When I was growing up, Christmas was by far my favorite time of year. Decorations came out, music played, it was the only time we ever had candles burning. My minimalistic mother even had a throw on the couch, and the decor loving domestic seven year old in me just felt all warm inside. As I have moved on into a life of being the one to make Christmas happen, I have always tried my best to make it as big and as festive as my budget would allow. We have had big parties, progressive dinners, presents for all the siblings and spouses, and as our children have joined us in life our celebration has shifted to them. We don’t have big parties as often now, but we love to go on lots of Starbucks dates and drive around looking at lights after dark and build ginger bread houses and cook together and decorate cookies and partake in all forms of sugar. We fill the kids stockings until they are bursting and we buy as many gifts as we can afford. We watch all the Christmas movies with mint Oreos and candy canes and I find myself scrubbing my couch for days. We want Christmas to be fun, the most fun.
But somehow in all that mix, Christmas has become less fun for me. I am often so busy trying to make it fun for everyone else that I don’t have many moments feel fun. I enjoy seeing everyone else enjoy it. I love watching their concentration as they decorate sugar cookies and watching their excitement build on Christmas Eve and listening to them recite the story of Jesus to me. I enjoy all those moments, but to be honest I enjoy them while I am still hoping for a nap and halfway remembering all the things I need to do and running through the budget in the back of my mind.
I found myself alone the other day, sitting in the dusk living room with a glass of wine, staring at the sparkling tree and the pile of presents next to it. I couldn’t find a pen so I had stopped making lists for a few minutes. I wanted to recreate the sentimentality of Christmas, to feel the excited fuzziness that I did when I was a child, to have all the joy and none of the stress. I guess what I really wanted was a Hollywood Christmas, not the real one.
The real Christmas involved a woman who found out she was pregnant while still unmarried, whose fiancé was suspicious of her purity and didn’t want to marry her at first, who had to travel while nine months pregnant to obey a census law, who had to give birth on a bed of hay and somehow figure out how to cut the cord (I guess…I have no idea how they did these things then, but I imagine it was messy). The real Christmas story involved Herod issuing a decree to slaughter all the baby boys. Can you even imagine what it would be like if military officers were breaking into our homes and killing our baby sons? That is certainly much more stressful than anything in my life. But in the midst of the all the crazy stress, angels filled the sky on Christmas and they sang a song of hope and peace.
Even though in the story of Christmas there was great turmoil and a birth in a stable and babies being killed, heaven rejoices. I want to echo what the angels say, I want to look to the hosts of heaven and see what they see. They saw the joy shining through stronger than the trials. I want to cling to the joy of the shepherds and the angels, singing because the world was being redeemed, the course of history was changing. While I work so hard and so tired to make a great celebration and a fun and joyful time for my family, I should not be discouraged that I bear stress. The angels said not to look at the stress of the world, but to rejoice, rejoice greatly! Even if I feel tired and overwhelmed, that’s ok. I am in the weary world. It is part of the story, and it always has been. But heaven is not weary. Heaven is full of joy, heaven sees the whole picture. I want to see the whole picture, rejoicing even in the midst of the tired.