It’s a common misconception that Christmas is only for children. But Christmas is for everybody. Children are just better at celebrating it.
As adults, we can get so focused on the preparations and the subsequent return to normalcy that we forget to savor the very point of it all. We cook and clean and then we quickly clean up after the cooking and the cleaning. We buy gifts, wrap them, and then frantically pick up all the scraps of wrapping paper. We put the baby in the manger but don’t pause to meditate upon him. I don’t sit there and “play manger” with the characters like I did as a child (or like my three-year-old now does.)
And why not? Because pausing, feasting, reflecting, recreating, playing– all the things that Christmas demands we do– upset the sense of control and productivity we like to maintain in our lives. It’s easy for adults to feel like Christmas is one big yearly inconvenience. Christmas fills our cities with traffic. Christmas sends relatives to sleep in guest rooms and take up space. Christmas forces us into awkward conversations. Christmas makes a mess. It makes an even bigger mess if you have kids. Nap schedules fall apart, tantrums become more frequent, the kitchen floor is a maze.
But what do we expect? The birth of God in a feed box in a faraway city in the middle of the night while being hunted down by Herod… that’s utterly inconvenient. The inconvenience is the very point of it all. The light shines in the darkness- pierces it, scatters it. Christmas is supposed to shake things up. It’s supposed to revert us back, humble us, make us small again so we can look up in wonder and see the stars, see the heavens like we did when we, too, were three-years-old.
Our first year of marriage my husband and I received a giant, hand-me-down, ultra-bright, artificial Christmas tree. We decided to put it up in our bedroom. The first night we plugged it in and tried to go to sleep. About four hours later I whispered to my husband, “are you awake?” “Yes,” he laughed. “I think the tree is burning my eyelids.” But we didn’t turn it off. Because something felt right about those lights keeping us up, overwhelming us, demanding we keep vigil.
Every year at Christmas I have some of those same sort of piercing light moments when I’m inspired and when I feel peace and joy. But then I also have moments when I feel disconnected from the whole thing– moments when the things that used to inspire me leave me feeling empty or just exhausted– moments when I wonder if I’ve grown out of Christmas. And this makes me so sad.
But I know I have to push through the feelings of disconnect. Regardless of its status, we all have a relationship with God, and so we all have a relationship with the God of Christmas. We all have a relationship with the Baby Jesus. And anyone who knows anything about relationships knows that they take work. Feelings don’t always propel love forward. But the act of love can ignite feelings. We can, and should, fall in love again, over and over.
So, if tonight you sit and mourn the magic– if you wonder where the Baby Jesus went– if you wonder why you didn’t have butterflies in your stomach as you went to sleep on Christmas Eve– if you worry that maybe you missed Christmas entirely– take heart. You still have time. You can fall in love again. All it takes is a little hope, a little faith, and a little pause. Rest in the mess. Put down your phone. Watch your children play. Play, yourself. Sleep under the Christmas tree. In a practical sense, you’ve got seven more days to hold Christmas. But really, you’ve got the rest of eternity. The Baby Jesus waits for you. He is timeless. In Heaven and in your heart he never grows old. You don’t ever have to grow out of Christmas.