Christmas snuck up on me this year. I know that is ridiculous, it comes on the same day every year. I had 365 days to get prepared and yet, somehow, I did not.
I was forced into early decorating when Tim offered our house for the church youth progressive dinner on December 1. My usual helper had plans to attend an ugly sweater party that night, so was unavailable. Tim had rehearsal at 1 and promised me that since our course was dessert, he would make sure he left the theatre in plenty of time to serve. (He did.)
After that event, I was otherwise occupied with distributing Tim’s handmade ornaments, working on the biggest celebration I’ve ever been a part of, and oh yeah, for good measure we decided to go on a trip.
Once we were home, I had 5 days to think about Christmas.
Now I am not one for making everything simple all of the time. In fact, just today I had a rant about how everyone wants everything to be simple nowadays. No dressing up, no big fuss, just simple, simple, simple.
I remember calling my father on Christmas Day for the last few years and having him say, “Christmas? It’s just another day!” It always made me sad to hear him say that. So I strive to keep this time of year special, to go to the trouble to make it just that.
I am in favor of giving things the reverence they deserve by putting in some effort every once in a while. I like to dress up and make an occasion special! I like to clean the house and decorate and cook and put some thought into gifts and their wrappings. If we never want to be bothered and all we do is swap gift cards on Christmas morning, we really have lost one of the meanings of Christmas!
Now don’t get all worked up- I know that Christmas is about the baby Jesus. If you have read this blog for very long, then you know that Christmas Eve at church IS Christmas for me. The music, the candlelight, communion with the family, walking out in the cold to the manger scene together with the other brave souls who stay up until midnight to sing “Silent Night” together in the silence of night. This is my favorite and most meaningful part of Christmas.
To me though, there is the other part of Christmas. Thinking about someone other than yourself. Thinking about which charities to support, what we can do to help others, what we can do to brighten up someone else’s day. We think about our family, those we have struggled with during the year, those we just haven’t gotten to see.
We think about what they might like to receive, we think about bringing some extra color and glow to our homes. We think about the foods that we don’t eat everyday, yet make the holidays special.
What does this have to do with the baby Jesus? Nothing, right? He never told us to put trees in our house, or overspend on junk we don’t really need. He didn’t say to do more for others than they do for you so that you have the upper hand the rest of the year. He didn’t say eat more junk so that when the new year arrives you have pounds to work off. (At least for the first week or so of the year until you give up on any resolution you felt shamed into!)
To me, and I only speak for me, some of the things we do for the holidays aren’t in the Bible but they are rooted there. Making my home cozy and warm, cheery and bright for my family and friends is sharing love. It is making the holidays begin with joy as those 25-30 eighth graders ate apple pie and brownies on December 1. It showed them that I care enough about them to decorate early for them. It told them that they are worth it.
Buying something for a friend or family member that isn’t too expensive or flamboyant, but personal and thoughtful says “I know you. I listened to you and made a choice based on you and your feelings.”
Fixing treats that we don’t usually have during the year is another way to show love. For many people food is love! I like to cook and making sure that I put together a healthy, tasty and attractive meal is one of the ways I show love to Tim every day and to others whenever I can. I am not super secure in my cooking or entertaining (I have so many friends that are experts that it makes me a little intimidated!) but I definitely think Jesus asked us to show hospitality to each other.
And not in a “let’s see how little we can do for each other, how simple we can make it” way, but more in a “let’s turn water into wine, make 5 fish and loaves feed thousands, and kill the fatted calf” kind of way. Washing each others feet and rubbing oil onto a guest with your hair is not really keeping it simple!
I just went to see my father in law and his wife this morning. They are in their nineties and no longer know what day it is. I opened the Christmas cards we found in their mailbox and read them aloud to the two of them. When showing the pictures on the front of the cards, there was little recognition from either of them.
When Tim and I had been about to go to his dad’s house, he asked me why I was so dressed up. I told him it was Christmas Eve and I was going to see his dad. Tim gently reminded me that his dad doesn’t really recognize us anymore. I told him I was dressed out of respect for the man his father had been and to me, still was. I was dressed to honor him.
After I had read through the cards, I looked out at the water behind their house, the perfectly clear blue sky reflected there. I realized that it won’t be that long until I will be that age, if I even live that long. I hope that someone thinks enough of me (if I do live that long) that they want to make a visit to see me on Christmas Eve an event, something important to them, even if I can no longer acknowledge the effort.
I know that we all get overwhelmed and exhausted from all that is expected of us during this time of year. I know that I WAY overbooked myself this year and maybe didn’t do all that I would have liked to make Christmas special for those I love and those who need me. My gifts this year are not spectacular, I am not cooking this year (I do every other year, this just happened to be my year off!)) and everything seems rather quiet around here right now.
But somewhere I know that I do not want to see all of the hoopla, tradition, food, drink and gifts deteriorate down to the least common denominator. I don’t want to feel that little effort or thought is necessary. I don’t want to let this holiday dwindle down to another day to sit on the couch and do the bare minimum. I am human and can get caught in the trap of doing the least work possible, but I hope I can fight that urge!
Maybe the tree and the presents, the candy canes and gingerbread weren’t there at the manger. Somehow though, I can’t help but think that as long as we work with the right spirit, lots of love, and true celebration in our heart, Jesus is on board with us putting in some effort to honor Him and each other this one day of the year. I feel He would be happy to see us “don our gay apparel” and share food, gifts and love with each other in the true spirit of Christmas. I don’t think He is mad when we put a little effort into honoring each other by sharing good food, loving gestures and giving spirits.
I can only speak for myself, but I feel that we celebrate His birth when we put in the effort to celebrate each other, pour love on those who have probably needed it all year, and feed the souls of those we profess to care about. He is probably even happier when we put in effort and take care of each other the rest of the year as well!
If I can’t work hard and put extra energy into the people I claim to love, then what is the point? “And so this is Christmas, the near and the dear ones, the old and the young.” I don’t want to look around one day and think -And so this is Christmas? Another year older and nothing to look forward to, nothing special? I can’t imagine Christmas as just another day. I can’t imagine waking up to “a nothing special” day. I can’t imagine going to bed on Christmas night disappointed and thinking, “And so this is Christmas??”