I wish I could write about the solution to the hectic insanity of the holiday season. But even if I did, no one would listen. It started to long ago for each of us. A small child watches Christmas shows learning about Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and the promise of presents. Everyone likes presents, right? And we all love Christmas, even if we don’t love Jesus.
Then we grow up, find Jesus, and still love Christmas?
Or do we like the idea of it? The idea of celebrating the birth of our Savior. The one that came into the world just to save us. In a perfect world, a modern day Eden, we would have a week long festival to celebrate Christ’s birth. We would cook for days. We would eat, drink and be merry. We would spend time with loved ones and spend time helping others out of our commitment to love. After the week of festival we would return to work, refreshed, full, and ready to navigate the world we messed up.
But, it isn’t that simple any more.
Once we grow up and marry, we have families of our own. Oh, and we have a new family by marriage, too. Our spouse’s extended family. In a matter of a few years we can go from our family of origin traipsing from house to house visiting our parents’ separate extended families to trying to figure out how to keep doing that while participating in the same division of time and love with our spouse’s family. It would take a week to make the rounds, but we don’t have a week long festival. We usually have a day or two unless we use our hard-earned vacation.
And, we aren’t just cooking. We are going to Christmas parties. And we have our work, our spouse’s work, our kid’s school programs, a friend party or two, and we haven’t even arrived on Christmas Eve yet.
Are you going to bring a bottle of wine to the party?
Are we supposed to bring a white elephant gift?
Did you grab those gifts for the cousins?
Your chest clenches. It’s hard to breath. You realize that Christmas is quickly approaching and you haven’t even begun to shop for your family. What the heck do they want anyways?
When you finally make it to the mall with only a few hours to shop, you start buying stuff no one has asked for, you don’t have money for, and you don’t have any space in your house for. This is Christmas. This is insanity. This is not fun. But you still stop at the Walgreens on the way home and grab a variety of gift cards just in case you don’t have an equal amount of gifts for each kid. Or when that somebody drops by unannounced to bring you a gift when they never have in the past. You’ll be ready this year!
And this is a calm Christmas by most people’s standards. This is just the logistics of it. This doesn’t include the unplanned argument that always erupts once that particular family member starts their third drink. And we didn’t mention the fight between you and your spouse on the way to one or the others parents’ house about how ridiculous this all is and how we won’t be doing this next year.
And there is always someone missing that didn’t want to be bothered with our 20-year tradition. Or it is the first Christmas with out Granddad or Mom?
There will definitely be an hour or two (at least when we eat) that we will have fun and feel like we are celebrating. When we leave with full stomachs, and hugs all around, we forget about the never again statement. We instead talk about how wonderful the chantilly cake was and how beautiful Aunt Sue’s tree looked. We tell each other our kids will have wonderful memories of holidays with grandparents and cousins.
I wish I could write about the solution to the hectic insanity of the holiday season. But even if I did, no one would listen. I wouldn’t even listen to me. Because we do want to see family. We like giving gifts. Parties are fun. And we don’t want to let anyone down. Not one. Not our work colleagues, our friends, our church or our family.
Finally, we sit down in front of the fire for the last few minutes of Christ’s birthday. We remember what Christmas is all about. We think about His sacrifice. His love for us. And we are thankful for the best gift of all. The gift of His son. Given to us with no expectation of anything in return. A gift of love. The gift of Jesus.
And the best news of all is that we don’t just get to enjoy this gift on Jesus’ birthday. We get to enjoy it everyday. From today into eternity. Praise be to God and Merry Christmas.