Every year it’s the same for me. My level of busy-ness during the approach of the holiday season ascends to an unbearable and unsustainable intensity and I have a near meltdown. With four out of five birthdays in our family between October 20 and December 25, Halloween and Thanksgiving and all the shopping, meal planning and events, I get to the point where I feel smothered and it’s so tempting, and so easy ,to become inundated by the “everything” that Christmas has become.
My way of coping with the breakdown I have every year about a month before Christmas has usually consisted of: me crying and realizing I can’t do it all, me demanding that my husband helps me more, me taking deep breaths, making a list, and powering through my shopping; me barely noticing that December 24th has arrived; and me being relieved that Christmas is over…at least until I have to take down all the decorations. And it has never brought me peace or joy–the things I’m told I’m supposed to be feeling at Christmas.
So this year, as I sat in my living room sobbing and struggling for breath one afternoon, I distinctly remember the Lord impressing upon me that it had to stop. The “me” focus on “everything” that has been my modus operandi for years, in increasing degrees, is no longer the way I’m going to do Christmas. There are many articles and podcasts out there that talk about bringing the joy back into Christmas, but that joy usually still costs us time and energy and stillness, and it still focuses on us. It takes work to achieve man’s standard of joy–God’s standard is different, it’s revolutionary, it’s reckless. And God’s idea of “everything” was first introduced to the world disguised as nothing.
In a moment of clarity, I sensed God tell me that it was time to stop thinking that Christmas had anything to do with me. It was time to revisit the simplicity of the first Christmas–it’s meager beginnings, its humility, its complete lack of polish and decoration. Jesus gave up his authority to become a baby–utterly dependent on young, poor, scandalized and inadequate human parents. He surrendered the splendor of heaven to be laid in a feeding trough, and raised by a blue-collar man and a teenaged, uneducated girl who would always struggle to provide for their family. He left the adoration and praise of angels to be an outcast–judged and rejected by his peers. And he sacrificed immortality to one day be killed for us.
Isaiah 53:3 says that precious baby in the manger was:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him…he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”
How many times have I felt rejected, have you felt rejected at Christmas…by family, by friends or former friends? How many times have you and I looked at our bank account and felt the financial strain that Christmas brings, the stress of paying bills and meeting basic needs coupled with the pressure of buying presents for your children? How many times have we felt judged by our peers because our Christmas traditions and choices don’t match up with theirs?
Christmas is so not about me. It’s not about what I can accomplish and whether I have the right gifts, or enough gifts. It’s not about my grocery list and my Pinterest-pretty Christmas Eve menu–not about my budget, my time, my decorations, my busyness, my exhaustion, or temporal human happiness. It’s not even about my kids and whether their eyes light up when they see the tree, finally ready and glittering. It’s not about their Christmas pageants and performances or their photos with Santa in their Christmas pajamas.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m a grinch who thinks we should get rid of all the little things we enjoy about Christmas. Although the traditions and pleasures of Christmas are certainly special, they’re part of the “everything” that takes my focus away from the One who truly gave everything to become nothing, Who asked for nothing from me except that I would consider HIm to be MY everything.
He came into this world with nothing to offer except Himself, which, in the end, means everything. So it doesn’t matter if I finish my task list, if I get all my decorations up in time or if they even come out of the attic. It doesn’t matter if I please my family or my friends with my performance at Christmas, because in Him, “everything” is already done and Christmas is complete long before I approach my busy Fall season.
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:6
Dear ones, as your lists and stresses increase in these next weeks, I ask you to remember that His peace increases still. There is nothing you can do to make Christmas more perfect, because that first Chrismtas was perfect enough in its nothingness, in its humility and lack of splendor, yet it brought everything that you and I will ever need to have true joy.
Peace be with you this season. Merry Christmas, and thank you Jesus.
Adrienne Gross is a writer based in North Carolina. She is a lover of travel, fitness, wine, good conversation and quality time with her friends and husband and three young children. You can find her blog at presentlysite.blog or on Twitter at @adrienne_gross.