I know I have written about keeping Christmas simple and stress-free and I try, I really do! But this week even I got buried under a mountain of Christmas cookies for Pigwig’s classmates, a stack of cinnamon tree ornaments which I’d wanted to make for the last three years and a pile of silver-sprayed walnuts for our tree made in honour of my thrifty Grandmother. My house is, quite frankly, a tip and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.
I was reminded though of something I read last year which really hit me square between the eyes. Read this slowly.
Jesus never asked us to celebrate Christmas.
It’s a strange thought, isn’t it? In fact, the only thing he ever asks us to celebrate is his sacrifice for us, remembered each time we take communion/the Lord’s supper /mass /Eucharist /whatever you call it in your church tradition.
This is kind of freeing. I’m sure it’s not wrong to celebrate his birth per se. It was, after all, where his ministry effectively started. But it means that no Christmas tradition, even those at the centre of church celebrations, are biblically mandated. (My Roman Catholic friends may disagree with the last statement, of course. We can still be friends, right?)
It’s lovely to go to church, put up Nativity sets, create Jesse Tree ornaments, sing carols, send cards, give presents, eat mince pies, attend community events…I won’t go on because by now every Mum reading this will be hyperventilating (!) but we don’t HAVE to do any of these things. We could (gasp!) leave some of them out. Or even all of them.
I know that most of us will still face the issue of human expectations but first, let’s figure out how God would like us to celebrate Christmas. Let’s take stock and figure out how it would honour Him to spend the next week.
I’m guessing it may have something to do with our hearts, our minds and our focus, rather than any outward activities or decorations.
I pondered this last night as I decorated our tree. I love decorating the tree. On. my. own. In my own way. I spent two hours getting it just so, carefully distributing lights, baubles and ornaments. That’s pretty ridiculous for a 5 foot tree.
But eventually I won the battle with my inner perfectionist (which is oddly absent when faced with, ooh say, ironing?) and left the last 30 or so ornaments for my children to hang this afternoon, just because I know they will really enjoy doing that and it will bring them joy. I know they won’t put them in the ‘right’ places or distribute them ‘properly’ across the tree. I may even have to leave the room at that point. But it will bring them joy and a sense of ownership. And it may even do me good.
I also love to cook and enjoy planning elaborate feasts. I’ve been given the vegetables and sauces to do for next week’s big Christmas dinner. But it’s not going to serve my marriage or my family well if I spend time looking in EVERY. SINGLE. COOKBOOK. I own before deciding on which veggies to choose or if I rant and rave for most of Christmas Eve because I have nine kinds of vegetables to peel and I still have presents to wrap. I suspect that might take everyone’s focus away from the reason for the season.
It can even be ‘spiritual’ tasks or events that have to slide. We’ve done the Jesse Tree this year but half of our decorations are incomplete. That’s got to be OK. We may not go to every single last church event if it means we’re going to have overtired children because that doesn’t fit with our priorities for this season.
Your battles will be different to mine, perhaps. Maybe you struggle with the urge to try and please everyone all of the time or impress them. Maybe your desire is to make things perfect for your children. Maybe it’s the sadness of Christmases past that takes your focus away from the baby in the manger or it takes all of your strength just resisting the urge to strangle your mother-in-law for three days!
I’m praying right now that you have a moment to find His peace, especially if you’re a Mum, and that He shows you very practical ways to cast your burdens onto Him. May he help you be more of a Mary than a Martha this Christmas.
And finally, if there’s something you really don’t like about Christmas, remember there’s nothing to say you can’t leave it out. Yep, that’s why I volunteered to do veggie prep this year. No Brussels for me! Sorry Mum!
So what are your inner battles at Christmas? What takes you away from the central meaning of it all? And how do you think we can celebrate Christmas in a God-honouring way? I’d love to know.
Have a very Merry Christmas for the very best of reasons. Because Love came down at Christmas.