Growing up, we had a Christmas tradition in my family: The three children—my little sister, my big brother and I—were allowed to open just one gift on Christmas Eve. That gift was almost always a new pair of pajamas. But we were still surprised. We would forget what the drill was. We have continued this tradition in our own family, and now the grandchildren are part of it, too.
It was always fun, except for one year.
That was the year that we talked our parents into allowing us to open all our presents on Christmas Eve. All of them. In a blizzard of wrapping paper and bows and ribbon. Done. The night before Christmas. In a matter of minutes. I am pretty sure I was the one that lobbied the hardest to get my naughty, bratty little way. Thinking back, I believe my parents knew exactly what they were doing.
Then came Christmas the next morning—with nothing to do except to get dressed and ready for Church and then to wait for my grandfather, uncle and aunt to come over in the afternoon. It was probably the second saddest Christmas morning of my life (someday I might get the courage to tell you about my saddest), but with it I have come to appreciate one of the most important gifts in life, the gift of expectation.
After all, one of the best parts of Christmas, and of life, really, is expectation. What will be in the mail today? What will I get for my birthday? What is under that wrapping paper? Will I get that job? How many days until Christmas? Will I be surprised? Will he/she call me?
Expectation is a joy that is kept alive by patient waiting, by the tangled dance of suspense, and by the discipline to hang tough. I think this anticipation is a form of faith and hope.
It is part of everyone's life. Think about the things you have anticipated with joy: a birthday, a baptism, a graduation, something you've saved money for, a letter, a reunion with a friend, the return of your missionary or your prodigal, your first trip to the temple, receiving the priesthood, your engagement, your marriage, your first baby, your last baby, being reunited with a loved one, in this life or the next—the list could go on and on.
For me, about 90 percent of the fun of Christmas is in the winding up, the planning and waiting and wondering—the joyous wonder of anticipation—but when we cut our waiting short by an impulse, like I once did, the fun is over and the joy ends. And it is difficult to recover it.
Sometimes I hear from children, "I wish every day was Christmas!" But as an adult I've learned that, without expectation, there can be no Christmas. Most of the fun is built up in anticipating the fun. Without anticipation, fun would not be fun.
So enjoy the simple awe of waiting. You are exercising your faith, and true faith never goes unrewarded. Don't open your gifts too soon in a spasm of torn paper and dreams. Wait, with a smile on your face and peace in your heart. Some things are not worth waiting for, and though sometimes our expectations are not met, still, much of the joy in life comes in waiting with patience and faith.
May you all have a wonderful Christmas. You only have to wait until tomorrow, and it will be worth it.
P.S. Enjoy this short video of about the real meaning of Christmas.