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Next year, I want to rent some kids. Little ones. My own are all grown up, and I can’t tell you how anticlimactic Christmas seems with adult children, some of whom don’t even pull themselves out of bed until 3 in the afternoon. There’s none of the building excitement for weeks, none of the impulse to go all out with decorating. In fact, there’s little impulse at all except to buy gift cards because you don’t know what they want anymore.

So I made the announcement yesterday afternoon, cracking everyone up: I want to rent some little kids for next Christmas. They knew instantly what I meant.

Forty years of making Christmas for little ones has spoiled me I guess. And it’s silly. I can look back to the days when I was emerging into adulthood myself and realize that I was losing that sense of magic even then, but that it was transferred to me again by my children, when I had them.

Those of us raised in the Christian tradition know the story from Luke’s Gospel, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men. There was a time when I felt that magic of “Peace on Earth, Good will toward men.” It seemed almost as if the entire planet began to hold its breath, as if the event were about to occur again.

That’s gone now, too. I can’t find it anywhere. Religion begins with stories, and stories are wonderful things. Every society and culture has them, and they enthrall.

But something has happened over the years, and religion has mutated into another kind of faith, something deeper and less magical actually. I no longer believe Luke’s Christmas story had any basis in fact. Quite the contrary. When I visited the Dom in Cologne recently, I saw the reliquary that supposedly holds the bones of the Magi. Lovely work of art in gold. The church impressed me because it is so exemplary of humankind’s aspirations. I could have spent a week there in admiration. But no magic.

Part of me longs for that simplicity of earlier years, that touch of magic I used to know so well. It escapes me and nothing seems to bring it back. But every life needs that kiss of wonder and awe. Without it, something in us remains empty and unfulfilled.

So I want to rent some kids for Christmas next year. Just at the right age to feel that excitement and magic again.

I know for a fact it’s contagious.

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