I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy for me to have this beautiful, yet unrealistic image in my head of what I think Christmas should look like. Every object in the house delicately wrapped in shiny ribbons; a fresh wreath hanging on every door; perfectly placed decorations hanging on a perfectly shaped tree, under which are perfectly wrapped presents stacked on top of each other…perfectly. Oh look- the dog is curled up in front of the fireplace. Isn’t that adorable.
It can be a wonderful or a disappointing daydream. I suppose it all depends on where my heart & expectations are.
As a teenager, I came to a rather disheartening realization about Christmas.
I couldn’t afford it.
Even though I was always full of anticipation & excitement for the Christmas season, every year I was left…disappointed. No matter how much I wanted it, Christmas would never look like a Hallmark commercial.
Everyone was trampling each other in stores to grab decorations that said, “Peace on Earth” & “Joy to the World.” That’s ironic. The overflowing parking lots were filled with angry drivers whose parking spots were just stolen from them. Maybe they should buy one of those “Peace of Earth” ornaments. But more than anything, I hated the thought of our already very tight money situation being used on mass-produced gift sets just to have something under the tree. We couldn’t buy all the elements that I envisioned making a grand Christmas. I hated the idea of what Christmas had become, because I couldn’t afford.
I knew what the real meaning of Christmas was. I knew it was a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But the joy & meaning of Christmas was so weighed down by my ridiculously high expectations of what it should look, feel, taste & sound like, that I just sort of…gave up. It’s hard to be disappointed when you have very low expectations.
That is where my misconception was. Christmas was a time to celebrate Christ’s birth, but it was only successful if it looked & felt like a Christmas movie. I had one image in my head of the perfect Christmas, so when every year didn’t look like that, I labeled it “failed”. I blamed everything except for what was truly responsible. My heart.
I don’t think it’s right to evaluate our friendships or self-worth by the price tag of the gifts we give or are given, or to work tirelessly & stressfully to create a Christmas wonderland in our homes, but neglect the true meaning of Christmas & miss out on valuable time with our families.
However, I had it very, very wrong too. It’s wrong to “give up” on the beauty that Christmas is, just because it doesn’t look like a Hallmark commercial or store advertisement.
That is not Christmas. Things under the tree do not represent Christmas. Even the wonderful smell cookies baking in the oven while we sit in front of the fireplace & drink hot cocoa, is not Christmas. Those are all wonderful things. But they do not define Christmas.
If none of those things existed, would our hearts still be overflowing with gratitude & joy for the greatest Gift that was ever given to us? Would Jesus be enough?
After all these issues had surfaced in my heart, my amazing mother suggested a new tradition. Instead of being “buyers”, let’s be “doers.” It became my favorite tradition & I have continued it with my own little family.
Instead of buying presents, just to buy them, we go do things together. Most of the things we do are free, but the laughter, joy & memories last much, much longer than any wrapped up box would. Presents aren’t banished from our house by any means. It is still so fun to open up presents & I can’t wait to see how my one year old reacts to ripping off the paper. And if we find something that we truly think one of us will like, then we are thrilled to give it to them. However, that’s not where the focus is. I will enjoy Christmas day whether presents are stacked under the tree, or if there is not a single one. Family movie nights will come before presents. Making snowmen in the backyard will come before a house filled to the brim with decorations. Christmas caroling will come before a festive 10-course dinner.
I continue to find balance in this area. But that’s ok. I’m trying. It’s an ongoing process in my mind to know it’s all right to enjoy “Christmassy” things while also keeping Christ the focus. I’m sure new elements & traditions will be added as my daughter gets older. But no matter what we have or don’t have, my husband & I will strive to make sure that Jesus remains the foundation of our Christmases. Christ’s birth will not just be a pretty accessory to our Christmases; it will be the main reason & focus & the only element that truly matters.
So this Christmas, give yourself permission to unload the burden of having a perfect Christmas. And don’t just unload it, go bury it. Then bundle the family up & go outside & have a snowball fight. Treasure the time spent with your kiddos as you make cookies, but not worry how the cookies themselves turn out. Or if you’re like me, be ok when they burn. Not if, but when they burn.
If you are trying to find a balance between it all or if you have any wisdom to share, I would love to hear your thoughts!
You are wonderful & I pray that you experience the joy of Christmas in a new & fresh way this year.
I declare my God as faithful this Christmas & every season!
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, & the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government & peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne & over his kingdom, establishing & upholding it with justice & righteousness from that time on & forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6 & 7