The countdown to Christmas is on. It can be a fraught time, trying to navigate all the holiday expectations. My want-to-do list is practically limitless, although I only get a fraction of it done.
There are Christmas cards and letters (preferably personal) to send, Christmas decor to put up inside and out, fun little DIYs, homemade cookies to share with neighbors and friends. There are Christmas parties to host or attend and fun things to do: caroling, sledding, skating, making gingerbread houses, decorating sugar cookies, and more.
I’m an idea enthusiast; I’m constantly inspired by the things I haven’t tried yet. The only problem? Picking out the best and discarding all the rest!
The wonder and beauty of the holidays inspire me but the practical logistics tend to bog me down. I want to give perfect gifts but not get stressed about shopping. I’d like a clean house, coordinated clothes, and delicious, fuss-free holiday dinners.
I want to create memories, keep special family traditions and invent a few of our own. I want to keep the real reason for the season in the center of it all. And I want all this with a minimum of work! Well, at least I want to be able to sit down and relax when the holidays get here.
Um, is that perhaps asking a bit much? Obviously, no-one is capable of doing it all without a servant or two!
When I stop to think about it, I can sum up the essence of Christmas in a few simple words: Christ’s birth: lowly, humble, quiet. Family, together, friends. Sharing, others, less fortunate. Cozy, memories, warmth. Starlight, fireside, candles. Celebration, abundance, wealth.
There’s also the practical side: Busy, work, sacrifice. Home, travel, reunions. Gifts, food, feasting.
It doesn’t take all the trappings on my wish- and to-do lists to equal Christmas. When I get carried away wanting The Perfect Christmas or tire of the relentless work accompanying the season, I remind myself of several things.
First of all, Jesus: He is the reason we gather to feast and celebrate. Celebrating His birth is good – we celebrate new babies, birthdays and weddings – what better reason to celebrate than the Saviour’s arrival?
Most importantly, it is His gift of forgiveness and the joy and gratitude it evokes that make the celebration significant. Without an intimate understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice, the season becomes little more than a time of costly merry-making with all the inane baubles, music and customs our world is increasingly consumed with throughout December.
However, celebrating and making memories can be messy work. It requires willing hands, background work, and sacrifices. Not all of it looks pretty and it doesn’t need to involve excess to be meaningful and memorable.
And finally, not all celebrations will look the same. A treasured tradition in another family may not work in mine and vice versa. Our own family traditions will, of necessity, evolve with our families and that’s okay.
Christmas in my heart is what makes the Christmas season, after all. Although all the items on my to-do list are neatly crossed off, my house sparkling clean and handsomely decorated, and my family filled with expensive delicacies and lavished with gifts, it is nothing without Jesus in my heart.