I just want to make sure we have OUR Christmas.
I’ve said it to my friends and my friends have said it to me. Somewhere between college graduation and thirtieth birthdays Christmas becomes super, super busy. And we feel like it’s all about other people. All about extended relatives. All about work parties or neighborhood parties or school concerts. All about the long list of people we are now expected to buy gifts for. When you’re a child, Christmas mostly happens to you. You’re not the one making sure Christmas happens for other people.
Not to mention, if you’re religious, Christmas often feels watered down and bombarded by all the things that aren’t really Christmas at all. And even if you’re not religious, you might still feel like a time that is supposed to be peaceful and simple gets muddied by the artificial and the commercial. Most of us, hopefully, have some sweet and tender memories of Christmases past. We want those for ourselves. We want them for our children. We want Christmas to feel like Christmas. But how can it feel like Christmas when we spend all this time checking off boxes and fulfilling obligations? That wasn’t what Christmas was about when we were four years old!
But here’s the thing. Christmas doesn’t belong to us. It doesn’t belong to our children either.
The other day my husband and I were listening to our children read How The Grinch Stole Christmas and we were remarking how we both sympathized with the Grinch. He did have a point about those Whos. They did seem a little over-the-top, hyperactive, maybe even a bit materialistic. The Grinch may have appreciated Christmas done right. Christmas done simple and sacred. He just didn’t get to see it.
But being a Grinch is never the answer. Christmas will still come. “It came just the same.” We don’t change the world’s understanding of it by giving up on it.
We can always be intentional about how we celebrate Christmas. In our home we are fairly simple and minimal with our gifts. We celebrate Advent and we wait on Christmas until December 25th (this year we aren’t even getting our tree until the 23rd)! We leave up our decor and play Christmas music long past New Years. We don’t tell our kids that Santa brings them gifts on Christmas Day. These are just some of the things we do “our way.”
But Christmas is still not ours.
As soon as I get too worked up about making sure we do it “our way” or that we get “our time” totally uninterrupted by the world— as soon as I get too worked up, like the Grinch, to where it gets me down and steals my joy— then there’s a big problem. I will not have done anything to ruin Christmas because Christmas cannot be ruined. But I will have ceased in my own celebration of it. I will have stepped out of the glorious light.
Now, I do think families have to protect themselves from being over-scheduled. Parents have to protect their children from harmful or confusing influences (and there are a whole lot of those)! But there is a line and I think most of us know where that line is. On one side are the things that actually harm us or our families and on the other side are the things that just annoy us or cause our hearts to grow just a little bigger than we feel we have the energy for.
Christmas is not my day. It’s not even my children’s day. If my children grow up knowing that Christmas is about running around doing things for other people then I will have done my job correctly. The truth is, that magical, magical feeling will happen to them without very much effort on our parts. They won’t care that we’re all a little over-tired or that the house is a mess! In fact, the chaos is part of what creates the magic. Joy amidst chaos. Isn’t that exactly what a stable birth means?
Christmas is not mine to hoard. Christmas isn’t really even mine to give. Christmas IS. No matter what I do. But I have a choice as to whether or not I stand in the light. And I have a choice as to how many people I invite in with me. Hopefully there will be too many. And we will be cramped and uncomfortable and deeply, deeply happy.
Pictures: How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerrit Van Honthorst