It seems like December is a race. I just need to keep pushing, to make it over the finishing line. Marked by December 25. I am only relieved once Christmas Day is here, and I am starting to relax now that it's the 27th.
This feels like a slightly sacrilegious thing to say. I love the concept of Christmas, but I don't really like the reality. I love the reason for Christmas, the story of Christmas. But I dislike doing Christmas, being squashed by Christmas, and losing real life in Christmas.
Why do all my Christmas-defining activities feel burdensome? Shopping for presents for people who don't really need anything. Cooking for a meal where there's always too much food. Co-ordinating family activities or meals with people who I'm not sure want to spend time with me.
The have-tos and should-dos seem powerful in my pre-Christmas blur. And I realise that the world's crazy Christmas drowns the stillness of the first Christmas. Noisy advertising, crowded shops, the pressure of how beautiful Christmas should be. I realise that sometimes I would like to escape the pressure of 'having a good Christmas'.
My struggle is exemplified in Christmas tree decorations. I would love to have a lush, 7 foot, colour-coordinated, tastefully decorated extravaganza adorning my lounge room. Early in December, my children excitedly ask when we can set up for Christmas. Grumpily, I make them wait until the first weekend in December. (Imagine the inconvenience of decorating mid-week!) So we get out the boxes stored on the garage top shelf. We put together the 4 foot tree (perfect to put up on the coffee table, out of reach of toddlers). And they love getting out the many and varied decorations, and arranging them on the tree - as only kids can.
And I have to stop myself from arranging them better, from making it look better. I want to control Christmas so much, make it so much about me, that I want to re-arrange the decorations. So they can look, well, more beautifully arranged.
I am enticed by the expectations of what Christmas should be - the beautiful, tasteful, well-planned Christmas - to forget the values that birthed Chistmas. Humility, generosity, self-giving love.
I read it and remember, because I need to remind myself...
So this is Christmas.
"The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."
And this truth makes the four-foot lop-sided tree the best one in our street, it makes the impromptu meal with friends a feast, it brings peace in the mad rush to the finish-line. It makes Christmas a joyous glimpse of our God - glorious grace and truth.