What if I were to tell you that I have a love/dislike relationship with Christmas? I don’t normally tell people this because instead of trying to understand further, I’m usually shut down with hearing all about how much the person I’m talking to has nothing but love for the season and that they want all the bells and whistles and the lights and the cookies. I wish I could have that kind of excitement. I really do.
I have loved Jesus my whole entire life. The meaning of Christmas and the story of Mary, Joseph, the choir of angels, the shepherds with their flocks, the animals who stood over the manger, the three wise men, and of course the STAR of the whole story, the King who came so lowly to this world to bring salvation to one and all…there are so many beautiful layers to the Christmas Story. I come undone each and every time I hear it being told. Especially when I think about Mary. She was so young! She brought a baby into this world in a stable, which was more like a cave. Can you even imagine?! I cannot. There was no bed, no midwife, no cozy Arden + Anais swaddle, no meal train, not even her mom. If Mary doesn’t serve as role model of strength and bravery to us all, I don’t know who else can.
So, what’s not to love/like about Christmas? For me, it just feels like so much pressure and it makes me very anxious. A gigantic tree in my living room makes me feel like the walls are caving in on me. I literally despise decorating. I never know where to put things. I have very few pictures on my walls because it stresses me out so much. I don’t like decorating for Christmas and that makes me feel like a bad mom. I like going to parties, but my husband does not. He usually wants to know what time we will leave before we have even arrived. If kids are invited, I get particularly anxious because one of my children has food allergies and it makes him feel sad to see all the treats that he can’t have. We usually just don’t go to the parties, which gives me FOMO. I loathe Christmas shopping. Gift wrapping gives me hives. Between me and my husband, our families of origin create guilt in both of us because when we really want to just stay home and enjoy creating our own family Christmas traditions, they strong arm us into making the rounds to visit them. The pressure that I feel to create the perfectly decorated home, make perfect batches of assorted allergy-friendly cookies, hand make keepsake ornaments, shop for not just the family but for the 213 White Elephant/Favorite Things/Ugly Christmas parties I seem to get invited to, get that trip booked for the North Pole Experience, play in the snow, visit the Zoo Lights, and document it all on Instagram to appear so effortlessly charming is enough to send me into a tailspin. Let’s not forget that perfect Christmas card photo! Logically, I do realize that I don’t have to do any of this. But it is so hard not to go down that rabbit hole. Comparison is the thief of joy, and this mama needs an alarm system, a night watchman, a panic room, a loaded weapon, and a personal body guard to protect myself from that thief.
By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, I am so weary of all of it that I literally sit in church and sob my face off uncontrollably. Year after year, I go into the ugly cry so much that my mascara is running down my face and I can hardly breathe. I am so overcome by the story of the birth of the Jesus. I’m reminded that the events that took place on that night in Bethlehem so long ago were far from perfect. I don’t think it was even remotely close to the Silent Night where all was calm and all was bright that we sing about. Mary had to walk around 90 miles to Bethlehem when she was 9 months pregnant! There was no room at the inn, she was surrounded by animals and she laid her brand-new baby, who she knew was the Son of God into a feeding trough. Jesus was born in a time when the world was dark and broken. Much like it is today. If it were calm and bright, we wouldn’t have needed Christmas in the first place. Christmas came because of the brokeness and the darkness. Christmas is not just for the jolly and the merry. The good news of Jesus isn’t just for that beautifully curated home and the family in the matching Tartan plaid outfits. Jesus came humble and lowly. His love for us isn’t dependent on how big our tree is or how many twinkle lights are on the house. I am no less worthy of the miracle of Jesus because my cookies are hideously decorated.
The best way that I can celebrate this season is to love on my children. They won’t remember the decorations or the cookies but they will remember their moments with me. So this year, I hope to do it differently. I hope to keep my eyes on what matters most: the humble and lowly.