And all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Well, not quite….
Two little girls lay ever so still in their bed, but with wide open eyes and hands clasped together, their whispers broke the silence of that holy night. They tried their very best to lie there as quietly as that little Christmas mouse, but their excitement would not be contained. The time: 1:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. Toes wiggled and feet danced beneath the warm electric blanket. Underneath their breath, tiny whispers emerged. Think it’s almost morning?” Silence. “Maybe Mommy and Daddy are awake.” Silence. “Let’s go see.”
Dancing Legs and Wiggling Toes slipped out from under the electric blanket ever so slowly and ever so quietly, and on tippy toes, they found their way through the dark and through the bedroom door to the hall. Hands still clasped, they crept towards Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom and tippy toed right up to the foot of their bed. The two little girls stood there a moment, wondering if Mommy and Daddy were awake there in the dark. Should they say anything? Oh, patience would have to wait for another day! “Daddy, are you and Mommy awake?” Dancing Legs let the words out with the shallowest of breaths. “Mommy, do you think Santa Claus came?” whispered little Wiggling Toes.
Daddy raised up almost imperceptibly in the bed, and with uncharacteristic gentleness, replied, “No, girls, it’s too early for Santa to come. You go on back to bed, now.” And with her characteristic tenderness, Mommy slipped out of their bed and took each of the little girls by the hand and loved them back into their own bed.
Tucked in again under the warm electric blanket, the two little girls tried their best to go back to sleep, but sleep felt like a dream too far gone to catch! As they chattered under the covers, they resigned themselves to a long night awake. Ever so slowly, though, sleep crept closer, and soon, despite their excitement and resolve to stay awake, dreams crept right over them. Chatter and giggling ceased, breathing became slow and regular, and eyes closed. Sweet sleep had arrived.
But the excitement of two little girls listening for and awaiting Santa’s arrival proved too big an enemy for sleep to take hold for long, and by 3:00 a.m., two of the four eyes in bed fluttered open. “Why am I awake?” wondered the child, and just as soon as the thought went through her mind, another thought jumped right up and overtook her whole being. Tonight was Christmas night, and the little girl then wondered the panicky thought, “Why am I asleep??!?!” She quickly shook the younger of the two awake, and in a whisper louder than either had spoken all night, she told the little one, “Wake up, wake up! Santa may have come! We may have missed him!”
That’s all it took for the sisters to sit up in bed, wide awake once more, and once more questioning whether they should chance asking Mommy and Daddy if we could all please go to the living room to see if Santa had come. They had discovered over the years that Mommy and Daddy were not always as patient as they had been earlier when the girls awoke them. But it was Christmas night, and it was worth the risk, and before you could say “Here comes Santa Claus!” little Wiggling Toes and Dancing Legs wiggled and danced right out of bed, through the door and down the short hall to Mommy and Daddy’s room, Standing at the foot of their parents’ bed, they couldn’t bring themselves to utter a word this time. A healthy dose of fear of waking their parents mixed uneasily with excitement that popped right out of their pores. It was not a comfortable combination!
Finally, an idea took shape. Really believing Mommy and Daddy were still asleep, the older of the two breathlessly whispered the plan to the younger as that sweet smile crept over the small one’s face. Unbeknownst to the girls, their parents had been awake from the moment their girls’ feet had hit the creaky floor board in the hall, but after all, it was Christmas night, and you were only little once, so they lay there motionless, feigning sleep.
Under their breath, the girls counted to three together, and on three, one lightly lay her hand on Daddy’s leg while the other lay her hand on Mommy’s leg. That’s all they did, but it was enough. Playing their parts perfectly, both parents started to stir, moving their legs ever so slightly. Encouraged, the sisters put a little more pressure on each parent’s leg, and before you could say “Holly Jolly Christmas!” both parents raised up in the bed just enough to see the excited and slightly frightened little girls at the foot of the bed.
“Now, Girls, what are you doing up again?” asked Mommy this time. Mommy knew full well why her two little girls were up, but she let them speak. “We think we heard Santa Claus land on the roof,” one whispered breathlessly. “Can we please go to the living room to see?” coaxed the other. “Please, Mommy…please, Daddy,” they both pleaded. “Santa hasn’t come yet, and unless you get back to bed and go to sleep, he might pass us by this year. He doesn’t have time to talk with all the kids who stay awake to find him in their living room.” This banter continued for about two minutes with neither Mommy nor the two girls giving an inch.
Daddy had had enough. His daughters had no idea he had been up until at least midnight making sure everything under the tree was just right, so they felt tears sting their eyes when he spoke to them in such a stern voice, “Both of you-back to bed right this minute!” Heartbroken, the two sisters hung their heads and drug their feet as Mommy held them by the hand and once again loved them all the way back to their bedroom.
This time they really tried to go to sleep, but sleep, knowing it had been unwanted, refused to come back. Oh, this was so hard! Time lingered, hardly moving at all, and the little girls thought morning would never grace them with its presence again. They played quiet games, they told the story of baby Jesus’s birth in a manger, and they waited until they could wait no longer.
Daddy had said he didn’t want to hear a peep out of them. He wouldn’t. He didn’t say they had to stay in bed. They didn’t. Out they slipped one more time. It was 4:30. Avoiding the creaky floor board, they slipped into Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom as quietly as the proverbial mouse.
There they stood, not uttering a sound, not a peep. Holding hands, the waited silently, knowing that their parents had to wake up sooner or later. And this was so much better than lying in bed, trying to pass the time. So, there they stood, hand in hand, as the seconds, then the minutes ticked by. Standing still became more and more difficult, and each would change her weight from one foot to the other just as silently as she could. And still, they didn’t utter a sound.
The two little girls stood there for what seemed like an eternity, although in reality, their eternity was only about 10 minutes. What they were waiting for, praying for, didn’t come a second too soon! “Are you two in here again?” was all Daddy said. Neither of the girls answered. After a moment, Daddy looked at Mommy, and said, “Joan, do you think Santy Bogus has gotten to us yet? We may as well just go ahead and get up.”
Pam and Libby’s hearts jumped into their throats. Was it really time? Could they finally go into the living room!?! Dick and Joan pushed their covers back and swung their legs over opposite sides of their bed. They were getting up! They were getting up!
Pam and Libby exploded with excitement, imploring Mommy and Daddy to hurry, hurry, hurry! Dick and Joan smiled knowingly at each other, each taking the hand of one of their daughters. The girls dragged them along until they came to the living room door where they pulled loose from their parents and burst through the door.
“He came! He came!” they shouted together. “Santa came!” And there under the tree lay just what they had asked for. And not only that, but their stockings were stuffed to overflowing with oranges, bananas, and grapes. One of the girls looked up, declaring loudly, “D’anas and grapes, he’s a good ole man!” And so he was.
For years, this was the Christmas routine at the Spencer house. Libby and I believed in Santa Claus with all our hearts. I still believe. I believe in the spirit and love of Christ that Santa represents. Some folks don’t feel so positive about Santa today, preferring not to “lie” to their children. I have no such reservations. The most important ornament on our tree is the one with Santa kneeling to worship the baby Jesus in the manger. Santa cannot save our souls, that’s the truth. But the true spirit encompassed in the persona of Santa, the real Santa, has the capacity to move us love more and to give more in ways that I believe Jesus would approve of.
May the spirit of Santa fill your homes and may the love of Christ fill your hearts this Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to all of you from Tom and Pam and Ellen and Joe!