I used to have a long list of things I “needed” to get done before the family celebration on Christmas Eve. The change in my thinking began when I attended an “Unplugging the Christmas Machine” retreat. When I made my to-do list for Christmas and who did each chore (me), I was appalled. No wonder I was tired and cranky. No wonder I felt depressed by the time Christmas Eve was over. Expectations were so high, failure was almost guaranteed.
How many other moms and wives mistakenly believe it is their responsibility to make sure everyone in the family has their perfect Christmas? So we do the shopping (making certain everyone has the same number of gifts to open), wrapping, addressing and writing individual notes in each Christmas card, decorating the house and the tree, making cookies for neighbors, shopping for those who serve us through the year (pastors, mailman, newspaper delivery lady…) Then there’s the shopping for the big meal, decorating and setting the table, cooking the meal… You get the picture.
By the time Christmas Eve ended and the children and grandchildren had all gone off to prepare to celebrate Christmas Day with in-laws, I was exhausted and slightly depressed. All the preparations that had taken weeks to accomplish, and the whole celebration was over in a couple of hours. I’d been too busy to rejoice in the meaning of Christmas, too caught up in whether everyone had gone away happy.
Frankly, others weren’t putting the burden on me. I did it to myself.
Traditions are fine, but some have served their time. We don’t have to do anything just because we did it last year and the ten to twenty years before that. I don’t have to watch “The Christmas Story” again, or go to the “Sing-Along-Messiah” concert. I can go to “The Singing Christmas Tree” at a local church instead. I don’t have to go out and see the Christmas lights this year. I can make popcorn and hot coco, snuggle under a warm blanket and watch “The Christmas Carol” on DVD in our family room.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking for help. Rick writes the Christmas letter. The landscapers climbed the ladder and do the outside lights. I had help decorating inside the house this year.
Some things stay the same. We’ll still get the family together on Christmas Eve. We’ll still have one of the grandchildren read the Christmas story. We’ll still be gathering in the living room to open presents. But I won’t be stuffing a turkey this year. I won’t be making Christmas cookies.
It’s not how we celebrate Christmas that matters. It’s Who we celebrate. God incarnate, Jesus, was born to be the holy sacrifice for our sins. Our Redeemer lives! Blessed be the name of the Lord!