December is here, and for me that means full-blown Christmas Celebrating. We put up the tree after Thanksgiving, pull all the decorations out, and when we’re done it looks like an explosion of red and green, silver and gold. On December 1st we start doing Advent Readings. Not really a traditional advent. We have a collection of readings on the attributes of God. Each night we read Bible verses about how God is our Rock, our bridegroom, the Desire of All Nations…And we have a little tray on which we put a tangible object to remind us of each of these names. Like a fancy rock, a ring, a silver coin. And then, after we’ve done our Bible readings, I pull out a treat like rock candy, or lifesavers (a ring) or gold wrapped chocolate coins. It is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. We also have a yearly Christmas party where we invite a ton of people to come and eat goodies and just catch up with each other. Add on various recitals and concerts that the kids are in, and a Christmas Eve tradition of making Gingerbread houses, and that about rounds out our Christmas Holidays.
When one of my kids asked me, Mom, is Santa Coming? I was a little stunned. Santa? It has long been our tradition to teach our kids about the historical Saint Nicholas and explain where the legend of Santa came from, but then tell our kids that we focus on Christmas being a Celebration of Jesus’ birth. The question threw me off. Have I failed? Have I somehow forgotten to put emphasis on the story of Jesus and so my kids have just latched on to what the culture around them is talking about?
As I paused to think this over, I tuned into the Christmas music we had playing in the background. Almost all the songs were about Jingle Bells, and Santa, and Winter Days. Not a whole lot about the Birth. I looked over at the piano. My Christmas Favorites Book was open and I had been fooling around with some Jazzy arrangements of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” . Yikes. Suddenly everything felt very secular and my guilt-o-meter started ticking.
And then, a quiet voice said, So do something about it! Oh. Ok. I guess we could pull out some of our Bible Christmas Books and read through those. I can play my jazzy Christmas songs, but I can also pull out some of the old favorite carols. I can continue to remind my kids that Christmas is a Celebration of Jesus coming to earth. And instead of focusing on what gifts we’re going to get, I could get my kids working on some giving instead. Like making cookies for our neighbors, writing cards for their teachers, giving presents to friends. It’s never too late to change the focus.
This is my normal pattern. I see a problem and I instantly get caught up in guilt and everything feels horrible and the world is going to end because I messed up. When really, most things just need a small fix. Ok. Here’s a problem. Let’s fix it. There is nothing wrong with all the trappings of Christmas. I love the lights and trees and gifts. I just don’t want that to be the main focus of our holidays. So, I can take steps to change the focus.
So, here’s to having grace for myself. When I notice that things aren’t going the way I want them to, instead of getting all caught up in guilt and anxiety and anger…I can just make a change. Turn the direction back the way I want it and skip all the self-hate drama.
May our holidays be filled with grace and peace!