The other night, our DVD player broke, so we resorted to watching VHS home movies from Christmas twenty years ago. I always find it way more pleasing to watch myself as a toddler rather than in the dreaded middle school era, so it wasn’t that bad. Actually, it was really nice to be reminded of the magic of Christmas and how little children are so captivated by it all.
As adults, especially without children around often, we easily get caught up in the holiday season, but sometimes I think we end up feeling trapped rather than charmed. We focus on all the things we have to do, like decorate the house, bake dozens of cookies, volunteer at church, shop for and wrap gifts, visit family and friends, cook delicious family meals each night . . . . All of these things in themselves are very good, but when we pressure ourselves to do everything perfectly and traditionally and all with the “Christmas spirit” (on top of each day’s usual routine) they can suddenly become too much. Instead of wanting to celebrate the season with family and friends, all we want to do is drive back to where we came from so we can sit down on the couch and have some peace.
This is ironic, because Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the “prince of peace,” the one who is supposed to comfort and calm us, to reassure us in stressful times. When we become overwhelmed by our own expectations and “necessities” of Christmas instead of by the wonder and love of the gift of Christmas, we get messed up, a little crooked (for lack of better words). It is when we are in this frame of mind that it is so nice to be reminded by children of the joy of Christmas.
The other night, we had some friends over who have two little girls, ages five and seven. They are really into American Girl dolls, which Annie and I LOVED (still love, actually). We were honestly thrilled to bring out our dolls and accessories for them to play with. It was so fun watching their faces as they pulled dresses, boots, backpacks, and all kinds of other things out of the bins that had not seen the light of day for probably ten years. One of them even exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! You guys are so lucky!” as she discovered a hiking outfit to dress her doll in.
Later, as we ate supper around the table we talked about Santa Claus and how the girls feed the reindeer. As per tradition during the holidays, we sang “The Twelve Days of Christmas” after dessert, but did it twice because they loved it so much.
Sometimes, we need to take a break from all our lists and enjoy what’s happening around us. In reality, the holidays are not about how many dinner parties we can squeeze in, the number of new cookie recipes we try, or how many gifts we give. Christmas is a time for rejuvenation, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating and spreading the love of Jesus.
Today is Christmas eve eve. My wish is that, rather than becoming overwhelmed by all the things we feel we “should” be doing right now, we are all able to focus on being the love and light of God, and rediscover the great joy that the season brings. Merry Christmas!