Did you feel a moment of panic when you flipped to the new month this morning? Did your heart beat faster and your palms turn sweaty as you thought about all that must be done in the month of December? Were you tempted to crawl right back into bed and set the alarm for January 1, 2010?
I'll assume if you answered 'yes' to my questions that you are a woman, and perhaps like me, you are not quite 'ready' for Christmas.
The truth of the matter is there are some men who thrive on decorating for Christmas, seeking out thoughtful and person gifts well in advance, planning and executing elaborate celebrations all while keeping track of family gatherings, office parties, children's Christmas programs, and out of town company. In my experience, those men are rare indeed.
By in large, it's us women who are the driving force behind Christmas. Can I just say, I think we've really made a mess of things?
When did Christmas began to be something to 'survive' or 'get through'? When did we succumb to the panic and frenzy of keeping up with the Jones'? Striving for the 'perfect' gift, the 'picture perfect' holiday home decor or the 'best Christmas ever' seems to have escalated into this horrible monster of stress, anxiety and unreasonable expectations. I won't be pointing any fingers here that don't point at myself as well - I've lost my Christmas joy a time or two! Perhaps you're one of the rare ones who have kept it all in perspective and never lost sight of the simple beauty of quietly celebrating the coming of Immanuel - I applaud you! For the rest of us, perhaps we've messed things up in the past - but all is not lost!
I have noticed that many are trying to 'take it down a notch' and I do like the ideas of an old fashioned and homespun Christmas. Embracing simplicity is admirable, but even in simplifying, many women simply find added stress in trying to come up with something 'homemade' to prove that they can be as 'Martha' as the next girl! How is that helpful?
It seems to me that even godly Christian women are strongly influenced by the world when it comes to Christmas. The enemy is doing everything in his limited power to take the focus off of Jesus Christ, beloved Son of God, sent to be the Savior of the world. He succeeds in stirring up discontent, greed, unreasonable expectations, and a palatable fear of failure, where Christ looks for our obedience, worship, and adoration. I have a few ideas to help myself get back on track - nothing new really, but thoughts and actions that have drawn me back from the cliff of panic and disappointment to the quiet contentment of Simple Christmas Joys. I thought that sharing them here with you over the next few weeks might serve as an encouragement to us both!
* focus on faith - in the next few weeks time pressures will cause us to think that taking time out for prayer and quiet times just isn't possible. I contend that everything else we truly need to do is impossible without prayer and personal time in God's Word. We are surrounded on all sides by pressure to conform to the world's distorted rendition of the celebration of Christmas. Now is the time to turn off the other 'voices'. Eliminate the sources of commercial pressure, be it t.v., Internet, radio or even the plethora of catalogs and fliers that fill your mailboxes. Take the time you would spend soaking in their messages to soak up some Truth. In the past, just limiting my exposure to the pressure of the media during the Christmas season has curbed my greed, reduced my stress, tamed my discontent, reduced my expectations and freed up time and energy for what really matters. Immanuel - God with us.
* a time of wonder - how long has it been since you looked at Christmas from a child's perspective? This is such a precious time of wonder for the little ones in our lives! In our home we chose not to make that 'time of wonder' about a Jolly Old Elf in a red suit. While we read to them the stories of St. Nicholas, and spoke of the joyous tales of Father Christmas, we chose to keep the truth of the birth of Christ the focus of all of our excitement and wonder. Resound criticism came from many corners, but we have not regretted our choice, knowing that our children never had that sense of loss when they came to the age of knowing that it was all just a story. The true story has always held wonder enough for us! God so loved the world!
* embracing simplicity - true simplicity. Finding out what really means the most to your children at Christmas time might come as a pleasant surprise, for often their joys revolve around the simplest pleasures - late night 'light shows' riding about in their p.j.'s munching on popcorn and looking at lights, family game nights, sleepovers under the tree, cookie baking or a candle light service. Simple pleasures and reasonable expectations help set the guidelines for our children, and for ourselves. I'll never forget the Christmas we broke our own rule about gift giving - along with certain relatives who shall remain nameless - we went way overboard. Our children were no happier, and no more content - in fact, our Dreamer ended up with a tummy ache because she couldn't play with everything at once and thought that she ought to in order to please us and show her appreciation. Scaling back to the much loved stocking, a book, a toy and a clothing gift has made for true simplicity in our celebration.
*come as you are - how long it had been since those hillside shepherds had seen a bath or new set of clothes when they rushed into Bethlehem and bowed low before their King? I am quite certain that the kings from afar had the dust of long years of travel between their toes too, yet their worship and gifts were found to be pleasing to the new King. Why do we make Christmas so much about the externals, and so little about bringing a pure heart of worship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? I know many face this Christmas with fresh sorrows, deep hurts, concerns and fears that threaten to overwhelm. It has been said that holidays are like magnifying glass, making everything appear larger than life. What is hard seems so much worse and conversely, what is good looks so much better when mixed with the special mystery of the holiday season. No matter what the circumstances, we simply need to come as we are. The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ needs nothing from us but acceptance in faith - smelly shepherds, dusty kings, and desperate women are all welcomed.
I pray these thoughts will encourage your heart
- and I hope to share more next week!
- and I hope to share more next week!