The Standard December 8, 2022
From now until December 25 would it be possible for us to plan and organize ourselves through a perfect Christmas season? Could we buy unique gifts, each sure to be a big hit, for the best prices, wrap them meticulously with homemade bows, write every card without leaving anyone off the list, plan and orchestrate several delicious meals, keep our caloric intake within reasonable limits, maintain a healthy exercise regime, give to the most efficient charitable causes, serve others, decorate our homes and yards in tastefully appropriate ways, and set the stage for meaningful family discussions all while maintaining a genuine smile, a low level of stress and joy at the birth of Christ?
Probably not. And that’s okay. Certainly, planning alleviates some headache and organizing helps us avoid various pitfalls. The problem arises when we delude ourselves into thinking we can control almost all circumstances during a busy holiday season or at any time during the year. If we think that our own efforts determine the outcomes of everything, we are sadly mistaken. Some of us have a deep-seeded need to gain mastery over our lives while clinging to self-sufficiency, especially when it comes to creating the ideal Christmas.
The truth is that this month, many roasts, turkeys and cookies 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 might arrive without parent-approved hair styles or piercings. People will get the flu. There will be inconveniences. Those grieving loss might be flooded with all kinds of memories.
In the midst of life’s messiness, God shines. While our expectations for friends, family and ourselves often fall short, God never fails us. God understands our hopes and frustrations. We can better delight in the birth of Christ by focusing on God’s gift more than on our to-do lists. Lysa TerKeurst writes in an Advent devotion for Proverbs 31 Ministries, “So, I’ve decided to ask myself one simple question each day: ‘What can I realistically do without losing my joy?’ My deepest desire is to keep Jesus at the center of this season and seek Him above all else. Yes, the cry of my heart echoes David’s in Psalm 27:8, ‘My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.’
Several years ago, I decided to put this into practice, and I gave myself permission to let a few things slide to pursue what mattered most that holiday season. Here’s my journal entry from the night of December 25th that year – ‘I sit in the quiet watching the lights dance and flicker around what is left of our Christmas festivities. The presents are all opened and half of them strewn about, evidence of happy children who were too tired to carry their treasures to their room. They can do that tomorrow.
Usually, a mess of this magnitude would have sent me into a cleaning frenzy complete with finger pointing and tense words, but not tonight. Tonight, I’m going to bed with a heart completely at peace. For this was the first Christmas where my family hadn’t missed the one thing. The glory of Jesus Himself.’”