Saturday night, after about 3 hours of online shopping and listmaking and checking off and checking out, Jason and I called it a night. Before the shopping marathon, we also decorated the tree with the kids and set out the rest of the Christmas stuff. Our house has lights and a tree and Christmas decorations. We drank coffee and hot chocolate from Christmas coffee cups!
As I write this, I feel like I should be filled with joy and cinnamon and a happy "light"ness that comes with the Christmas season. There should be peace and a bubbling anticipation of Christmas Day and time with family and celebrating the birth of Christ.
Yet, instead, I have knots in my stomach and a little bit of dread mixed with guilt churning into anxiety. Saturday night, I stayed awake in bed for what felt like hours with my heart pounding and my mind swirling... all the things I need to get done and haven't. The traditions we have started and expectations we have set and commitments we have made. A time that should be set apart for peace and joy has turned into a season of panic and materialism.
Instead of me making time to talk with the kids about the gifts they want to give... Jason and I made them write a letter to Santa because we couldn't agree on what "Santa" should get them for Christmas! Why am I even pushing Santa onto my kids? When dear, sweet Connor used one of his Sunday School reward choices last night to pick a gift for his little sister, did I praise him enough? Or will his own, selfless act be overshadowed by memories of me harping him about what HE wanted instead?
My faith and my own relationship with Jesus tell me that I should be focusing more on how to make this holiday a time that glorifies the birth of our Savior...above all other things. Yet, I have been so sucked into the busy-ness and expectations of the Santa version of the holiday, that that is all I have been thinking about. I see it in the little things... like I didn't set up our Nativity because I truthfully think it is a little ugly and inaccurate. And in the big things. I am two weeks behind on my Bible study and haven't even been concerned enough that I am missing that daily time with God to pick up my book and try to catch up. Instead, I worry about ordering and mailing Christmas cards and where to find the time and energy to make the goodies that we will bring to friends and neighbors. I have a stocking to sew for Leilee and scheduling of parties and goodie making to do. I was irritated about rushing to the church early for the Christmas play last night instead of excited about the witness that our children are in the community.
I'm reading other blogs about the joy of the season and the wonderful activities that parents are doing with their children. Other people have shared their peace and contentment. Where's mine?
I know where it is. It is in forcing myself to slow down and refocus my energy and time on my relationship with God. There are pitfalls in abundance hidden among the lights and Christmas decorations. Selfless acts like giving of gifts can quickly turn into selfish acts, done to impress or best others. Making of treats for others and multiple holiday potlucks can tempt some to gluttony and obsessive worry about the extra pounds they are putting on (uh, that'd be me too!). The experience that my family and I have this Christmas season will only be as good as what I make it.
The best memories will be made where the most focus is placed. If my kids see me stressed out about what others think of our Christmas card or their holiday outfit or the cookie plate we give, then that's what they will remember as important. But, if I take the time to read from the book of Luke with them while we set up our Nativity scene, then they will see that Christ is the focus of Christmas... not Santa or Rudolph. If I take the time to involve them in creating the perfect presents for our friends and family, then they will learn that Christmas is about giving, not getting.
In all of this rant, I am really just stating what I already know... and re-focusing myself.
Tonight is the night that we are busting out that Nativity scene... ugly or not. Because what it represents outshines all the other lights of Christmas.