There were only small moments I felt we had room in our inn for the Christ Child. “If ye do it until the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”, kept running through my head but, there simply was no room. The assembly line charities took over and lest our grandchildren feel left out at school, I participated. Most of the church list we managed to remove ourselves from and in its place we did a few family events. As I look about me, I see many children’s eyes heavy with fatigued. Mother’s rattled and wishing the holiday season over. I can’t honestly say I have ever had a December that I did not wish to pass quickly.
Though I made one small move in simplifying Christmas this year, it made a big difference. For the first time I looked forward to giving gifts. Instead of doing individual gifts, I did a family one. I dropped twelve ‘stress of finding the right gift’ to three, who wouldn’t feel better? The gift change wasn’t well understood except by the older children and adults. They see how much I give all year round. I spend hours helping with school, shopping for clothes, and remembering the little things they desire. Then on top there is 32 gifts a year to find, buy, and pay for because it is the tradition to give at Christmas and birthdays. It adds weight, not joy for me. Honestly I like the small, carefully thought out gifts best. They are less stressful for the giver and myself who doesn’t feel pressure to reciprocate.
Next Christmas, I will give up on wrapping presents, another task I dislike. I’m taking a page out of Scandinavian traditions and will begin making cloth bags to put presents in instead of using bright Christmas paper that does not degrade in the landfill for many years and continually increases in cost. Bags can be used year after year and Amazon even has reusable gift bags for sale if you’re interested. The same will be done for birthdays. It’s a start. Now I need to find one more thing to lower stress for next year during this time. First year one, the next two, the third three, and in the process, I will create room in my inn. I will find Peace on Earth and eventually I hope to make holidays the “best” days of the year, not just ones to endure.
I can find “joy” in Christmas but it will take time. Instead of packing the ornaments up and with a sigh of relief going on to my favorite months, January and February, I’m going to wait a week longer. I’m going to dust off my scriptures and read Luke chapter two. I’m going to do a thing or two that I planned for December. I’m going to make room for “best” not simply “good”. I like cooking when the pressure is off and it has been years since I’ve made treats for the neighbors. If the task leaks over into January before it gets done … what better way to start the year?
What I did do right was a few family events. We gathered what family members were available and trooping off to a couple events around the area. One night we made ornaments, and Christmas Eve we hosted a simple dinner, pot luck style and played games, some I’d make up. We also celebrated our daughter’s accomplishment of one year without cancer. We lounged in our pajamas, laughter rang, the kids asked for old favorites like a story about the Gingerbears. We had a Christmas message about Christ and our oldest granddaughter played her guitar and sang – as a gift to us. Music filled the air as we did ‘picture charades’ on a dry erase board with ‘guess that Christmas song’ which sent us all into mixing up verses which weren’t always on key. I can‘t believe my granddaughter figured out I was drawing a hippo for “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”. For one evening it was just us, a roaring fire in the stove, trees lit the house, and joy rang throughout. My cup began to fill, the one that had been emptied to the point of tears many times during the holiday season. Christmas found its way home.
With my cup above empty, I’ve got cards to write – not just sign. I’ve got thank yous to give for things I’ve especially felt grateful for this year. I’m finding Christmas underneath the pressure, the worldly cares, and the brightly colored packages. I’m finding the greatest gift is time and those who see us as we really are and still like us. Christmas is looking around us and seeing the blessings, the needs, the ways we can become more giving like Christ not just doing “good” works.
One step at a time I’m leaving behind the world’s Christmas. I’m finding the place in it that I was meant to fill. The things I was meant to do. The world needs fewer brightly wrapped presents. Let’s quit rushing Christmas, let’s quit putting demands on the masses to fulfill our own agendas even if it is “good” works. Let’s celebrate Christmas like Christ served. “If ye have done it unto the least of these my brother, ye have done it unto me.” Let’s find those lost sheep. Let’s lift the weary, not create them. Each person’s Christmas should look different. We are different. But each should bring peace- not chaos, joy – not stress, and should lift the heart.
Would Christ have wanted to be at our Christmas? There were times he was invited but all too often there was simply no room in the inn.
Next year, I invite you to send an invitation to Christ as it is His birthday party. Let’s give Christ like gifts of time, ones from the heart, and ones that aren’t tied to the size of our pocketbook. Then it will truly begin to look like Christmas.