For too many years the weeks before Christmas were filled with to-do lists to keep me on deadline: buy and wrap gifts, address and write notes on cards, bake hundreds of different cookies, decorate the house, entertain guests, etc. Too often it was difficult to find time to spend with God in the midst of all this busyness. Yet, Christmas is the Son of God’s birthday!
A giant vacuum created by the commercialism of the holiday season was sucking me in.
I decided to pull the plug.
I’ve made a conscious effort to focus more on preparing my heart for Jesus’ birth, rather than getting stressed out with often-unnecessary preparations I forced myself to do. After all, wasn’t I the self-appointed vice-president in charge of creating Christmas for my family? Yet, the time and effort I put into “making Christmas just right” for everyone often went unappreciated.
My Advent was spent in watching and waiting for accolades, instead of watching and waiting for Jesus!
Luckily I grew in grace, as well as age . . . albeit more slowly!
Now I’ve pared down the gift list, preferring to give the gift of time in getting together with family and close friends. All year long I keep an eye out for suitable and meaningful gifts for family and friends near and far. These are stored in one spot, ready to grab and wrap during free snatches of time. I purchase cards during after-Christmas sales and begin to address them during Thanksgiving weekend.
Decorating my heart by re-focusing, reflecting, rekindling, and rejoicing in he who is to come takes precedence, while Christmas decorations are kept to a tasteful minimum. First and foremost, I lovingly place the manger in a prominent spot in the living room, carefully hang a wreath on the front door, and selectively put out a few favourite ornaments and centrepieces.
Now I enjoy baking cookies, for I’ve stopped holding myself accountable for making the hundreds of different kinds of cookies I once forced myself to do, as if I were running some kind of a race with myself that left me tired and irritable.
I love to entertain and try to offer hospitality . . . nothing elaborate, just simple hospitality of the heart. By welcoming others into my home, I am welcoming Jesus.
I knew I’d made progress the Christmas when arthroscopic surgery on my right wrist prohibited me from writing, wrapping, baking, and entertaining on a large scale.
I was tempted to have a pity party for myself and let the holiday pass me by.
God had other plans.
When I learned good friends would be alone for Christmas, the hospitality of my heart was rekindled when I reflected on the situation and re-focused on their needs, not mine. I planned a simple meal I could do one-handed, with my husband’s help; graciously allowed my friends to bring some food to round out the meal; and gratefully let go of my pride, and my self-imposed title of vice-president in charge of creating the best Christmas ever, by buying cookies and dessert at the bakery!
At the end of the meal we put a candle on the store-bought cake and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. It was one of the best Christmas feasts ever, for God had his way when I let go of creating Christmas by myself. Instead, I kept the spirit of Christmas in my heart, and then shared it with others in a truly communal feast . . . a real reason for rejoicing. It was a memorable Christmas — God’s Way.
Martino Land is a freelance writer from North Palm Beach, FL.