As I ran the cash register in the midst of a busy, pre-holiday shopping retail afternoon, an older gentleman asked, “You know what the secret of life is?”
“What’s that?” I answered, eager for a diversion as I fished out his change.
“Never grow old.” He smiled at me. After starting to step away, he turned back, pulled something from his pocket, and pressed it into my hand and wished me a Merry Christmas. A small wooden cut-out: a lilac-colored cat.
Last week, I had the pleasure of babysitting three children for an evening. I was treated to a performance of Silent Night…sung at the top of a four-year-old’s lungs as he jumped on his bed. (“Four and a half,” he insisted, actually. And he insisted his mom lets him jump—do you, mom? I didn’t argue it but distracted him after the song.) “ALL IS CALM, ALL IS BRIGHT!” He was enjoying the theatrics of his moment in the spotlight. The enthusiasm spread to his little sister, twirling in her princess dress, and the baby who wiggled in my lap. Pure enjoyment. Pure excitement. Never grow old.
Later, as I gave the baby her bottle before bed, the older two ran upstairs for something, and as I sat in front of the Christmas tree with the baby in my arms, I thought of the infant Savior. Did He stretch His arms over His head like this when He lay in His mother’s arms? Did He ever twist His tiny fingers in His hair while He nursed as this babe does as she eats? Infants generally don’t spend their meal thinking about what comes next but savor the activity at hand, completely relaxed and comfortable. Is that what it means to never grow old?
I’ve been thinking of Mary this Christmas. What it may have been like, to be young and a mother, and not only that, but to be the mother of the Savior. As if being a mother doesn’t come with enough reasons to be unsure or anxious, try being responsible for the infant who will one day save the world. But maybe, as she watched His eyes grew heavier and heavier with sleep, slumbering deeply even before He finished eating, maybe her heart was filled with heavenly peace. Maybe she dabbed away the milk on His lips and lifted Him to her shoulder knowing that this was right. That all was calm and all was bright, as she trusted in God’s plan for her and for her child.
Maybe the contentment of her child brought her soul peace. I know as I looked into the sleepy, contented face of the child I snuggled in my arms, I was reminded to be present and thankful for this day’s warmth and comfort and provision. I remembered to praise my Almighty God for His plan, even when I can’t see it. Even when He’s telling me, “Wait. Be in this moment.”
On the Sunday before Christmas, one of the students in my Sunday School class, a kindergartner, said, “You know what I don’t like, Miss Breanne? All the Christmas presents are under the tree, and I can’t open any of them. I don’t like waiting!” I laughed but told him that waiting is hard, but Christmas morning would be worth it. I’m really good at giving out advice that I don’t follow myself.
Be present in each moment and sing at the top of your lungs. Be present and twirl in a princess dress. Be present and enjoy the anticipation of Christmas presents. Be present and enjoy a lilac-colored cat, because the secret to life is never growing old. It’s staying young at heart, present in each moment, and joyful in God’s plan.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
Sending each of my readers wishes for the merriest of Christmases, joy and peace in this day.