It seems as though most of my recent posts have started with, “I can’t believe it’s this time already!” or some such exclamation.
Once again, I can’t help expressing that feeling of where has the time gone? Christmas is in less than two weeks. (Don’t panic!) Just a couple of years ago, that wouldn’t have surprised me. I would have been anxiously counting down, practically to the hour. I could have belonged in Dr. Seuss’s WhoVille, with the massive Christmas Clock and bedecked everything.
In recent seasons, though, I’ve lost track. I don’t have a countdown, and I’m not wishing away days until the 25th. I still love Christmas, just not in quite the same way.
You see, for most of my life, I’ve equated Christmas with a glittering celebration and an entire season devoted to decking the halls with mistletoe and holly, belting out slightly-louder-than-necessary songs, and watching reruns of the same sappy, seasonal movies. It couldn’t fully be Christmas if every surface didn’t have a decoration, if I didn’t devote time daily to planning the season, and if – heaven forbid! – I listened to anything besides Christmas music.
All of that was so fun, until I got a little older. Then Christmas began to come and I would feel joy but also a twinge of melancholy. Why? This was the most wonderful time of the year, and everything was going wonderfully! What right did I have to be sad? I couldn’t be a humbug, for shame!
So I charged ahead, fa-la-la-la-la-ing and hustling and bustling. I could not slow down or give anything up, or I would have no Christmas cheer. Right up until last year, I made Christmas happen as I thought it should, even when I didn’t feel like going all out. Even when it wasn’t fun, or didn’t feel so jolly, I pushed through as if plowing fresh snow.
I expected to do it again this year, but I haven’t.
This Christmas season, I’ve actually allowed myself to slow down, to stop, think and simply breathe. Seasonal stress is no longer filling up my heart, so I have more capacity for joy. My calendar isn’t crammed with extra Christmas festivities; my gift wrapping doesn’t measure up to Pinterest; I haven’t set a record for mailing cards; and I’ve even listened to non-holiday music from time to time. (Shocking, isn’t it?)
And you know something? It’s still Christmas. It seems so simple, and it has been said before, but this feels like the first year I’ve believed it. Maybe more than ever, this year I am starting to realize what Christmas truly is. Not chaos and pressure, but a celebration of a Silent, Holy Night. Even when traditions are overlooked, the meal is a little simpler, or there are fewer gifts under the tree, it is still Christmas.
Jesus still arrived in an overlooked stable, and was bundled in a plain scrap of cloth. Yet in that simple, unimpressive wrapping, the greatest gift ever was given. It is God’s incomparable gift we celebrate at Christmastime! I can’t help but wonder, though, would I have more time to truly celebrate and reflect on that first silent night if I made my life a little quieter this Christmas? How many Decembers have I spent anxiously preparing for one day, instead of embracing each step of Advent and focusing on what- and Who- I truly want to celebrate?
If you feel more stressed than silent this year, may I encourage you to pause for a moment? It will still be Christmas, even if some bows are untied or not all the decorations are hung. Christmas memories don’t consist of what the house looked like or what was under the tree. For me, my most treasured holiday memories are about the people I enjoyed it with; the blessings I experienced, and the ones I shared.
So this Christmas, even though I love festivities and lights, I want to focus on one thing even more: A Silent Night.
What are you focusing on this season? How do you feel about the holiday hustle and bustle? Is there anything you would like to set aside to spend more time in silent joy?
Wishing you a calm, bright Christmas!