It’s only the first week of December, so why do I feel like I’m behind on the holidays? To be honest, I felt that way even before Thanksgiving. I mean, it was not even Halloween when I first started seeing Christmas decorations in Target, Michael’s, and The Home Depot. Are people actually buying that stuff in October? They must be or else it wouldn’t be out in stores. I usually find it pretty annoying and sometimes down right insulting, even sacrilegious, to see Santa yard ornaments back in the corner behind vampire masks and superhero costumes.
On the other hand, it feels like there is SO much to do to prepare for the holidays, it seems impossible to fit it all in to just 28 days between Black Friday and December 24th. So I suppose I can see why busy moms, in particular, might want to get a jump on the holidays. I’m obviously not one of those people and I guess that’s why I already feel behind and a little stressed. I just don’t have room in my brain for Christmas until at least mid-November. There’s the christmas cards, the decorations, the lights, the wreaths, finding the perfect tree, decorating the perfect tree, finding gifts, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, making gingerbread houses, breakfast with Santa, remembering to move the Elf on the Shelf and preparing for holiday meals. I’m sure that I’m forgetting something or just not organized enough to fit it in. And in the last couple of years, I feel like there are a dozen other things I’m supposed to be doing according to what all my Pinterest friends are making, like homemade Peppermint Soap for teacher gifts wrapped in burlap with a candy cane on top, “Snowmen on a Stick” for the kids’ holiday parties at school, and handprint ornaments that look like Santa and his reindeer. Not to mention, we are supposed to cram all of this in amongst all the regular craziness of day to day life. Fitting it all into 28 days is virtually impossible.
When I wrote about the contrasting feelings I’d been having about Thanksgiving in my Keep the Giving in Thanksgiving post, I talked about my frustration with the commercialization of holidays. Well, Christmas is the prime example of that, right? I wondered how Thanksgiving turned into “Turkey Day” and a chance for us all to gorge ourselves. I also wonder how Christmas, a religious holiday celebrating the miraculous birth of Christ, turned into the day when “Santa Claus is coming to town” and all our greedy little children hope to get every toy on their list. Now shoppers go out at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving and fights break out in Walmart between people trying to get the best deal. It bugs me that I’m worried I need to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” in fear that I might offend someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. How did “the most wonderful time of the year” turn into the most stressful time of the year?
Well, this week as I was walking in from putting the garbage out, of all places, feeling overwhelmed and stressed about my holiday to do list, I had a revelation. Suddenly I realized that all of this work is nothing compared to the work that God must have put into creating Christ, his gift to us. The love we put into making Christmas special for all of our loved ones dulls in comparison to the love God put into the gift he gave us on that first Christmas. All of the hustle and bustle of the holidays doesn’t even compare to the work God puts into guiding us, watching over us each and every day of our lives. As these thoughts washed over me, suddenly my view of my to do list did a 180. Instead of items I needed to check off of my list just to get them done, I realized that each of these holidays traditions should actually be an opportunity to give praise and thanks to God for his gift Jesus and for all the blessings in our lives.
Did Christmas really turn into a stressful, commercialized holiday with everyone focused on checking it all off their to do list? Or have I been the only one missing the point all along? Sure, I went to church during advent and on Christmas Eve, we even lit the advent wreath with our kids and follow along on the advent calendar at home. And of course I talk to the kids about remembering the “true meaning of Christmas.” But I was also the same person rushing around, stressed out, distracted just trying to get it all done to feel like I did it all right, trying to make it a memorable Christmas for them.
Following all the traditions and praising God can coexist if our heart and soul stays in the right place. When I look at it this way I realize that it doesn’t matter if I don’t get to it ALL. I don’t need to make gingerbread houses AND six varieties of cookies AND make my own monogram wreath for my front door like Martha. If I can’t do it all, I should do ONE of those things and do it with joy and love and praise in my heart in celebration of the real reason for all of this fuss to begin with. Otherwise, none of those things are worth doing.
Preparing for Christmas may be hard work, but it is all worthwhile. The decorations, the cards, the gifts, the special meals, the parties; it’s the least we can do, really. So instead of looking at your Christmas to do list with dismay, try looking at each item as an opportunity to praise God for his gift to us on that first Christmas when away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little lord Jesus lay down his sweet head. Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let Earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room.