From now until December 25 would it be possible to plan and organize ourselves through a perfect Advent and Christmas season? Could we buy each unique gift, sure to be a hit, for the best price, write every card without leaving anyone off the list, plan every delicious meal with precision while hitting it big on triple coupons, limit our caloric intake, maintain or improve our exercise regime, give to the most efficient charitable causes, serve others, put up the Christmas decorations not too early and not too late while awing our families with our good eye, and set the stage for interesting and meaningful family discussions all while maintaining a genuine smile, a low level of stress and the joy of the birth of Christ?
Probably not. And that’s okay. Certainly, planning alleviates some head ache and organizing helps us avoid various pitfalls. The problem arises when we delude ourselves into thinking we can control almost all of the circumstances in our lives. If we think that our own efforts determine the outcome of most things, we are sadly mistaken. Some of us have a deep-seeded need to try to gain mastery over our lives while clinging to self-sufficiency, especially when it comes to creating the ideal holiday. In Jesus Calling Sarah Young writes “Expect to encounter adversity in your life, remembering that you live in a deeply fallen world. Stop trying to find a way that circumvents difficulty.”
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) In a recent sermon we heard “if God is your co-pilot, switch seats.”
This Christmas season turkeys will get overcooked. Some gifts will miss the mark. People will inadvertently get left off the card list. Hurtful words will be spoken. Family members won’t all get along. Some people will feel unappreciated. Younger children will get off schedule and become cranky. Older children will arrive without parent-approved hair styles or piercings. People will get sick. There will be inconveniences.
In the midst of the messiness of life, God shines. While our expectations for friends and family fall short God exceeds all we could hope or imagine. In One Thousand Gifts Ann Voskamp writes “Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy’s flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.”