Commentary: Christmas Magic

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Commentator Joseph C. Phillips recounts the first time he experienced unusual Christmas spirit. Phillips is an actor and a syndicated columnist living in Los Angeles.

ED GORDON, host:

For the next few days, many children will be on their best behavior, hoping that the jolly man in the red suit will remember them on the 25th. While Kris Kringle has become the face of Christmas, some parents worry that putting too much emphasis on Santa misses the real meaning of the holiday. So this year, commentator Joseph C. Phillips is going to sit down with his three young sons and tell them his own story of Christmas magic.

JOHN C. PHILLIPS:

When our children were born, my wife and I decided that Christmas in our home would emphasize the story of our savior's birth rather than the tale of Kris Kringle. As much fun as Santa might be, it was more important to us that our children understand that all good gifts come from God and not a jolly fat man in a red suit.

We're therefore just a little confused by my eldest son's sudden insistence that Santa is real. He's determined to leave cookies and milk by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, and as I speak, he is addressing a letter to the North Pole. Now there's certainly worse things he could be doing with his time, and his recent determination to be nice instead of naughty definitely has its benefits. I suspect what our son is looking for is Christmas magic, and my wife and I have only ourselves to blame. While our son has heard the story of baby Jesus, we neglected to tell him another story, one that after the original Christmas story may be the most significant to his young life.

Many years ago, when my wife and I were just dating, she kicked me to the curb. I was misbehaving, and she told me in no uncertain terms that she was not going to brook any nonsense. And she was right to do so. My lack of seriousness was breaking her heart. I was too busy looking at everything else in a skirt to see the good thing right in front of me--that is, until it wasn't there.

I spent the better part of a year begging to get back into her good graces, and she played the game women with conflicting feelings often play. She wasn't interested, but I should feel free to call back and beg a bit more. And I did. Two weeks before Christmas, thinking one last face-to-face meeting with me would allow her to finally move on with her life, she reluctantly agreed to see me. Of course, when it comes to matters of the heart, things are never so simple. Standing on the corner of 34th Street and Eighth Avenue in New York City, we confessed our love for one another and kissed. We didn't stop. A year later on Christmas morning, I presented her with a diamond ring. We were married eight months later.

We're not strangers to the magic of Christmas. In fact, his mother and I are the beneficiaries of some of that magic. It's safe to say our son wouldn't be here today without it. All these years later, I find myself watching my wife. I will look up and see her across the room, and suddenly I'm a voyeur. I admire the curves of her body, the shape of her face and the way her hair falls on her shoulders. There are times when I'm filled with admiration and longing, and other times in which I'm simply filled with wonder that we're together.

Our path was long and bumpy, yet here we are, a family. That cold December night, I couldn't know how deeply God was blessing me. When she holds me, I offer this small prayer: `Thank you, Lord, for these arms, for these lips. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with this wonderful woman.' Perhaps this is the story I should share with my son.

The Christmas spirit is the glory given to God for his good gift of a savior. Christmas magic is what happens when people come together to embrace and stoke fires of love and laughter that may burn brightly for years to come. Magic is lovers kissing on the streets of Manhattan, and it ain't a got a thing to do with a fat man in a red suit.

GORDON: Joseph C. Phillips is an actor and syndicated columnist living in Los Angeles.

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