Every year I enter the Christmas season with high hopes. This year is going to be the year I’m totally organized, the presents will all be purchased by November 30th, the decorations will be up by December 1st and my house will look like it came straight out of a Hallmark movie. Yes, I’m clearly delusional. You’d think that sooner or later I’d catch on and lower my expectations.
This year, the season didn’t start well. The first problem was with our tree. We picked up our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving, put it in the stand, got the lights on, and realized, after the fact, that our tree wasn’t very thirsty. That’s not a good sign. We decided the tree needed some further attention to keep it safe during the month it lives in our house. Actually, I was more concerned about keeping US safe, and John had a plan—a rather ambitious plan, to pull the tree out of the stand, drill a couple of holes through it, and then replace it in the stand. Let’s just say, I temporarily lost my Christmas joy because putting those lights on is a pain in the patootie, and naturally many of them fell off in the process of creating holes that will encourage water absorption. When we finally got the tree back in the stand it looked like this:
I wasn’t happy about the lights on the ground, nor was I happy about the ones on the top of the tree that were no longer attached to the power cord! I was beyond frustrated! I kept telling myself that this tree situation wasn’t the end of the world, and that I shouldn’t let it steal my joy, but I was having trouble believing myself.
And then there was the decorations issue. Nothing I did seemed to look quite right. I’m clearly NOT Martha Stewart. Nevertheless, I really like a nicely decorated house, and my inability to pull that off was bothering me. I finally called my daughter-in-law in for help. She’s got a great eye for decorating, and things came together in time for our neighborhood Christmas gathering last night.
But, before the calm took over let’s just say there were words that shouldn’t have been said, and stress that could have been avoided. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but I suspect I’m not alone in my distress. But here’s what finally came to me; I get to choose my response to every little thing that goes wrong. I can choose to be crabby, or I can choose joy and thanksgiving, despite the circumstances.
The truth is, that even with my daughter-in-law’s help, my house will never look like it came straight out of a Hallmark movie. Hallmark actually had a contest this year with the prize being a fully decorated house. When they showed the decorating segment on their morning show, Home and Family, they mentioned how they’d worked three days AND NIGHTS to get the job done. And, can I mention that it wasn’t just one person doing the decorating? There was an entire crew! And, as beautiful as it was, it’s not what makes Christmas a joyful time. (I also wonder if that same crew is coming back to take it all down after the season has ended.)
Here’s what’s more important to me at Christmas. That my friends and family come into my house and feel loved. My house will never be perfect but hopefully when people visit they can feel the joy, and the peace that Christ provides us with. That feeling doesn’t come from having perfect decorations, or a tree with lights that don’t hang on the ground. It comes when I allow God to love others through me.
Sometimes it takes me awhile to come around and realize that the atmosphere in my home is determined by my attitude and not my stuff. But, eventually, God shows me how to rearrange my priorities and get my head on straight.
So, if you’re struggling with the stress of the season, I highly recommend you take some time and determine how you can readjust your attitude towards joy and gratefulness. Ask God to help you see what’s really important and focus on that. And when you feel like sitting in the middle of the tangled lights and throwing a temper tantrum remind yourself that this too will pass.
Jesus didn’t come into the world to add stress to our lives. He came to set us free from our sin, and give us everlasting life. Let’s use this season to celebrate that truth.