For way too many years, I got caught in the Christmas Crazies...... you know, working hard to make sure everyone has THE perfect gift, that the tree looks JUST right, that everything falls into perfect place. When I worked for the church, trying to make Advent & Christmas nice for all the parishioners AND to make my own holidays good too..... well, it made me a total Grinch. The pre-ghosts Scrooge would have told me to lighten up. For the longest, I just couldn't stand Christmas. An old friend opined (and I heartily agreed) that if she could go to sleep -- a loooong winter's nap -- from December 16 to around January 4 or so, then it would be great.
This year, things are different. I don't know if the November "gratitude adjustment" helped shift my perspective or what happened. I don't know if it was some long-dormant fervent prayer of my heart that finally went silently from my lips to God's ear and stirred His heart. I don't even know if I consciously set out to do it. But at any rate and for whatever reason, I downsized my expectations this year.
And I have enjoyed preparing for Christmas for the first time in a long time.
Did I do shopping? Some. At least 8 years running now without buying any gift from the mall itself. WAHOO!!! The gifts are more practical this year for everyone, less fanciful. That's fine. This is a time for practicality, of determining what is really important. (Ironically, as I type this, my father is discussing buying a new HDTV for the living room and giving me the current non-HD that's there. I'm not sure whether to be grateful or talk them into a more practical plan....).
I've done more cooking and baking -- not that I have a houseful of stuff, just that I've been more of a homebody. Also, we had a homemade/handmade gift exchange at work, so I was trying out some ideas.
Am I over-the-moon, super-hyped? Oh no. You, dear readers, know me better than that. But I am happy and content and calm this holiday season. It's been a year with lots of ups and downs in my family: Mom diagnosed with a manageable condition with no cure; my brother lost his job and is now looking at a new career path; I took on new responsibilities and have often wondered if I can handle it all. Somehow in the midst of all that, there's a calm and peace -- knowing that all is well, all will be well and all will continue to be exceedingly well. Even in an uncertain economy, a contentious culture, a polarized society, with violence and despair and discontent coming out of every news story...... there is peace.
I think of a place in the past where there was war, an occupying army, religious and cultural clashes, an economy that makes our bad one look like a windfall, and a defeated people bereft of hope. And how just at that moment, "eternity stepped into time" and changed everything. Oh, there was still an occupying army. There was still war and poverty and discontent ...... but there was also hope, peace, and light. It was and remains a light that both shines as a beacon and glows in the heart like an ember. It brightens a path and warms a heart.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it..... And the word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us; and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:4, 14)
And from one of my favorite Michael Card songs............
"Celebrate the Child who is the Light, now the darkness is over
No more wandering in the night, celebrate the Child who is the Light!"