December is overwhelming. I started off the month with a speaking engagement followed by back-to-back parties at our house. I was so sure life would slow down for us then. I would be able to merely relax for the rest of the month, enjoying all the wonder of the season.
But, I have been chasing Christmas since Dec 1st.
My disappointment came to a head when I was frantically cleaning up one day, realizing my kids had played a game of paper airplanes, flying their creations from high above in our loft area straight down to our foyer. Bending over to pick up one of the airplanes, I realized it had landed in front of my grandmother's china cabinet and I paused there.
Running my hand over the worn corners, I thought of her. I imagined coming in out of the cold into her very warm gas-heated home, slamming her creaky door behind me. I thought of her Christmas tree smothered from top to bottom in silver, stringy icicles. When I was a child, she'd let me throw those onto it in handfuls and never say a word. I thought of how, every Christmas, I would plunder through her old 8-track tapes to find a treasure..."Christmas with the Chipmunks". Alvin, Simon, and Theodore would belt out Christmas classics and I would dance and laugh and sing right along with them. I thought about that old piece of furniture and how along with her china, it once held hundreds of black and white photos. She would sit with me for hours, going through each one, telling me about family members. The most treasured ones were of my grandfather who left for Heaven when I was just 4 years old. He was the one I wanted to hear about the most.
Flooded with memories, I opened every drawer, every single drawer, trying desperately to capture a certain smell that hits me sometimes when I open them. You see, it's the smell of my childhood...the smell of warmth and love and happiness...and yes, even Christmases gone by. I've been so busy, I needed to feel that and hold onto that brief connection to the past...even if just for a moment.
But I couldn't find it. With a tear trickling down my face, staring into the den at my own Christmas tree, I mourned my loss of a peaceful, warm and fuzzy Christmas. Maybe this year I was not going to "feel" Christmas and just about as quickly as that thought crossed my mind, so did another...
Christmas is not a feeling at all.
The movies tell us it is. The commercials do as well. Every Hallmark movie with every sappy, happy ending that we swoon over is fake and while we love it for transporting us to "good feelings" we also fall for the lie that our life must match up to be worthwhile, especially this time of year! We end up believing that Christmas IS in fact all about warm, fuzzy feelings and sweet tender moments and joyous, happy children whose eyes twinkle with delight. If that doesn't happen...if this picture inside our head escapes us...then we are conned into being let down.
But, can I ask you, how in the world can we ever be let down over the most wondrous gift ever given...the gift of our Emmanuel...our "God with us" who stepped out of Heaven to live among us?
His awesome birth IS our focus, whether we have all the sappy feelings or not!
And, speaking of Jesus, can we just focus on his mom for a minute, here?
There's a verse in Luke that says, "but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." As a mom, I have always connected to those words. Practically every mother who has ever lived has stared into the face of her child and wondered who they might become, dreaming of their bright future. Even more so, Mary, who had been visited by an angel and told of her baby's holy purpose! And yet, I think of her also at the foot of the cross a mere 33 years later, watching her beloved child die the most gruesome death imaginable. On that day, her feelings most certainly would not have matched the joyous moment when Jesus' birth was foretold. And, I'm guessing that Mary may have continued to ponder the great mystery of it all, for it is a great mystery! Wasn't her child supposed to become the King?
It is safe to say, God's ways and our ways do not match up and very often, do not make sense. There are truths we know in our hearts that we do not feel, but abide by because we believe. We are called as His children to obey, to be faithful, and to carry on, NOT because we "feel it", but because we believe it!!
And so I am determined to not just let my feelings off the hook this Christmas, but to kick them to the curb! I choose to celebrate Christ and Christ alone...not the presents, not the family time, not the decorations, not the memories of Christmases past, not the Christmas-y feelings in any way, shape, or form....no, I choose to celebrate the birth of a Savior who came to die so that I might live!
He is all the reason I need to realize that this is, in fact, a very merry Christmas, no matter how I feel.