deep sleep, leaving me alone, awake and edgy.
After trying to fall asleep, I usually dragged my pillow and blanket down the hall until I could see our Christmas tree. The sight of the brightly lit tree with the familiar creche beneath it offered comfort.
I was responsible for positioning the tiny figures of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus inside the stable, and I took my job very seriously. Each day, like a miniature Advent calendar, I would move the three Wise Men a little closer to the creche. By Christmas Eve, the Magi, sheep, shepherds, donkeys and goats were all crowded round the Holy Babe.
Lying there on the hallway floor wrapped in my blanket, I felt a heady combination of impatience and hope. To this day, I can remember that excitement, and the memory is every bit as sweet as it once was.
Wishing you and yours all the blessings of this Season: laughter, love, health and--above all--hope.