Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Thoughts

We've come to that lovely and wonderful time of year: December.  It might be my second favorite month (after July) and something I start looking forward to about early September.  There is much to love about this time of year: extra time with family, good food, plenty of sweets, justification for shopping, presents to wrap, and a general good cheer.

Maybe we're lucky with close families that involve no overnights away from our own beds, but I don't get the stress that can surround this time of year.  Actually, my whole life is about minimizing my stress and since I've been staying home with Luke I'm able to keep it pretty low most of the time.  I don't mind being a little busier than usual with the baking and wrapping and shopping and decorating.  I love doing all those things and fitting them into our normal day usually isn't much of our problem since I use winter, snow, and colder weather to basically hide out at home anyways.

We started baking our cookies in early November, mailed Christmas cards on Black Friday, and have most of my shopping done.  Not all, I still have my lovely husband to shop for and a few things for Luke but other than that, I'm mostly done.  We don't need to talk about how far Matt is (or isn't) in the shopping that has been delegated to him. (Which is mostly me, his parents, and one of his 4 godchildren.)   I haven't wrapped a thing, besides our giving tree items which were already turned into church, but am also trying to finish up a few sewing projects before I'll give myself the luxury of watching Christmas movies and wrapping during quiet time.  I even have started on a stocking for a child we don't even have yet, mainly as an excuse to watch The Crown but also, I find it fun?  Plus, no pressure to get it done makes it easy to be a fun thing.

I find I enjoy December best when I take care of a lot of Christmas things in November.  Nothing NEEDS done at that point which makes anything that is crossed off to the to-do list feel like a bonus.  The more I can relax in December, the better.  We've also simplified our Christmases over the last few years.  This is the first year we have no celebrations with extended families.  We are in many exchanges because we obviously aren't buying presents for all our combined 27 siblings and 43 nieces and nephews.  We also don't buy presents for any friends and all those other random categories (Mailman? Who does that?).  Keeping Christmas somewhat simple keeps me somewhat sane (says the person who has already made about 9 kinds of Christmas treats and isn't done yet).

All this November prep means, most importantly, we can use December to focus on the meaning of the season, namely, Jesus' birth.  I don't think my spiritual and materialistic sides are ever more at odds with each other than in December.  It is very very easy to be caught up in all the outwards sides of Christmas, basically everything I listed above.  We have our house decorated, cookies baked, presents bought, and have been listening to Christmas music on and off since before Thanksgiving.  It's pretty dang easy to get caught up in making things look nice but not so easy to make our hearts ready and open to receive Jesus.  The material stuff is generally more concrete: address and mail Christmas cards has a pretty defined beginning and end, and can be crossed off the list.  But preparing your heart?  Well that's the kind of thing that is never complete.

Last year I mentioned wanting to reread The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas and this year I was a little more on top of things, buying it on half.com for cheap over the summer.  I didn't quite start it on December 1st (I've had an awful cold for over a month that is routinely kicking my butt) but have caught up since and it really is helping me focus a little better, even if just for a few minutes each day.  We keep trying to remind Luke that Christmas isn't just about presents and he's been playing with his two nativity scenes since we got them out (Little People and Playmobile, although he is most intrigued by the kings) but we've had trouble convincing a 3 year old that Santa and presents isn't the whole reason for the season.

I don't even know where the Santa thing is really coming from (besides every. single. person. who asks him what he wants Santa to bring him and if he's visited Santa and if he's been good so Santa can bring him presents, thanks, general public) since we don't "do" Santa.  Which Luke kinda knows, if you ask him who gives him presents on Christmas he'll say his godfather, Mom, and Dad.  In that order, every time.  We have talked about St. Nick and he did get a present for that today but we haven't come up with the right words to explain why St. Nick is giving him presents today but Mom and Dad at Christmas and why this mysterious Santa is bring presents to other kids.  But I also don't feel bad for not having it all figured out and Luke maybe possibly spoiling it for other kids since I don't think anybody else is concerned with getting all these Santa thoughts in his head.

So despite loving this time of year, there is always a bit of internal struggle going on inside me.  And while it would be easy to keep it quiet by keeping myself busy with the material stuff, I know the right, and better thing, to do is to get my heart ready as well as my home.  And while I might be the only one who knows about the former, it's really what matters and why we get to do all this celebrating anyways.  I imagine I'll have this struggle for a long time but every year I think it gets a little easier to pick the right thing to focus on.  It's not perfect, but it's an attempt which is better than drowning myself in another round of shopping, baking, and wrapping (even though I'm certainly going to enjoy all of that, in good measure). 

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